January 6, 2014 | Malcolm Johnstone
Pictured at right: West Chester Borough Council, 2013. Seated in front, L-R: Cassandra Jones, Holly Brown, Mayor Carolyn Comitta, John Manion. Standing, L-R: Chuck Christy, Tom Paxton, Jordan Norley, Stephen Shinn.
West Chester PA – When the West Chester Borough Council reorganized for a new two-year term, it left behind a legacy of diverse leadership achieved for the first time in the 214-year history of the Borough.
The legacy? For the last two years, the top three elected Borough officials have been women: Mayor Carolyn Comitta, Council President Holly Brown, and Council Vice-President Cassandra Jones. All other council members are men. Just three decades ago, such a leadership arrangement would have been thought all but impossible.
This is because since 1799 West Chester Borough has been mostly represented by a council made up entirely of men. It was 175 years before a woman, Elinor Z. Taylor, would sit on Council. Since then, women have become a regular part of Borough politics. Carolyn Comitta, a former council member herself, became the first woman to be elected Mayor in 2009.
This gender shift in leadership has barely been mentioned, but we think it’s certainly worth celebrating. Historically, discussion of a woman’s right to participate in American politics dates back at least as far as Pennsylvania’s first Women’s Rights Convention which was held in West Chester in 1852. We can now say that at least part of the goals of women’s suffrage have been achieved and no doubt will continue to become an important component of the political landscape.
And that is a good thing.
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