Although New Hampshire is known by many for a (recently deceased) “old man” who spent his time residing on a mountaintop, the Granite State will now also be known for a handful of women who will soon be spending their time in Washington.
Last month New Hampshire voters elected the country’s first ever all-female congressional delegation. The group consists of Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R), Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D), and Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D).
Not to mention the state also elected a woman as chief executive. Governor-elect Maggie Hassan (D) beat out opposition Ovide Lamontagne (R) to become the only female Democratic governor in the country; and not only are all of New Hampshire’s representatives women, they’re all mothers as well.
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The Granite State is no stranger to firsts; New Hampshire’s own Alan Shepard was the first American in space, New Hampshire was one of the first states to approve the nation’s modern state lottery, to recognize same-sex unions and it is always the first in the nation to cast ballots in the presidential primaries.
Keene State College student Dylan Renner said, “I think it’s great. I mean, it’s a first step for all states all over the country to start putting women up in higher roles. I think it’s good that the country is finally realizing that women are completely equal to men in every shape and form.”
Sophomore Olivia Chiacchia said she understands that biologically women can tend to be more emotional while men tend to be more logical, which may be a rational reason to have more men in government positions, but added, “Biology isn’t everything.” However not all agree with that assessment.
Political Science Professor John Mehrtens said most people think, “Women are more likely to seek consensus and compromise rather than conflict and start shooting at each other; perhaps men are more likely to do that.” However Mehrtens clarified gender is not necessarily deterministic of political action, and added, “Some women can be just as aggressive as what we stereotypically think of men to be.”
However, even with this current shrinking of the gender gap, the United States Senate and House of Representatives are still less than a quarter women. Chiacchia said she thinks the issue is constantly moving forward, and even though women make up less than a quarter of the seats in government, they still possess a lot more power than they have in the past, and given a few more decades will continue to move towards equilibrium.
“There are still barriers to women in a lot of ways. More and more women are finding ways to crash through them and that’s a good thing but there are still, I think, way too many places where men have an advantage,” Mehrtens said.
KSC graduate Scott Mansfield said he’s surprised both that there hasn’t been an all-female congressional delegation before, and that New Hampshire was the first to elect one. He said he views Keene as a pretty progressive area, but New Hampshire to be more conservative overall. Females currently make up 57 percent of all KSC students, and until this semester the college has been lead by a female for the past seven years, former President Helen Giles-Gee. Chiacchia said she was also surprised New Hampshire was first, and more progressive states like California or Colorado hadn’t broken the barrier before us. “I think it’s really showing that New Hampshire is becoming lot more open minded than other people may think,” she said.
Junior Nicole Reitano said she thinks women tend to be less represented in everything and often receive less pay. “We’re still kind of stuck in the old ways, but I think we’re getting there,” she said. Reitano also said she hopes to see a woman in the Oval Office in the near future. “One who’s hopefully tattooed,” she added. Mehrtens said, “I will not be surprised if the next president is female. I think the signs seem to all be pointing at Hillary Clinton running in four years. She seems to be taking her little break now and then I think she’ll get serious in about two years and have her batteries charged and ready to go. Unless things go really disastrously with Obama, she’s very popular and seen as very competent and as of right now I would say she’s kind of the favorite.” Mehrtens added, “I think it’s important in a representative democracy to have representatives that look like the general population, and represent the general population.” New Hampshire isn’t the only state welcoming female politicians. The incoming one hundred-thirteenth Congress will have 19 females, the highest number in U.S. History.
Eric Walker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org