Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Dayhoff: Women becoming increasingly visible in government, politics

The first women selected for a Carroll County jury served at the May term of the Circuit Court in 1957. A May 13, 1957, photograph documents these women.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6 the much-anticipated midterm elections will take place in the United States with 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate up for election.

Much is being written that the upcoming midterms might be a repeat of the 1992 elections, dubbed by numerous media accounts as the “Year of the Woman” after the number of women elected to the House nearly doubled, to 47, and the number of women elected to the Senate tripled, to six.


The election came one year after Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court despite allegations that he had sexually harassed a subordinate, Anita Hill, in the workplace.

According to published accounts that cite the Center for American Women and Politics, this November, “there are now at least 183 women nominees for U.S. House and 11 women nominees for governor — the highest in history. … Before this election cycle, 167 women was the record for major party nominees for U.S. House and the previous record for women nominees for governor (10) was set in 1994.”


According to an article written by my Carroll County Times colleague Jordan Bartel on March 13, 2008, “It took 133 years before a woman served in the Senate. In 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Georgia Democrat, served for one day, filling a vacancy. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., was the first woman to be elected to the Senate in her own right, without having previously filled an unexpired term. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 11,699 people have served in the House or Senate since the first Congress. Of these, 215, or less than 2 percent, have been women. To date, 35 women have served in the Senate.

“Still, women are becoming increasingly more commonplace in government, both at local and national levels. Seventy women currently serve in the House of Representatives and 74 women are in statewide elective executive posts. Women presently constitute 23.6 percent of state legislatures …”

When I first began to dedicate time to a serious study of economic history in the 1960s and 1970s, any significant mention of women in history, except for the occasional vignette about Eve in the Book of Genesis, Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, Cleopatra, or maybe even Lady Godiva, was few and far between. I was fortunate enough to be able to witness first-hand the 1960s, when women first began to ponder that they really were not invisible after all.

Before the late 1960s, what little mention of women in history was in the context of what I refer to as “accidental history theory,” the endless random happenings of chaos theory, or the more colorful, “Cleopatra's Nose Theory.”

Cleopatra's Nose Theory proposes that Roman General Mark Anthony’s poor performance in ‘The Final War of the Roman Empire” at the Battle of Actium off the western coast of Greece, on September 2, 31 BC, was because he was distracted by his torrid love affair with Cleopatra VII Philopator.

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This aspect of the Roman civil war is spellbinding for the economic historian who is easily distracted by the impact of intrigue, and dysfunctionate personalities on the march of history. The theory ponders that Anthony would have done better in the climactic battle if he had not been distracted by his torrid love affair with Cleopatra VII Philopator.

The affair produced three children at a time when he was married to his opponent, Octavian’s sister. Oh my, this won’t do. Anyway, as the argument goes, the rise of the Roman Empire was, in part, facilitated by Cleopatra “casting a spell” on Anthony.

Another example is the “Anne Boleyn Theory” that the United States would have never been formed if it were not for the accidental impact of women on history caused by the second wife of Henry VIII of England, Queen Anne Boleyn 1533 to 1536.


The marriage became the last straw in the conflict between the Church of England and Pope Clement VII. As a result, the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church in Rome. After that, England did not have to abide by the Papal decision that the New World belonged to the Spanish. England subsequently began to earnestly pursue colonization efforts in New England, Virginia, and Maryland.

Locally, according to research by Joe Getty for the Historical Society of Carroll County in 1993, “The first women selected for a Carroll County jury served at the May term of the Circuit Court in 1957.” Other milestones include, “Mary Gray Clemson was the first women admitted to the Carroll County Bar. On April 16th, 1946, she was admitted to the Bar by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. She was also active in a number of community organizations including the Historical Society of Carroll County… Emily J. Rippard was influential in local political circles as the owner and publisher of Westminster's American Sentinel newspaper. She was actively involved in the newspaper from 1868 until her death in 1905. She was instrumental in the success of the building campaign for the Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster.”

It is my theory that the serious study of impact of women on history began with the kerfuffle caused by the August 13, 1971 edition of Life Magazine. That was when the front cover depicted the biblical character of Eve, standing next to a modern-day feminist that was holding a sign that said, “Eve was framed.”

So it all began.