Recognizing Women’s History Month

by Angie Carrier, MTAS Municipal Management Consultant

I was asked to write an article on behalf of the IPS Diversity Committee for National Women’s History month. How did March become National Women’s History month? I did not know, so I started researching. The Education Taskforce of the Sonoma County, Calif. Commission on the Status of Women initiated a Women’s History Week celebration in 1978 to address the lack of women’s history education in the K-12 curriculum. This began celebrations in many local communities, organizations, and school districts.

In February of 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation and declared the Week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. Carter’s Proclamation led to a wide-range of political support to recognize, honor, and celebrate the achievements of American women. As the nation became more aware, state departments of education encouraged celebrations during this week and states developed and distributed curriculum materials for all of their public schools.

By 1986, 14 states acknowledged Women’s History Month. These local and state efforts gained momentum and compelled Congress to act. In 1987 Congress proclaimed the entire month of March in perpetuity as National Women’s History month. A special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year to honor the extraordinary achievements of American women.

President Jimmy Carter’s Message to the nation designating March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week reads:

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right. – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980.

I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy
Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.

This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

I also wanted to highlight a female in local government who had an impact on my career. Joining the Tennessee City Management Association as a young female in the 90’s was eye-opening. I noticed that there were only a handful of women in the room. Although there were few, the two women who stood out to me were self-confident, intelligent, and not intimidated at all. So, I thought to myself, “I can do this”. Gina Holt was one of those women. Cindy Cameron-Ogle, city manager of Gatlinburg, was the other.

Holt is now the city manager of Springfield. She is highlighted in ICMA’s PM March Issue (icma.org/pm) for “Women who are helping change the face of local government.”

Holt grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. and graduated from The University of Tennessee with a degree in business administration.

She has been the assistant city manager for Springfield for over 20 years. Prior to landing in Springfield, she developed management experience in Washington, DC in the U. S. Senate, State Department and White House. She also worked in commercial real estate in Middle Tennessee.

Holt has been very active in the local government profession as a past board member of the Tennessee Municipal League, Leadership Middle Tennessee, TML Risk Management Pool (The Pool), YMCA, and United Way of Robertson County. Not only is she past president of TCMA, she is past president of the Springfield/Robertson County Kiwanis Club. She also remains active in the International City/County Management Association.

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, I asked her to answer a few questions:

What female was most impactful on your life or career and why?

Lynne Lyons – Senator Howard Baker’s Chief of Staff in the Washington, DC office. There were few women in those powerful positions in the Senate in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and she was a real inspiration. She worked very hard and was well respected by her peers. We are still friends today.

What was your greatest challenge as a female in your professional career?

In the early days of my local government career there were few women in management. I was often the only female in a male-dominated world. I was called “little lady” and was asked to get coffee or type reports. I had to earn respect first and occasionally had to let the men know they could get the coffee. Once I earned everyone’s trust and respect, we got along quite well.

Why did you want to become a city manager?

I took the position in Springfield because I was ready for a change. My business experience was great, but I didn’t feel as though I was accomplishing anything with my work. The opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives on a smaller, more personal level was appealing. The years as Assistant City Manager taught me a lot and helped me transition to City Manager.

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in local government?

Take advantage of the doors that have already been opened. A lot of women have gone before them to open those doors. It’s much better today than when I started out. I tell young women to get involved at an early age, i.e. in school, church, community – volunteer to lead. Make connections and network – networking is a big plus for job leads. Men are good at networking and mentoring, and women need to do a better job of that. Young women should find an area of local government that they really like and find successful women in that field. Female leaders should find time to mentor young women. Join civic groups and professional associations – a great way to network.