“Woman elected to serve Stanislaus County in the state Assembly.”
This headline, although not very shocking today, very likely created quite a stir in 1918 when it first appeared in local papers. Esto Broughton, a Stanislaus County attorney, was one of four women elected to the California Legislature in the first major election after women achieved the right to vote in California. In office until 1926, Broughton helped pave the way for future female elected officials, including Peggy Mensinger, the first woman to serve as mayor of Modesto, and Pat Paul, the first and only woman to ever serve on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.
Unfortunately, even in these modern times, we continue to experience a significant gender gap in the political arena at all levels of government. Currently, there are 31 women in the 120-member California Legislature body (1 out of 4) and of the 387 elected positions in Stanislaus County – ranging from local sanitary districts and school boards to fire protection districts, city councils, and state and federal representatives – only 123 (roughly 1 out 3) are filled by women.
The ultimate glass ceiling remains in the White House, as no female has ever crossed the threshold of the Oval Office to sit in the president’s chair.
In honor of the pioneering achievements of Esto Broughton, the Stanislaus County Commission for Women biannually honors the women who have made a commitment to run for office and serve as elected officials. Their efforts enhance the effectiveness of our representative democracy. In a time when some decry public service and public servants, we believe it is important to acknowledge their dedication to our community and to highlight the unique, diverse and relevant perspectives that women bring to every discussion and decision.
Editor’s Note: Nancy Fisher is president of the Stanislaus Commission for Women; she wrote this on behalf of the commission. The list of current elected Stanislaus County officials is available at www.stanvote.com.