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Minneapolis, feminist hotspot

  • Blog Post by: Lori Sturdevant
  • January 3, 2014 - 10:59 AM

For a good 135 years or so, men occupied all the top leadership spots in Minneapolis city government. Eventually that gender imbalance rankled. Women asked, begged and finally demanded seats at the tables of power. A breakthrough came in a brief period from the late 1990s until 2001, when the mayor, council president and superintendents of both the schools and parks were all female, and feminists rejoiced.

As of this week, it has happened again. The inauguration of Mayor Betsy Hodges and the fact that leading contenders for the City Council presidency are Barb Johnson and Elizabeth Glidden means that City Hall is again in feminine hands. Women are also again in charge at the city's school district (Bernadeia Johnson) and parks (Jayne Miller). This time, even the top cop, police Chief Janee Harteau, and the city attorney, Susan Segal, are on the list.

What's notable to me is that this all-female sweep has not been much noted. I didn't bump into a single gender-related pitch for votes in the mayoral race last fall. No reader has sent me a note either praising or disparaging the change. (Someone did note that women are well represented in the leadership of the Destination Medical Center project in Rochester, and wondered why DMC looks so different from most private businesses and Congress in that regard. I'd say Congress and corporations should be so lucky as to be led by the likes of Tina Smith and Patricia Simmons.)

It's not yet so in all of Minnesota. But in Minneapolis, the sight of women in government leadership positions is no longer an oddity. For the city's feminist activists who pried open doors of opportunity for women only a few decades ago, that non-news may be some of the best news of the new year. And for women aspiring to crack glass ceilings in other settings, there's inspiration to be found in Minneapolis.

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