American women have a rich history of participation in our democracy.
Time and again, we have exemplified the saying, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Women advocated fiercely for an end to slavery, marched for and won the right to vote, demanded civil rights legislation, funded and lobbied for birth control, fought for the right to participate in combat and most recently ran for office in unprecedented numbers in 2018. We must maintain this legacy by paying attention to state politics and holding our local lawmakers accountable for representing us.
JLNO members have a unique opportunity to participate in the legislative process in our own state capitol. Every year, JLNO’s Community Affairs Committee offers League Day at the Capitol. Junior League chapters across Louisiana have a chance to meet face-to-face with state lawmakers and gain firsthand knowledge of the legislative process. Any member is welcome to attend and can support, oppose or ask questions about legislation.
Cherie Teamer is the Community Affairs Chair and works as a political consultant. Cherie explains: “Going to the State Capitol and speaking or submitting a card in support or opposition [to a bill] … is the way many interested parties make their voices heard and can often impact whether a particular piece of legislation moves out of committee or not.”
Cherie has a larger vision for this event and believes that, in keeping with American women’s tradition of advocacy and activism, the Junior League can strengthen its impact and voice if members are more organized and unified. “This year Aimee Freeman, a Representative from New Orleans and Junior League Sustainer, has sponsored legislation to allow municipalities to make diapers and feminine hygiene products tax exempt. If Junior Leagues across Louisiana work together, we can make an impact on this legislation.” Ms. Freeman is also working on legislation around equal pay, pay secrecy (a policy which can prevent women from accessing fair compensation) and housing rights of domestic violence survivors.
Angela Henderson, who is on JLNO’s Community Affairs Council, attended the League Day at the Capitol last year and was able to visit several legislators’ offices. She describes her experience, saying, “I have clear priorities in certain areas and was able to ask for support on equal pay, feminine hygiene and diaper bills.” She also composed notes to legislators whom she was unable to meet, sending feedback on bills she wanted to support on the House floor.
Baton Rouge’s Junior League chapter is spearheading the day’s events in partnership with chapters from across the state, including New Orleans, Lafayette and Covington-Slidell. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the legislative process, empower ourselves to advocate for women and children, and have our voices heard. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, League Day at the Capitol, which was originally scheduled for May 18, was unfortunately canceled. Nevertheless, this annual event continues to be a transformative and educational experience for members who attend. Be sure to earmark your calendar for Spring 2021 when League Day at the Capitol will make its voice heard once again.