For the first time in Vermont history, there are now more women than men serving in a majority caucus in the Statehouse. The balance was tipped Friday when Governor Peter Shumlin announced his appointment of Democrat Marjorie Ryerson to the Vermont House.
"Absolutely elated, surprised, elated... I was so excited," said Marjorie Ryerson. The Randolph writer and former educator says she never thought it would be her getting the call from Governor Shumlin that would turn the tides.
"I grew up in an era when that wasn't possible and it makes me very proud to see Vermont again leading the nation in that way," Ryerson said.
The appointment of Ryerson means that for the first time a majority caucus in the Vermont Legislature is made up of more women than men. What does this mean for the future of the Legislature?
The House Democratic caucus now has 49 women and 47 men. But in the Senate there are two men for every woman. Vermont's entire Congressional delegation is made up of men. In New Hampshire, it's 100-percent women.
Still, Vermont's first and only female governor, Madeleine Kunin, thinks this move is paving the way for more issues that concern families to be at the forefront. She also thinks more women in Montpelier will create more open communication among parties. "I think the sense of practicality, of compromise is somewhat stronger. Democratic and Republican women also talk with each other, which some of the guys don't do anymore, at least in congress," Kunin said.
And while women have made strides in the Legislature, men still hold 60-percent of the overall House and Senate seats. And of nine federal and statewide office holders in Vermont, Treasurer Beth Pearce is the only woman.
While not the majority party, Progressives point out their House caucus was already mostly women -- with four -- and just one man.
"This the way the tide is running, that more and more women are getting involved and becoming elected to the legislature and to other positions in Vermont and around the country," said former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin.
Kunin knows about milestones for women, she was the first and only woman elected governor of Vermont. And while women have made strides in the legislature, men still hold 60-percent of the overall House and Senate seats. And of nine federal and statewide office holders in Vermont, Treasurer Beth Pearce is the only woman.
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