University of Indianapolis Assistant Professor of Political Science Laura Albright spoke about “Women in Politics” on March 30. The lecture focused on women in politics, specifically gubernatorial women.
“I’m really excited to share this because it’s very near and dear to my heart,” Albright said. “Obviously, I’m a woman, and I study political science, and I’m interested in the gender gap.”
Albright explained how large the gender gap is in politics. She said that 51 percent of the population are women, but only 19 percent of Congress, 22 percent of state legislatures and 12 percent of governorships are held by women. Albright said that the highest percentage of women was on the school board, with 40 percent of the members being women. She also said that women were not in politics until the early 1900s.
“For a long time, people thought women couldn’t be involved in politics,” Albright said, “and that it was only a man’s game, because women were too pure and honest and truthful.”
There have been 39 female governors in U.S. history, according to Albright. Currently there are six. Albright said that the first female governor, Nellie Taylor Ross, was elected in 1924 in Wyoming, after her husband left office. Two weeks later, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was elected governor of Texas. Albright said that during their time in office, they had many accomplishments.
“During her [Ferguson’s] time in office she issued over 4,000 pardons for people who had essentially been wronged by the state of Texas,” Albright said.
Albright then talked about Lurleen Burns Wallace who was elected governor of Alabama in 1967. Albright said Wallace took over for her husband, George Wallace, when he could not hold consecutive terms in office as governor.
Albright said that to have a better chance of becoming president, the ideal government positions to hold are governor and senator. She said that George Wallace would not have wanted to be a senator, because he liked having the most power, and he would be only one of 100 in the senate. Albright said that because he could not run for governor, but still wanted to have power and recognition, he had his wife run.
Albright showed some of Lurleen Wallace’s campaign advertisements, in which she was featured next to her husband and called Mrs. George C. Wallace. Albright also said her campaign revolved around the fact that Lurleen’s becoming governor would help George become president. George was a big supporter of segregation, and Lurleen passed many bills that set back integration during her time in office.
Albright said Lurleen got a lot support from women and battled a lot of sexism from the media. She said the media focused on her running for her husband and often asked about what she was wearing or about her children.
Albright discussed the six female governors currently in offices around the United States. She also talked about the five women in the executive branch in Indiana as of January 2016. Yet there are no women currently running for governor, nor has Indiana had a female governor. Albright said she would like to see more women in politics but also would just like to see more diversity in general.
Sophomore history education major Mary Anne Schneider has had Albright as a professor and said she wanted to take Albright’s Women in Politics course. Schneider said she enjoyed the lecture.
“It was great,” Schneider said. “I didn’t know much about the history of the governors and what states they came from. It was like a mini course.”
After the lecture, Albright encouraged students to attend a “Know Your Candidates” event, in which a panel of professors, including herself, will be discussing the presidential candidates and other candidates running for positions in Indiana. The event will be in the Schwitzer Student Center in UIndy Hall B on April 13 at 7 p.m.