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July 24, 2013

KITCHELL: Glass ceiling gone, but glass roof remains

As a 13-year-old junior high student in 1971, I can still remember the night a little history was made in Logansport.

For the first time, a woman had been elected to the Logansport City Council. When Ellen Glendening broke the city council version of the “glass ceiling” that prevented women from entering public service because of tradition in a male-dominated society, she set an example for more women to follow. She had been active in the community, a wife and mother. In those days, there were few women at any level of Indiana politics, save the courthouse jobs and city clerk-treasurer posts that were more open to women.

Glendening served three terms on the council, and wasn’t known for asking dumb questions. In fact, she asked some darned good ones. When the time came for her to leave the council, she served on the Utility Service Board and broke the glass ceiling there as well. No women have served on the board since she left.

Glendening’s precedent for the council was followed by Mary Cotner, another Democrat, then Republican Janet Carr. Mercedes Brugh, Linda Klinck, Vicki Mason, Amy Sweet and currently Teresa Popejoy also followed in those footsteps. But even with that glass ceiling gone, a glass roof remains in many respects in local politics. Jone Wilson came out of nowhere to win a three-way race for mayor in 1979, but no woman has come close since. Republicans have tried, putting a stamp on former Cass Treasurer Carolyn Beauchamp and Auditor Chod Gibson, but to no avail.

Mary Margaret Muehlhausen went from auditor to the Cass County Council in 1988 as the first woman ever to serve on that body. Sarah Jane Crimmins and Gibson followed suit, but no female Democrat has ever served on the council.

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