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Question of the day

Monday, Mar 30, 2009

* A post at NCSL’s blog reminded me that March is Women’s History Month.

Yeah, the month is almost over, but there’s still time to squeeze in a question.

* The Question: In your opinion, who is the most influential woman in Illinois political history? Please explain your answer fully. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:17 am:

    elected: Congresswoman Cardiss Collins
    unelected: Jane Addams


  2. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:21 am:

    Explain, please.


  3. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:30 am:

    Jane Addams. Legendary progressive who developed and advocated ways to raise American cities out of the muck and to provide health, education and dignity to the great American Melting Pot. Nobel Peace Prize.


  4. - Dan S, a Voter, Taxpayer and Cubs Fan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:30 am:

    Adeline Geo-Karis, for her nononsense approach to being a female leader in what was the nmostly a “mans” world of politics. Geo was one of a kind.


  5. - Speaking at Will - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:36 am:

    Judy Barr Topinka.

    She lost to Rod in 2006.


  6. - Anonymous45 - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:41 am:

    That’s easy…Hillary Rodham Clinton, Yale educated attorney, Childrens Defense Fund employee/advocate, First Lady, First Woman to run a credible Presidential campaign, and now Secretary of State…


  7. - lake county democrat - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:41 am:

    Sheila Simon, because her well-timed endorsement of Barack Obama made him the Dem nominee in 2004 for the U.S. senate.


  8. - The Horse - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:41 am:

    Although Jane Addams has to be at the top of the list, no top 10 should be without Ruth Rothstein. Long time healthcare leader @ Mt. Sinai and Cook County (most prominent over her distinguished career)


  9. - 32nd Ward Roscoe Village - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:44 am:

    Myra Bradwell, the first woman to be admitted to the bar and practice law in Illinois, 20 or 30 years after the Illinois and US Supreme Courts said she could be admitted.


  10. - 32nd Ward Roscoe Village - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:45 am:

    Sorry, I meant after those courts said she could NOT be admitted.


  11. - OneMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:46 am:

    Dawn Clark-Netsch Both for her work on the state consitution as well as her time in the state senate and her time as comptroller.

    However her current role as the go-to person (at least for the media) on state constitutional matters seals the deal.


  12. - Bill - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:51 am:

    Margaret Blackshere, who became the first woman president of the Il-AFL-CIO and was a strong advocate for the rights of working women and men in Illinois.


  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 11:53 am:

    People, I don’t have time today to monitor this post for snark. I’ve already deleted one comment. Try to take this seriously. Thanks.


  14. - Been There - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:06 pm:

    Mayor Jane Byrne. I hate to say it because I can’t stand her. Then and now. But it was a huge win. Influential because it showed that women would rally around their own. Bad choice by them but at least she only lasted one term. Even though she was only a mayor the effect of her win was felt throughout Illinois and national politics.


  15. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:12 pm:

    Nancy Hanks Lincoln was a mother. I can’t imagine a more important job than mothering our greatest Illinoian.


  16. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:13 pm:

    Mother Jones seems like she should be on the short list of candidates to discuss.


  17. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:21 pm:

    My grandmother…and all the women who worked behind the scenes for years to build up their local (and state) parties.

    When I think politics, I think of my grandmother. My grandmother was a Republican county chairwoman, and I remember helping her prepare for the Lincoln Day Dinner. She met with local office holders, talked with friends and neighbors, and did all those little things that make the parties work. I’m politically involved today because of the example set by my mother and grandmother, and I have no doubt many readers feel the same way.

    The grassroots efforts of women in both parties has had deep and long-lasting influence on the State as had their influence on their children and grandchildren.


  18. - Amy - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:24 pm:

    rich, thanks for this question! i’m thinking and trying to keep the focus on your mandate of political history, which means
    women in politics or trying to influence the political process.


  19. - jerry 101 - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:33 pm:

    Not sure who the most influential or most important would be.

    A few very notable women -
    Elizabeth Woods (First CHA Executive Secretary - butted heads with Daley for years before being forced out, at which point CHA went downhill…fast)
    Jane Addams - from the Encyclopedia of Chicago:
    …Hull-House residents initiated and lobbied for protective legislation for women and children, child labor laws, occupational safety and health provisions, compulsory education, protection of immigrants, and Illinois’ pioneer mothers’ pension law. On the federal level, Hull House residents joined with settlement house leaders and reformers nationwide to fight for national child labor laws, women’s suffrage, the establishment of a Children’s Bureau, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, and the many other reforms…
    Hillary Clinton
    Carol Mosely Braun
    Dawn Clark Netsch
    Jane Byrne
    Frances Willard (Women’s Suffrage leader and *unfortunately* temperance/prohibition advocate - head of the Women’s Christian Temperence Union at one point)
    Ida B. Wells (journalist and anti-lynching advocate)
    Betty Friedan
    Lucy Parsons
    Mother Jones

    Seems to me that Jane Addams and Frances Willard were probably the most influential, due to the far reaching effects of Hull House (Addams), and being a driving force behind 2 Constitutional Amendments (Willard).


  20. - Mrs. Gregor - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:34 pm:

    Mary Lee Leahy. She’s the patron saint of state workers, among other things.

    She won a landmark Supreme Court case that made it illegal to hire or fire a teacher from school over their politics. She won the Rutan case, which applied the same rules to state workers. She was a delegate with Netch at the last Con-Con. She worked hard to pass the ERA in Illinois. She was a director of DCFS and pushed boundaries there for compassionate care of wards of the state. And she will probably be testifying against Blago in his upcoming federal trial.

    Canonize her already.


  21. - Amy - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:46 pm:

    The chief leader of the Illinois suffrage campaign of 1910 - 1913, Mrs. Grace Wilbur Trout.

    After the failure of a referendum on suffrage, Mrs. Trout and others led a series of suffrage tours and a suffrage train to springfield to lobby legislation to approve suffrage. Grace was not only the president of the Chicago Political Equality League and the leader of the effort, but
    literally put her body in the fray for suffrage. as the key vote was held, and legislators in favor were moving out of the chamber,
    and opposition not in elected office moving in, Grace refused the order of the doorkeeper and the leader of the opposition to leave the opening of the only door to the chamber and go to the gallery. She kept lobbying and “As a consequence no one entered the House that day who was not legally entitled to do so.” The vote passed 83 to 58, with 6 votes to spare.

    she got it so women in Illinois could vote, nearly 50 years after all men in the U.S. received the right to vote.

    Thanks for making us think and leading me to my copy of
    The Concise History of Woman Suffrage, Rich!


  22. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 12:50 pm:

    Lisa Madigan:

    For her work on brining government into the light by application of FOIA and the Open meetings act. For her adovcay on behalf of consumers, the elderly and women. For working with law enforcement to create anti-drug laws, limiting purchase of drugs needed to manufacture meth, which are working. For her work on monitoring and enforcing laws designed to keep predators away from kids.


  23. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:29 pm:

    Earlean Collins Cook County Commissioner, making women look more intelligent every day, she speaks up against things that everyone (CC Board) agrees with if there are some issues with the issue. She is the voice of intelligence and reason on the Cook County Board. In many meetings even if Peraica is off on his tangent, if it is something she feels that he is right on she will say, we need to discuss this etc., even when other board members are trying to cut him off. She knows what is important, and what needs more discussion, investigating, etc.


  24. - North of I-80 - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:47 pm:

    Lisa Madigan - thought she was an empty suit, daughter-of but has been proving herself w/support for cops K-9 searches w/supreme court; kids support, on-line kiddy crime as well as FOIA, expungement stuff.

    Future: Judy Baar Topinka if she runs for Gov again on an I-told-you-so theme.


  25. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 1:59 pm:

    Rich’s question is about influence, not about “fame” or “being the first”.

    Hillary Clinton, who has plenty of both, made the most of the “star power” provided by being her husband’s spouse, and as mentioned before, being elected a US Senator and appointed a Secretary of State. Her “influence” as the first credible woman US Presidential candidate is evident in the large group of followers she still has from that effort, and paving the way for the inevitable first woman US President, whomever that may be.


  26. - Songbird - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:02 pm:

    I agree with Hillary Clinton, but I would also put Michelle Obama and Mary Todd Lincoln on the list. Anyone who thinks spouses aren’t close advisors to the most powerful office doesn’t understand how marriages work.


  27. - Captain America - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:28 pm:

    Jane Adams would be the most effective non-elected progressive reform advocate in Illinois/national history.

    Phyllis Scahfley would be the most effective conservative female activist in Illinois history.

    Jan S would get my vote as the most effective Congresswoman in Illinois history.

    Dawn Clark Netsch has to get the nod as a real groundbreaker as the first woman to be elected to Statewide constitutional office. I imagine Dawn’s legacy will be surpassed by the first woman elected as ILlinois governor.


  28. - Mars - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:39 pm:

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
    First Ladies Michelle Obama and Mary Todd Lincoln
    Dawn Clark-Netsch and Lisa Madigan
    and who could forget Carol Mosely Braun


  29. - Some Guy - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:47 pm:

    Anita Hill.

    Huh? ? She’s not a politician or even an Illinois resident. How can she be my pick. Well, first the Q says “who the most influential woman in Illinois political history” and while she’s not an Illinoisan or politician, she left a huge mark on Illinois politics.

    Because of her, Alan Dixon lost his 1992 primary to Carol Moseley Braun, the first black female senator in US history. (Still only one). More importantly, in the long run, it set up a chain of events that kept that seat in flux until 2004 when Obama ran for it.

    If not for Anita Hill, who knows what happens to that seat. Braun certainly doesn’t get it. I don’t see Fitzgerald getting it either. He only won because he went up against a widely unpopular incumbent. (I know he has his defenders, but he’s the most conservative person elected to that high profile a job in the state in the last 40 years).

    My hunch is that Dixon retires in 1998, and the Dem insiders decide on their choice for a replacement. Obama was still too green. They likely would’ve gone with someone else - who? I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter much. By 2004, Obama wouldn’t run to take out a Dem incumbent in the primary (especially not after what happened when he took on Rush). So he doesn’t becoem senator, then he doesn’t become president.

    Also, if Fitzgerald never gets elected, we don’t have the other Fitzgerald cracking down on are far-too-many corrupt pols.

    Anita Hill ain’t from Illinois and has never been involved in its politics, but she left quite a mark.


  30. - Anonymous45 - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 2:54 pm:

    She passed too soon, but Penny Severns was a gifted IL politician…


  31. - Lee County - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:38 pm:

    Anita Hill. Not an Illinois resident, but without Alan Dixon’s vote on Clarence Thomas, Carol Mosely Braun would not have been elected Senator; Peter Fitzgerald would not have run and defeated her; Peter Fitzgerald would not have appointed Patrick Fitzgerald; Patrick Fitzgerald would not have issued his indictments; Peter Fitzgerald would not have lost the support necessary to run for re-election; and Barack Obama might not have run for Senator and President.


  32. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 3:54 pm:

    Lee County-

    That last post qualifies as a Rube Goldberg device.


  33. - Justice - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:10 pm:

    Please don’t forget Josephine Oblinger. The old days of the Paul Findley trailrides. I miss them.


  34. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:49 pm:

    –Lee County-

    That last post qualifies as a Rube Goldberg device.–

    That’s a surprising comment from someone whose handle is Six Degrees of Separation!


  35. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 4:53 pm:

    Maybe Rich should do a March madness bracket of Illinois women?


  36. - Wumpus - Monday, Mar 30, 09 @ 5:45 pm:

    Lisa Madigan- She has broken down barrier of father to son nepotism. Mikey has handed little lisa an office or two. She is smart, but was no way experienced to win on her own without daddy’s last name. I mean, perhaps she should have done the normal thing, taken her hubbie’s last name and see how that election thing turned out.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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