Following in the footsteps of the Keystone 8, Midstate female state representatives sworn into office in 2015 : from left Rep. Sue Helm, R-Susquehanna Twp.; Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-Jacobus; Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; Sen. Judith Schwank, D-Berks County; Rep. Patty Kim, D-Harrisburg; Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Cleona; Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Lower Allen Twp.; Rep. Mindy Fee, R-Manheim; Rep. Lynda Schlegal Culver, R-Sunbury; and Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County.
Dan Gleiter | firstname.lastname@example.org (Dan Gleiter | dgleiter@pennlive.)
In honor of National Women's History Month I wanted to share with you the stories of eight women in Pennsylvania politics, the first women to win elected offices in the PA House of Representatives. Before I do, however, it would be neglectful for me to not give you some background.
The battle for equal rights for women was, and still, is a slow fought tangle of disappointments for many women. Just when it seems that women take one step forward many others take two steps back. One might wonder how that can be?
I have no answer for that, except to say the battle against women moving upward is a hellish one. None but the strongest survive, because to be honest, moving into foreign territory can be a dangerous move. At the least, when permitted through the doors into the man’s world, there is a whole new set of rules of which to live. At worst, it can be like an urban gang turf war. Happily, at best women are cheerfully accepted. The majority lies somewhere in between.
Only the strong survive. But when they do, they pave the way for others: our sisters, our daughters and other young women of our future.
In the case of the eight women known as the Keystone Eight, it opened the door to women in PA to serve their fellow Pennsylvanians with dedication and a zest for better lives for everyone.
In 1920 women had finally won the right to vote, too late for any to run for office that year. However, on November 22, 1922 there were 38 candidates who would run for office. Of those, the winners were the Keystone Eight:
Rosa Stein de Young was not only one of the first eight women elected to the PA House, but she was also the first woman who was Jewish. Though she only served in the house for a short while, deYoung made good use of her time following her term in office.
In 1936 de Young was appointed by Philadelphia Mayor Wilson to serve as chair of the Philadelphia Theater Control Board. She also served on the boards of the League of Women Voters, Planned Parenthood and the Child Study Association.
Sarah Gertrude MacKinney, was from Butler County, who beat her four male counterparts by a landslide of 300 votes. She was a teacher in four counties: Crawford, Butler, Allegheny and Mercer before becoming a librarian at Grove City College. She later entered in the manufacturing business.
Also well known for her efforts in the Women’s Suffrage Movement MacKinney founded the League of Women Voters in Butler County and served as Vice President of the 14 County District of the Federation of Pennsylvania Women.
Though these were the first women elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, one woman, Flora Vare, was also elected to the state senate in the same election. Unfortunately, I was unable to find information on Vare.
It should be said that many women have served in Pennsylvania politics since these first women paved the way. However, it is sad to say that today there are no Pennsylvania women holding federal seats.
posted by Pam Garlick
Information for this article was obtained from the History of Women in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 1923 to 2005, written by Jeanne H. Schmedlen for the PA House of Representatives.
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