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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Noticed on the Net

·      If there are enough people in prison to swing an election, don't you think there might be too many people in prison?  Especially in our privatized prisons, where the contracting corporation makes a hefty profit on each inmate.

·      Buried in the multiple corruptions of the Trump administration is the news that Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma spent millions of tax dollars on a Republican PR firm to generate positive press for herself.  That this isn't a first-rate scandal speaks volumes.

·      According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Center, we rank with New York and Connecticut for the worst income inequality.  The top 1% of Florida residents have an average annual income of $1.54 million -- almost 40 times than that of the other 99% of us, who average just $39,094.

Democratization of Dress

I first began thinking about this a while back, when there was a touching news photo of two young black men on either side of an older white woman:  they had seen her pay for gas with pennies from an empty wallet, and they followed her to the parking lot to give her their cash.  The stereotype would be the opposite, and it got me to thinking about how much recent styles in dress and appearance have helped create a stronger democracy.  You just can't tell who is who these days, and that's good.


If you watch old movies like Hubby and I do, most of the time you can easily tell a character's social status by their clothing.  Upper-class women wear high heels, hats, and gloves; at home, they don silk and satin gowns.  Lower class women wear lower shoes, dresses that denote their status as housewives, and bathrobes of coarse cloth.  Country-club men wear suits and ties at work, and at leisure, they sport straw hats and yachting jackets.  At home, they lounge about in smoking jackets – something that I doubt I could find in a store these days. 


Their male employees wear overalls and a cap, not a hat.  That was my dad:  blue denim overalls and blue-and-white striped denim cap, sans any color or logo like today's ubiquitous baseball caps.  He changed for Sunday, though, as no man or boy in our Minnesota Lutheran church would have turned up in anything less than a suit, tie, and dress shoes.  It helped keep my parents poor, outfitting suits for three growing boys, and mom was grateful that she could sew dresses for us three girls.  But that was the standard of dress, and failure to meet it was an insult to God.  Now people wear the same clothes to church that they wear to the grocery store, and I'm not sure how God feels about that. 


Perhaps the place where democratization of dress is most evident is the airport.  Except for divisions of first-class and coach, it's hard to tell who is affluent and who scrimped and saved for a plane trip.  Everyone dresses for comfort now, but that has been the case only for a generation or two.  Prior to that, women wore heels and hats on planes; men wore their regulation suits and ties.  I suspect that it is the expansion of airports that was the biggest factor in this change:  few of us want to hike a mile or so between gates wearing uncomfortable shoes.


And shoes are key to everything.  My dog knew that.  Simon was a German shepherd who loved to go places.  After a while, we noticed that he would wag his tail when I planned to take him, but would lie down and pout when I didn't.  I couldn't figure out how he knew – but our daughter finally did.  The key was my shoes:  if I had heels, he knew he couldn't go, but if I wore sneakers or sandals, there was a chance.  He was all for democracy in dress.


Mayor Jane and More


Tampa can be proud to be one of very few cities to have elected its third female mayor.  Indeed, three of the most recent five have been women, since Sandy Freedman set the precedent in 1987.  Pam Iorio followed her in 2001, and now we have Jane Castor.  Her victory was a milestone in several ways, especially in terms of proving that money can't buy love.  I'll count Mayor Bob as an honorary woman, too, because his first jobs in government were for Pat Frank and Mayor Sandy.  Both he and I volunteered for Pam in her first election; I was the volunteer recruiter, and he was in charge of yard signs.  The committee met at her parents' home on Sunday evenings, and John Iorio served his delicious Italian delicacies.


I'm also delighted that after last week's elections, the message on the billboard that I organized for the 2012 Republican convention still is true:  "Welcome to Tampa, where the mayor and all city council members are Democrats." I did that primarily because I didn't want Republican Rick Scott to get credit for what we achieved locally.  I don't personally know as many council members as I did back in the day, but they have done an amazing job – and I don't use "amazing" lightly.  I happened to drive someone downtown recently who hadn't been there since the 1980s, and he just couldn't believe the change.  And the budgets have been balanced, too.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could send Sandy, Pam, and Bob to Tallahassee for a while?  State government surely needs our city governors.


To put all this in context, let me tell you that when I did a two-volume work for Congressional Quarterly Press in 2012, the most difficult chapter was the one on mayors.  This was (is) Women in American Politics:  History and Milestones, and we divided it by offices:  women in state legislatures and in Congress, women as governors and ambassadors, etc.  The chapter on mayors turned out to be a real pain, as no organization had kept records on that.  Both the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors apologized for being unable to help much, and I did a great deal of original research to get the fundamental facts. 


The most surprising fact was that capital cities are much more likely to elect women as mayors than other cities.  Indeed, our Tallahassee held the record at the time, having elected five women by 2012.  The second-place capital cities were Sacramento, California and Juneau, Alaska, which each had three.  Following that, re non-capital cities, my chart on "Cities that Elected More Than One Female Mayor" shows that, oddly enough, the champ was the rightwing town of Waco, Texas, which had elected four women. 


Of the large cities, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, San Diego, and our own West Palm Beach had more than one female mayor – and I think it is worth pointing out that most of these are in the Sun Belt, not the Rust Belt.  The most interesting probably is Houston, which stereotypically is seen as a tough cowboy-and-oilman town, but already in 1981, it elected Kathy Whitmire, a leader in the National Women's Political Caucus and an auditor who won on an anti-fraud campaign.  Its second, in 2009, was even more remarkable:  Annise Parker was president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Caucus.


In another chart, I ranked the top thirty cities by population and spelled out which never had a woman as mayor:  New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Detroit, Memphis, Nashville, Boston, Denver, and Milwaukee.  I summarized: "Of the thirty largest cities in the United States, twelve – or forty percent – never have elected a woman as mayor.  Ten of the twelves cities are east of the Mississippi River.  In contrast, in the West, only Denver and Los Angles have yet to set this milestone…  In the former Confederacy, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Little Rock, and Tampa have more progressive records of electing women than northeastern cities that are considered more liberal…  Except for Cincinnati, every major city that has twice elected women is in the South."


Several years have passed since I wrote that, but little has changed – except that a couple of weeks ago, Chicago joined the list of cities with more than one female mayor.  I remember the excitement among feminists in 1979, when Jane Byrne became the first.  Now, in 2019, you probably know that its recent election was a choice between two women, both African-American.  That's progress, but it is slow.


The Very First


Before getting into this research, I knew that the first female mayor of a large city was Bertha Landes, in Seattle in 1926.  Like me, she was married to a university professor and volunteered for civic causes.  Like many cities during this era of Prohibition, Seattle had a corrupt police force, and she won her election campaigning against bribe-taking.  The League of Women Voters, then a new organization, publicized the Landes administration as the type of reform that new female voters wanted throughout the nation. 


But many people say they want honest and efficient government, while also expecting personal favors and exemptions from regulations, and Landes lost her reelection bid to an unknown but high-spending man.  He soon was seen as a puppet for private utilities, and voters recalled him in 1931 – but she did not run again.  More than a decade passed before another significantly-sized city elected a woman as mayor.  That was near Seattle, in Portland, Oregon, in 1948. 


Dorothy McCullough Lee was unlike most women in that she did not evolve into politics through non-profit work, but instead mapped out a career in her youth.  She had traveled the world with her military family, earned two degrees from prestigious Berkeley, married an oil executive, and then opened a practice in admiralty law.  At age 27, she won election to the Oregon legislature and continued to move up the political ladder for the next twenty years.  Like Bertha Landes, Lee's mayoral campaign focused on the vice that was common in a port city after World War II – and like Landes, she lost her reelection.


Then there was a long dry spell until 1971, when Oklahoma City elected Patience Sewell Latting.  Reformers had recruited her for city council in 1967, and in 1971, she narrowly won the race for mayor.  Like her predecessors in Seattle and Portland, she faced city employees who were accustomed to taking bribes, especially in building permits, as well as a police force that threatened to strike because they didn't want a woman as boss.  But Latting named names and publicized corruption details, and voters supported her.  She served a total of twelve years, from 1971 to 1983. 


And four years after that, we would elect Mayor Sandy and begin implementing similar reforms.  I remember Sandy telling me of police officers who were so offended by having a woman at the top that they said so to her face, but less of that happened after Pam appointed Jane as police chief.  Bob, too, made it clear that he was the boss, and city employees did not undercut him in the way that some county employees undercut their bosses.  Of course, first they have to figure out who the boss is, given that we do not elect a county mayor.  That, I think, is the most important reform we could tackle locally.  As I've said before, there are eight states with populations smaller than Hillsborough County – and can you imagine a state not electing its governor?



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