Area women involved in politics

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 11/26/96.

There have only been two women on the Paynesville City Council.

Of the people in Minnesota's state legislature, less than 50 percent are women.

The United States has never had a woman president.

Why aren't there women in politics? Over half of the United States' population is women. The Paynesville area has seen some women in political offices

Women aren't kept out of politics because of discrimination, according to Sen. Michelle Fischbach.

Fischbach campaigned for her state senate seat from June to November. During that entire time, she said she heard only one comment about her that related to her gender.

One "nice, older guy" said to Fischbach, "With a woman running against a woman, who am I supposed to vote for?"

Many voters told Fischbach they wished she and her opponent, Lynn Schurman, were running in different races.

Fischbach, who is also the youngest person in the Minnesota Senate, said she hasn't noticed any discrimination because of her age or her gender.

"People treat each other as equals (in the Senate)," Fischbach said.

Grace Peteler, Paynesville, agrees with Fischbach. Peteler was the first woman on the Paynesville Hospital Board. She is now the president of the hospital board.

She was appointed, not elected, to her first term in 1981. Peteler said she wasn't knowledgeable about the workings of the hospital. The board asked her to accept the position and "try it". They told her if she didn't like the board, she could "forget it".

Peteler was on the board through the planning and building of the new hospital and 700 Stearns Place.

She never felt that other board members treated her differently because she was a woman. She said she worried about how they might treat her, but they "treated me just like one of them," Peteler said.

Schurman, who was Fischbach's DFL opponent in this year's election, got her political experience in 12 years on the Rocori School Board.

She beat an incumbent by two votes. She was the first woman on the Rocori School Board.

"At first, I didn't always feel that I was listened to. I had to prove myself," Schurman said.

Although women are generally a population majority, they are a minority in governmental offices.

Rose Arnold, the third district Stearns County Commissioner, may have the answer. Men and women are "intrinsically, just plain different," Arnold said. Women who have young children feel the need to stay home with their children.

Arnold didn't work outside of her home until after her children were in school. As a commissioner, Arnold attends commission meetings once a week. She also serves on at least 16 other related committees. She has meetings on most week nights. Arnold said she couldn't do as much as she does if she had younger children.

"I think I'd be torn apart," Arnold said. She said she would "think I should be at Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, sports or the plays" or other activities that her kids were involved in.

Traditionally, women have stayed home and raised their children, Arnold said. Young mothers in Stearns County have told Arnold they feel they should be home with their children. Children will grow, and after they do, there are places for many women in the political spectrum.

"I think women can have it all," Arnold said. "But you can't have it all at one time."

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