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25 Notable Kansans - is this the best we can do?
This is not a book blog, but it's something I really wanted to get the word out about. I thought of doing it as an LTE, but the link for submitting one is broken. Plus, this is faster, and I'm ticked!
25 Notable Kansans?
I have received an automated e-mail from the Governor’s office each time another five notable Kansans were announced. (This effort is part of the celebration of Kansas’ 150th anniversary and has gone on over the past several weeks.) I have read each list with interest, but immediately noticed something about those chosen to represent our state as “notable.” Most of them are men. I watched as each list came out, hoping against hope that as the list became longer the number of women would increase. I received the final installment today, and then went to the Kansas State Historical Society website to confirm what I already suspected. Of the twenty-five notable Kansans, only three are women. Predictably, two of them were Amelia Erhardt and Carry Nation. The third was former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum.
The last time I checked, at least half of the people who helped make Kansas a great state were female! Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected anything better from an administration that has made what many consider to be attacks on women’s rights. As a student of history, I also understand that in the past, women had far fewer opportunities to affect life in the public sphere than they have in the past forty years. However I refuse to believe that in a state founded by pioneer families, where women worked, sweated, and often died to gain a better life for their children, there have only been three women of note in a century and a half.
I wondered what great Kansas women had been passed over for this honor, so I did a simple internet search on “Notable Kansas Women.” The first hit took me to a website called www.womenscalendar.org. Here are a few that caught my eye. Check out the website to see others.
Olive Beech, co-founder with husband Walter of the Beech Aircraft Company in Wichita. She is known as the “First Lady of Aviation.”
Georgia Neese Gray, first woman appointed as Treasurer of the United States.
Hattie McDaniel, first African-American actress to win an Oscar, and the first to be allowed to attend the Oscar ceremonies to receive her award for her role in Gone With the Wind.
Osa Johnson of Chanute, who lived an adventurous life through many trips to Africa with her husband Martin. Their many books and films thrilled generations, and their legacy is carried on at their museum in Chanute.
Lutie Lytle, born in Topeka in 1874, was the first African-American female to receive a law degree. She graduated from the Tennessee Law School in 1897.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate all of the people who are listed as 25 Most Notable Kansans. Every one of them made contributions to our state that we can look back on with pride. I’m also not an advocate of arbitrary quotas. But calling this list of Notable Kansas skewed is an understatement. Once I saw the final results, it didn’t surprise me to learn that the eleven-member committee appointed to choose those honored included only two women. Apparently the yearning for the "good old days" extends to all facets of life for some people. Put those women back in the kitchen where they belong.
Perhaps some folks need to remember that half of registered voters in Kansas are women. (I didn't look up the stats on that, but we are over half the population in America, so it's an assumption I'm willing to make.) Let's make sure that when election time rolls around, we choose people who recognize and appreciate the contributions of all Kansans.