Women in Politics in Illinois State

In 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi, where women could vote for presidential electors and mayor. That historic decision excluded the right to vote for governor, state representatives or members of Congress. Until today, Illinois never had a female Governor.

In the first election cycle, 3 years after the 19th amendment passed, giving women the right to vote, the activist Lottie Holman O’Neill ran and got elected to the Illinois Assembly. She served there for 40 years (one of the longest terms for women who served). Florence Fifer Bohrer was the first woman who was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1925 and served for two terms. None of these women who were the firsts has any commemoration in Illinois.

Another political women’s achievements of Chicago was 40 years ago, when Jane M. Byrne became the city’s first female mayor, and one of the first women to lead a major US city. She served one term, between 1979-1983. Today her name is commemorated on the Jane Byrne Interchange (previously Circle Interchange); and Jane M. Byrne Plaza near the historic water tower.

On April 2019, Lori Lightfoot was elected to be the first black woman mayor.

Additional female accomplishments to take part in Chicago’s politics included:

In 1922, Chicago-born Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck became the third woman and the first wife and mother elected to the US Congress, replacing her father after his death.

In 1933, Chicago-born Carol Moseley–Braun became the first African–American woman in the US Senate.

In 2014 same-sex marriages became legally recognized in Illinois.

In the economic arena, Chicago’s women still suffer from lower salaries, with overall Gender Pay Gap of $13,000 (based on AAUW 2017 data, most recent available).

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