Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Champion of Women's Rights in Wisconsin

How quickly we forget those battles that were fought in the 1960's for equal rights for women in this country.  It's better now, but we're still not there, and there are forces afoot in some political circles in this country that would like the clock to be turned back about 200 years!  Just as an aside, I had no idea until my friend Ann emailed me the other night that, between 1907 and 1920 in this country, a woman who was a United States citizen by birth lost her citizenship if she married a man who was not a U.S. citizen! 

Think about how it used to be - not so very long ago, in the "good old USA" - and think about how it still is for a majority of females in most of the rest of the world at this very minute.  Each of us - women and men alike, for men are the beneficiaries of the "liberation" of their female counterparts (whether they realize it or not) - owe thanks to Esther Doughty Luckhardt and countless women like her, who fought to give us in the west the rights we have today.  Thanks, Ms. Doughty Luckhardt. 

Obituary [Excerpted]
Esther Doughty Luckhardt
Luckhardt a pioneer of women's rights as member of state Assembly
By Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel
Jan. 18, 2011
AP photo. Esther Doughty Luckhardt (right) signs the oath of office book
 before being seated as a member of the state Assembly in 1963. Lillian Quinn
 (left)  was the Assembly’s assistant chief clerk.
 Esther Doughty Luckhardt did not set out to champion women's rights but found things that needed changing during her long years in the state Assembly.

First elected in 1962, she was then the only woman to serve in the Assembly - and only the ninth to serve in Wisconsin history. Her opponent in that first race ran a campaign ad that read: "It's a man's job."

She later lost a 1969 bid to become the first woman ever elected to the state Senate. Luckhardt served in the Assembly for 22 years and was the longest-serving woman when she decided not to run for a 12th two-year term in 1984.

"I felt like I led the parade," Luckhardt later said.

Luckhardt died of congestive heart failure Friday. She was 97. Luckhardt was a lifelong resident of Horicon.

A self-described "rock-ribbed fiscal conservative," she entered politics more interested in promoting business and curbing taxes. Along the way, though, she kept bumping into basic issues of equal rights for women.

She found there was no convenient restroom for women anywhere near the Assembly chambers. During certain procedural times, legislators were to be escorted, but there were no female pages to escort her to the restroom. She eventually got those things changed, and daughter Patty Doughty even got to join the ranks of Capitol pages.

Then there was the name problem.

By state law, women were required to change their names with marriage and to use their married name when running for office. Long involved in Republican Party politics, she first ran for office after the death of her husband, Lyle Doughty.

She later remarried, but the voters wouldn't know who Esther Luckhardt was. And - given the fact her full maiden name was Esther Hulda Louise Schwertfeger - no one was sure what her legal middle name was.

"A name is valuable to a woman with a profession or in business or politics," she said in 1969. "No man has to make this change."

The law was eventually changed, but not right away in 1969.

"I got the bill passed, then Warren Knowles vetoed it on grounds it would create too many problems with credit," Luckhardt recalled. "They called me a flaming liberal at the time. The governor's veto was upheld."

She pushed for other changes, too, large and small.

Luckhardt took pride in revising state laws that allowed women to become licensed as engineers, plumbers, bartenders and in other fields, in addition to traditional professions such as nurse and teacher.

A dress code for women employees at the Capitol finally fell when Luckhardt and other female lawmakers began wearing slacks themselves.

Advocate for equality
"It's not that I'm a feminist or suffragette, but no one had paid any attention to women's interests before," Luckhardt said.

"I think she was proud of getting all of it - bits and pieces of legislation - that collectively gave women legal equality with men," said her son, Tom Doughty. "She believed in smaller government, less taxation, market regulation, personal responsibility. But when she saw these impediments that kept women from equal footing, she would get things changed."

Luckhardt also owned and operated an insurance and real estate business, including developing the Park Meadows subdivision in Horicon with her first husband.

She was long active with the former Lutheran Deaconess Hospital, including the creation of what became the Bethesda Fair as a hospital fund-raiser.

In 1987, Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Luckhardt to serve on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, and later appointed her to the National Committee on Aging.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with citizenships is that the USA has very wrong-headed ideas about citizenship. Under US law, you are a citizen of one nation only, not multiples, and if a woman married a non-US citizen, she traded her US citizenship for citizenship of whatever country her husband was from.

Most other countries are much more reasonable about this, recognizing that you can have multiple citizenships, for a host of reasons.

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