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Chester County Press

Women are making strides in local government...and we're all better off because of it

01/15/2018 06:15PM ● By Steven Hoffman

A year ago this week, the Women’s March movement made a statement heard around the world as millions of citizens staged demonstrations to advocate for legislation and policies that promote equality and justice and protect human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, racial equality and some other worthwhile causes.

The Women's March took place a day after President Donald Trump's inauguration and while one purpose of the demonstration was certainly to deliver a loud and clear statement to the Trump administration, the message resonated farther and wider than anyone could have imagined. There were more than 400 marches in cities and small towns throughout the U.S., and nearly 200 more organized demonstrations in 84 countries around the world. In the U.S. alone, the number of Women's March participants was estimated to be between 3.2 million and 5.2 million at the various locations—making it the largest, single-day political protest event in the history of the country.

It was also the beginning of The Resistance, a firm declaration that “We the People” will always trump “I, the President.”

A strong argument can be made that the 2017 Women's March set the stage for the results of the 2017 election when women, especially minority and LGBTQ women, scored historic victories in state and local races. Numerous large cities now have a woman serving as mayor for the first time. Women made great strides in getting elected to the General Assembly in Virginia. Polls have shown that women have become much more engaged in politics since the Trump inauguration, and that's a good thing. This weekend will see the return of Women's March activities around the country, with events planned for Jan. 20 and 21. There is a focus this year on emphasizing the need for citizens to demonstrate their collective power on Election Day, when decision-makers are put in key positions at the local, county, state, and federal level.

Pennsylvania has historically not been at the forefront when it comes to having diverse representation in government. The General Assembly continues to be lacking in women and minorities. There has never been a woman elected to serve as governor.

Local governments have also lacked adequate diversity, but there are signs of progress.

Lorraine Bell officially became the first woman ever elected as mayor in the history of Oxford Borough. Then, on Jan. 2, Sue Lombardi was selected by her colleagues on borough council to serve as council president—the first time that a woman has ever held that position in Oxford. On the same night, Peggy Ann Russell was selected to serve as council vice president. Having women occupy the offices of mayor, council president, and council vice president simultaneously is an historic moment for Oxford Borough, and hopefully, other municipalities will see many more women and minorities holding leadership positions in local government. Our governments at every level should be reflective of who we are as a people today, in 2018, not how we were in 1818 or 1918. The more diversity we have in government, the better off we all are.