Where are the Women?

By: Kati Stevenson


I’ve always wondered about the lack of women in politics. Eleven of the 61 Youth Governors who have been elected at YIG Model Assembly are women, as are only 7 of the 21 elected officials for this session. It has also come to my attention that the four lower legislature rooms contain the portraits of their four namesakes, all of whom are prominent men in Minnesota history. I had to dig deeper into this issue to find out why there is a lacking female presence here at YIG.

I was concerned that so few women were represented, and during a chat with Media Director Kier Zimmerman found she felt the same way. She suggested that we rename our Houses and Senates to reflect our more recent strong female leadership. Minneapolis’ current mayor, Betsy Hodges, strives to improve her city through the various policies she has implemented throughout her term. In addition, US Senator Amy Klobachar and US Representative Betty McCollum continue to represent Minnesota at the national level in the Senate and House.

Throughout history, other women such as Rosalie Wahl (first women elected to Minnesota’s Supreme Court) and Kathleen Blatz (first woman to serve as Chief Justice) have been monumental in leading the charge against sexism in politics. The impact that each of these and other strong female leaders have made on our government has helped move Minnesota forward into a new age of diversity and advancement.

So why are none of these women represented at YIG? We are clearly proud of our strong history (remember those giant portraits) and us YIGsters know better than most the influence government can have. We see it every day as both men and women take on a challenge, step out of their comfort zones and become the mock-officials that we are.

As it turns out, women are actually well represented at YIG. The two upper legislature programs areas are named after two very important women in our history. Sanford House was named after Maria Sanford, who was the first female professor at the U of M. She was also an affluent speaker and women’s right activist. A statue of Maria was donated to the Capitol in Washington D.C., to commemorate the effect that Maria had on her students at the college, but also the effect she had in the political world through her speaking agenda about education.

Knutson Senate is also named after a woman. Coya Knutson was the first female senator from Minnesota and she fought passionately in Washington for her platform concerning student loans, cystic fibrosis and Minnesota farms.

So yes, female YIG delegates. There are, in fact, some amazing women out there who are great role models to look up to. These women set a solid example not only for us, but for all YIGsters out there, as we remember them through their names, but also through the rich legacy they have left for us in their political activism.