In August 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and as a result women were granted the right to vote. Since that ratification, a century has gone by, and to say the world of politics has changed in that time would understate the truth of the impact women have had on this nation.
As one who appreciates a good biography, I have had the chance over the years to learn about some of the women who have been part of this story. I encourage you to make the time to research the stories of women who have made a difference.
There is a big-picture story worth telling about those who helped bring to fruition the 19th amendment.
There are also stories worth investigating about the women who broke down the barriers and became the first to serve as a mayor, the first member of a state legislative body, who served in Congress for the first time and who were elected to serve as the first governor.
Even though I was not around, or quite possibly aware, of those historic moments, I can say there have been people in our community who have, and in some cases still are, having an impact on who we are, what we do and how we believe.
Personally, there have been women who have had an impact on me and my belief system, especially as it relates to how I vote.
The most important one is my mom. Having grown up in Elbow Lake, my mom was influenced by the world she knew, and, if you know anything about Grant County you know that it has consistently leaned more to the left.
As I grew up, I saw in my mom someone who was very passionate about what she believed, and that impacted the issues she would consider most important when she voted.
For her, it was never about finances when casting her ballot. The litmus test for her was about how they stood morally on issues.
I never would have considered my mom politically active. I don’t recall her going out knocking on doors for a candidate, but if you talked with her about the topics of importance you knew how she felt.
Another woman who has been an influence on me is Nancy Haapoja. During my late teens and early 20s, Nancy was very active in local politics. Her influence on the political climate extended beyond the boundaries of Redwood County.
Like my mom, Nancy is very passionate about what she believes in, and more than once she helped point me in the right direction. It was because of Nancy that I attended my first precinct caucus, county convention and state convention.
Many times when I initially glance at my ballot, I will ask myself questions about candidates that I learned from Nancy.
One of the women I would have loved to get to know more was Barb Vickerman, who served in the state legislature during the 1990s. Barb was from Redwood Falls, and she represented this area into her third term when she died in 1997 – just a few months after I started working at the Redwood Gazette.
In local government, the one woman who always stood out was Sara Triplett. Sara was always a great leader and as mayor for Redwood Falls she served her community well.
One could always tell with Mayor Triplett what interested her most was making decisions that truly were the best for the people she represented.
I know there were and are plenty of others who have been leaders in our community over the years, and admittedly, I recognize there are many I don’t know. You do know them, so I am going to lean on your personal experiences.
Tell me the stories of the women you know from our community who made an impact. I would love to learn more about them and to help tell their stories to others as well.