One hundred years ago, Nevada women won the right to vote, six years before the 19th Amendment guaranteed that right for all American women.
“My idea was to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage in Nevada,” said Joanne Goodwin, historian and executive of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada at UNLV.
Like many good ideas, her’s expanded and became a three-part television series called “Makers: Women in Nevada History,” a Nevada version of the PBS documentary “Makers: Women Who Make America.”
While impossible to cover every woman who achieved a first of some sorts and was a change maker for Nevada, Goodwin interviewed 42 women, including 39 living Makers.
Three women featured in the three-part series airing on Vegas PBS, aka KLVX-TV, Channel 10, were scheduled to appear Wednesday at a preview of the series at The Mirage:
■ Frankie Sue Del Papa, the first woman secretary of state, elected in 1986, and the first woman attorney general, elected in 1990.
■ Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Karen Bennett-Haron, the first black woman in Nevada’s state judicial system, appointed in 2002 and re-elected twice.
■ Renee West, the first woman to be named president of a major Strip resort, when she was appointed president of the Excalibur in 2005.
There was a common thread linking the three women and many others featured in the historical documentary. “They all had very strong support from their parents,” Goodwin said.
Their parents might not have anticipated their daughters would break as many barriers and lay claim to as many “firsts” as they did. The parents might not even have considered themselves as embracing a feminist philosophy, but their parents backed their daughters.
In an interview with Goodwin for the show, Del Papa said her parents told her two things: “No. 1, that I would go to college and, No. 2, that I could do or be anything.”
Bennett-Haron, the daughter of a minister and a schoolteacher, said their expectation was that “education is a must, I had to go to college; there was no other option.”
West said: “My mother shaped my view of what was possible more than any other person. Everything was possible to her and that was kind of environment I grew up in, where you could do anything you wanted to do. Just go do it.”
“Makers” is an official sesquicentennial event and Tom Axtell, general manager of Vegas PBS, estimated that by the time it’s viewed across Nevada, more than 37,000 people will have seen it, making it the largest sesquicentennial event in Nevada.
“The Groundbreakers” first airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday. Starting during the early 1900s, it covers the struggle for women’s suffrage, moves through World War II and women’s roles in the war industries. (Can’t wait to learn about Magnesium Maggie!)
“Moving Forward” airs initially at 10 p.m. Oct. 28. Women like Claudine Williams, Nancy Houssels, Kitty Rodman, Lubertha Johnson, Sarann Preddy, Sue Wagner and Barbara Vucanovich moved into gaming, business and politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Into the Future” has its first airing at 10 p.m. Nov. 4. Women of today are featured, successful women including the three panelists, Barbara Buckley, Pat Mulroy, Rose McKinney-James, Carolyn Goodman, and Tina Kunzer Murphy. All these women played some role in shaping Nevada.
The shows also air at other times and that information is on www.vegaspbs.com which cosponsored the shows along with WRIN. A six-minute sample can be viewed online at www.wrinunlv.org.
The three panelists offered differing views of the women’s movement today.
West said nothing limits women today, and “I never was aware that women were limited in any way based on the experiences that I had,” she said during her interview with Goodwin. West said no one is talking about how men also juggle family with work and ambition. “There is a transition that is happening with men that I think isn’t even being talked about.”
Bennett-Haron said she was concerned because today’s young professional women “don’t have any strong conviction about anything. It’s all about me, me, me.” She said the struggle for women’s rights continues. “I don’t believe it stopped.” And she wants to build upon the foundation.
Del Papa, who broke so many glass ceilings, starting as the first woman student body president at the University of Nevada, Reno, spoke of the excitement of the women’s movement in the mid-1970s. Women like herself “pay it forward and we do what we can to try to make a difference and try to change things to make them better.”
Disclosure: I was interviewed for the series because I was the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s first woman general interest columnist. As a columnist and during 13 years as the newspaper’s political reporter I made sure women’s voices were heard.
Sometimes I was a change maker, sometimes a troublemaker.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Thursdays. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 702-383-0275. Follow her on Twitter @janeannmorrison.