Helen Gibbins is no stranger to the political process.
For more than 50 years, she’s been active in the Huntington Area League of Women Voters, and she’s a known entity among local and even state legislators through her work in advocating for environmental issues, voter law reform and education, to name a few.
She’s also not a stranger to the perspectives and results women can bring when they’re elected into public office, and this year’s presidential election is one that she said will go a long way in progressing the conversation about what women can bring to the table in running the United States of America.
“For so long we haven’t considered voting for women,” Gibbins said Monday. “Just like when women didn’t have the right to vote, it can be the same attitude sometimes that a woman’s place is not in being the President of the United States. Women have come a long way, kind of working up the system in our local political scene in Huntington and the county level elected offices. Women have been in our state legislature and up to the national levels. Now, people are ready to at least vote for a woman for president.”
No woman has ever held the office of President of the United States, and even today, 19 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives and 20 percent of the U.S. Senate is comprised of women, even though 50.8 percent the U.S. population is female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As of the 2016 regular legislative session of the West Virginia Legislature, 18 of the 100 House of Delegates members were women, and two women served in the 34-member state Senate.
Of the 104 women members of Congress, 31.7 percent (33) are women of color, according to Catalyst.org, a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women.
In 2015, the U.S. was ranked 72nd in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures or parliaments by Inter-Parliamentary Union.
While Gibbins, who is known for being an unbiased voter’s advocate, wouldn’t say whether she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump or a third-party candidate for president, she said the fact that there is a woman who could become president is a sign of the changing attitudes about the roles of men and women in U.S. society.
“There might be experiences women have had that men haven’t, and women bring that to the table,” Gibbins said. “I still think it falls on women to be the major caretakers for children, even though more men are taking that on. I believe the future of the country depends on how we treat our children. I think women and more men are interested in the idea that we are all responsible for our children, and we can’t just look at them as someone else’s problem – they’re part of the best interest of our society.”
All in all, Gibbins said she hoped voters were focused on issues than the personalities of the candidates and gave their full attention to state and local issues as much as national ones.
“We do put so much concentration on the head of the ballot, saying people can vote for ‘either-or,’ but there’s a whole ballot that includes state offices and local offices,” Gibbins said. “(Local races) are so important with our decentralized government. It always has been sad to me that the number of people who get out and vote is always highest when there’s a presidential run. Every election is important. I think we have this right to vote, and we all should use it.”
By Lacie Pierson, The Herald Dispatch, Election Day 2016