The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents -

Awoman in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion is still not a com­mon sight world­wide, but there are women who are cre­at­ing a new path for oth­ers to fol­low, break­ing the lim­ited ideals of a trained so­ci­ety.

“While we have made strides this past year, we still have much to do,” said Robin Bowen, first fe­male pres­i­dent of a pub­lic four-year col­lege in Arkansas.

Bowen cre­ated a new path for women in the state of Arkansas, a path for women to be lead­ers who make changes for the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion. Ed­u­cat­ing a more di­verse cam­pus has come from her lead­er­ship, not only with the Arkansas Tech Univer­sity stu­dent pop­u­la­tion but also with the cam­pus work­force. Although she is the first fe­male pres­i­dent of a pub­lic four-year col­lege in Arkansas, women have come be­fore her to make this path.

The first woman known to be pres­i­dent of a col­lege was Emma El­iz­a­beth John­son at John­son Univer­sity in Ten­nessee in 1925. Both John­son and her hus­band ran the col­lege that her hus­band started, but when he passed away she took con­trol to keep it go­ing. It wasn’t un­til more than 50 years later that Hanna Hol­born Gray be­came the sec­ond fe­male pres­i­dent of a univer­sity, at the Univer­sity of Chicago in 1978. Though women have stepped into po­si­tions of lead­er­ship, mak­ing that step has not been easy for ev­ery­one.

Men have also tried to help women cre­ate paths to of­fer bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to be po­lit­i­cally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally equal to men. An Arkansas law propos­ing women’s suf­frage, the strug­gle for the right of women to vote and run for of­fice, was ini­tially in­tro­duced by Miles Led­ford Lan­g­ley of Arkadel­phia, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion of 1868.

On Feb. 11, 1868, Lan­g­ley made a mo­tion that “all cit­i­zens 21 years of age, who can read and write the English lan­guage, shall be el­i­gi­ble” to vote. The next day, he de­liv­ered an ad­dress to the Arkansas House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the need for women’s suf­frage. He was laughed at.

Women’s suf­frage turned into the 19th Amend­ment, and through vot­ing women have been step­ping into more prestigious po­si­tions of lead­er­ship. In 1917, Jean­nette Rankin, of Mon­tana, be­came the first woman to serve in Congress. In 1922, Re­becca Ann La­timer Fel­ton be­came the first woman to serve in the Se­nate and is the only woman to be a se­na­tor in Ge­or­gia.

Cur­rently in the United States women in leg­is­la­tures make up only 24.2 per­cent; for every 1,000 peo­ple in leg­is­la­tion, 758 are male and 242 are fe­male. Of the 50 states, six have fe­male gover­nors. Of the largest 100 cities, 13 women are may­ors. The path is be­ing made, though progress seems slow.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to have men and women in any de­lib­er­a­tive body just like I think it’s im­por­tant we have dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions,” said An­drea Lea, Arkansas’ sec­ond fe­male state au­di­tor.

Lea was not on a path of lead­er­ship and equal­ity. She was a woman whose lead­er­ship be­gan as a stay-at-home mom. She said she


ran her house­hold well and when the cir­cum­stances called for it, she fig­ured out how to start the Rus­sel­lville High School Swim Team so her son could con­tinue swim­ming into high school.

Once she fig­ured out the lo­gis­tics that “one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence,” Lea went to col­lege and grad­u­ated with hon­ors from Arkansas Tech Univer­sity with a bach­e­lor's of science de­gree in 2004. Lea says her hus­band “sup­ported ev­ery­thing” she did.

She also found sup­port in a woman who went door-to-door, a stay-at-home mom just like her, who talked to her com­mu­nity to win her place in the po­lit­i­cal arena, “the mom in ten­nis shoes.” Even though she could not re­mem­ber the lady's name, she re­mem­bers the im­pact the woman had on her.

This “mom in ten­nis shoes” in­spired Lea to take the same route. She fig­ured out what po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion she wanted, got a map of her area and put on her shoes to go door-to-door. Lea won that race by 50 votes to be a Rus­sel­lville City Coun­cil mem­ber. That was the first of many tri­als that she would face in her lead­er­ship.

The “mom in ten­nis shoes” is the demo­cratic se­na­tor from Wash­ing­ton, Patty Mur­ray, who has held this po­si­tion since 1993. A woman who made a path for other women to fol­low.

Women have faced many tri­als and ad­ver­sity in their fight for lead­er­ship and equal­ity. In 1872, Vic­to­ria Claflin Wood­hull was the first fe­male can­di­date for United States pres­i­dent but was never of­fi­cially rec­og­nized by men. Seek­ing to be more po­lit­i­cally ac­tive, Wood­hull es­tab­lished the Equal Rights Party and be­came their U.S. pres­i­dency choice. She was ar­rested on ob­scen­ity charges a few days be­fore the elec­tion and did not re­ceive any elec­toral votes. Since then not a sin­gle woman has ap­peared on the pres­i­den­tial bal­lot, but through progress and sup­port that may change this year.

“It's im­por­tant to help one an­other and to build one an­other up,” said Les­lie Rut­ledge, Arkansas' sec­ond fe­male at­tor­ney gen­eral.

A woman who had great women sup­port­ing her and lift­ing her up through­out her life, Rut­ledge was on a path of lead­er­ship and equal­ity. It started with two strong grand­moth­ers, one own­ing her own busi­ness in the '70s.

Rut­ledge also had the op­por­tu­nity to work for women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions, such as Jus­tice Josephine L. Hart. Hav­ing strong women in her life paved a path for Rut­ledge to be­come her own woman in lead­er­ship.

“I have been around women who have been elected to lead­er­ship po­si­tions and have been crit­i­cized not for be­ing a woman but crit­i­cized as any­one would be crit­i­cized, for de­ci­sions they made,” said Rut­ledge in an in­ter­view of the fe­male in­flu­ences she has had in po­lit­i­cal set­tings.

Hav­ing strong women lead the way and make a path for other women to fol­low is not an easy jour­ney. This jour­ney re­quires that a woman be the first in a male dom­i­nated field, first to get peo­ple to change their views and first to been seen as equals.

“Be the best you can be so they can't ig­nore you,” Lea said of be­ing a woman in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion.

Lea, Bowen and Rut­ledge have be­come the best in their fields, and they have been hard to ig­nore as equals. They have cre­ated new paths for other women to fol­low af- ter a foun­da­tion was laid for them, a cy­cle of women and men cre­at­ing new paths for fu­ture fe­male gen­er­a­tions.

Change is com­ing. For the last 100 years, since the states be­came united, since the women's suf­frage move­ment, since the civil rights move­ment, change has been hap­pen­ing for women ev­ery­day. Women help­ing women to step up. Men help­ing women to step up. Women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions will be­come a com­mon sight.

An­drea Lea, sec­ond fe­male state au­di­tor, speaks to the Dar­danelle ro­tary club.

Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge speaks dur­ing the Arkansas As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice 48th an­nual con­ven­tion

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