Colorado women: “We can do it!” 125 years leading the way on women’s suffrage, equal rights

Thursday, March 1, 2018 7:15 PM

It is during the month of March nationally that the achievements of women are commemorated. For Colorado women, there is much to celebrate. To date, 152 women from all over the state have been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, including Morley Ballantine, former Chairman and Editor of The Durango Herald and the only Southwest Colorado woman, so far, to have earned this honor.

Colorado women have accomplished a lot, including, in 1893 with the support of its men, becoming the first state in the Union to empower women with the right to vote, 27 years before Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting that same right to all women nationwide. True, Wyoming afforded women the right to vote in 1869, but at the time they were a territory and did not become a state until 1890.

So, the distinction is Colorado’s to claim and perhaps why, at 38 percent, we stand out as 4th in the nation of having the most women serving in the state legislature, just behind Arizona and Vermont at 40 percent and Nevada at 39.7 percent.

Colorado women have been in the business of governing for a long time. Yet, despite Colorado ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, women still have a ways to go to be free from discrimination, to earn equal pay and, among other things, to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace.

It goes without saying, of course, but as with the #MeToo movement and the spate of sexual harassment allegations have made clear nationwide, sexual harassment is endemic (and perhaps an epidemic) in our culture and society, as well as at our own state capitol.

This morning, the House is voting on the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, over allegations by five women that include 10 accusation of sexual harassment and one count of retaliation.

Though Rep. Lebsock denies each allegation, an independent investigation by the Employers Council, an outside agency, found the accusations to be credible. It will be the first time since 1915 that a vote was called to expel a legislator.

Only members of the House vote and two-thirds, 44 of its 65 members, must vote for Lebsock to lose his seat. State Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is voting for expulsion. She spent a lot of time reading the investigation and said, “Women should not be treated like this. We have to make a statement. We have to do something.”

Western women have always been strong and courageous. It is the women of the #MeToo movement, at the capitol, elsewhere in the state and nation, and our own Rep. Mclachlan, who are leading the way for women and for what is right.

Though Morley did not live to see this day, she, no doubt, would have sympathized with the female (and male) victims of sexual harassment.

Today’s vote will send a message to Colorado’s, and all, women. If it fails, those who know the position comes with expectations will have tried. And one thing we know is, as women, they will keep trying to make things right.