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by Mary

Women and Politics (Kentucky)

November 17, 2010 in Political history, Social history

Can you see much diversity in this picture of the House of Representatives?

The United States as a whole ranks 84th in the world for gender diversity in the government.  Kentucky does not refute these statistics, because it is diversity challenged just as the nation is.  The argument that women are not in politics because they just do not run for offices, is a lame excuse, it goes beyond just not running in elections.  It starts out that we live in a white male patriarchy society, when women run for offices it is seen as unusual and does not go along with the norms.  They are also subject to scrutinity because shouldn’t they be taking care of families and be at home while the men do all the work?  This is a traditional way of thinking that is still present in much of the United States, especially in the southern states.  If we look at the history of women in politics it is not a very long list of names compared to that of men because women did not gain the right to vote until much later and the traditional roles in our society did not back up women running for offices.

In Kentucky’s House of Representatives currently serving there 13 females and only six black members (not females).  There are no black females serving.  “Of the top 7 leaders in the state of Kentucky, all are white and only one is a woman.”  In comparison to other states, Kentucky only accounts for .01% of African Americans elected officials throughout the country.  The only states that have less African American elected officials are North and South Dakota and Montana.  Also, Kentucky is actually ranked as one of the lowest in the country for female elected officials, right along with Albama and Louisiana. (See the “Political Participation” research report on the Kentucky Commission on Women website,

The recent statistics that show barely any diversity throughout the state of Kentucky, shows that there has truly been little change when it comes to equalization of politics, gender and race.  I think it is sad that so many individuals during the civil rights movement fought hard for equal rights and representation, yet this state has done little to implement these changes.

I got most of my statistics from this handout by by Emily McKenzie, Christopher Perkins, and Anda Weaver (Berea College students in “PSC/WST/AFR 202, “Women and African Americans in Politics”) for a workshop on November 22, 2008 for the League of Women Voters of Berea and Madison County, “Gender and Racial Diversity in Kentucky’s Public Offices? Running for Office: How About You?” Accessed November 17, 2010.

Mary Elliot Flannery

October 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

          I have decided to do research on Mary Elliot Flannery, Kentucky’s and the south’s first female legislator.  After reading about her, I couldn’t help but wonder where the determination and the will to push through a campaign during a time in which women were not received well in politics or many other aspects of American society comes from?  It’s a significant reason why I chose her.  Also, she is a native Kentuckian and was a public school teacher, something I someday hope to relate to.

            Born in 1867 as Mary Elliot into an affluent family, she attended college at Barboursville College in West Virginia before completing her education at the University of Kentucky.  She then became a school teacher and married a man named William “Harvey” Flannery and moved to Pike County, Kentucky due to her husband’s job.  It was here where Flannery began her career as a writer, writing columns for the Ashland Daily advocating legislation for women’s rights.  Through her articles in the newspaper Flannery was able to muster support for her cause and by 1921, only a year after womens’ suffrage had become constitutional law, won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a 250 vote margin.  She continued her work in politics and journalism until her death in 1933 being an active voice for women in Kentucky, the south, and the entire United States.  She was a member of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, the General Federation of Women club, Daughter’s of the Revolution, and founded a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  She also had an unsuccessful run at Secretary of State in 1923.  Keep in mind that she was able to accomplish all of this while raising 5 children!

            Mary Elliot Flannery was one of the most influential women of Kentucky and the civil rights and women’s suffrage movement.  Researching the life and work of such a prominent figure will help to highlight a hero and progressive leader of both the commonwealth and women’s history.

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