This year, I am proud to serve with 16 other women in the Alaska State Legislature, more women than ever before. I have always believed that a legislature should be representative of the
people, which means that we still have a way to go; while the 17 of us make up 28% of the legislature, women actually make up 48% of the state's population.
Women have accomplished a lot in Alaska. Events and women like these make me proud:
• The first bill passed by the First Territorial Legislature acknowledged women's right to vote in Alaska in 1913, well before the 19th Amendment passed.
• Nell Chadwick Scott was the first women elected to the Alaska Legislature in 1936. 24 years later in 1960, Blanche McSmith, became the first African-American woman elected to the legislature.
It wouldn't be until 1974 that the first Native Alaskan woman, Brenda Itta, was elected.
• Elizabeth Peratrovich advocated for the Territory of Alaska's Anti-Discrimination Act, which passed in 1945, giving an impassioned speech from the gallery of the Senate Floor.
• Dorothy Awes, Helen Fischer, Mildred Hermann, Katherine Nordale, Dora Sweeney, and Ada Wien served with 49 men as delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
• In 1955, the Alaska State Flag Song is adopted, written by Marie Drake and composed by Elinor Dusenbury. Later, a second verse written by Carol Beery Davis recognizes the contributions of
Alaska Natives. The second verse has yet to be officially adopted.
• Lolly Medley and Mary Shields become the first women to finish the Iditarod in 1974, testifying to the strength and determination of Alaskan women. Libby Riddles was the first woman to win
the Iditarod in 1985. Susan Butcher went on to dominate, winning in four of the next five years.
• Chief Justice Dana Fabe is the first woman to be appointed to the Alaska Supreme Court and the first woman to serve as Chief Justice.
• The Alaska Women's Hall of Fame was established in 2008 and has honored 110 women for their contributions to Alaska.
As much as women have accomplished in Alaska, we have the distinction of being statistically one of the worst states in which to be a woman. Senator Lesil McGuire, another of the women in
the Legislature, recently released a
report outlining the status of women in Alaska. Some of the most interesting and alarming statistics in that report are:
• There are fewer women per capita in Alaska than any other state.
• Even though women receive the majority of bachelor degrees granted, women make 33% less than men in Alaska. Women earn less in all industries, age groups, and geographic areas and in most
occupations. Even in the highest-paying occupation for women, physicians and surgeons, there is a noticeable difference, with women earning on average $166,411 per year to men's $229,312.
Alaska has a consistently high rate of domestic violence, sexual assault, and violence towards women in comparison with the rest of the country. The
Alaska Victimization Survey conducted by the University of Alaska indicated that 55% of Alaskan women have experienced intimate parter violence and/or sexual assault. Yesterday, I joined thousands of people across the state who participated in Choose Respect
Choose Respect campaign was founded in 2009 by Governor Sean Parnell and helps bring awareness to the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. With organizations such as the
Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the
Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and local shelters, we can begin to help women who are victimized throughout Alaska.