Opinion Columns & Blogs

The voting ladies of Saudi Arabia

Bill Hall
Bill Hall

One morning in the early 1960s, members of the Idaho Legislature arrived to start a new session, snickering as they counted their imaginary blessing – no women legislators.

The legislature of those years normally had no more than a couple or so female members out of a legislature with more than 100 male lawmakers.

That day when no females at all had made it to the Idaho Legislature, those chuckling men made snide remarks about how men allegedly talk less. “We can finish the session a month faster this year,” the old goats said.

I was thinking about that the other day when reading that Saudi Arabia of all countries gave the vote to women for the first time, and 20 Saudi women had been elected to municipal offices on the first try.

Saudi Arabia has been a country most of the world giggles about because women there, even to this day, are still not allowed to drive an automobile. In fact, some of the more brotherly taxis drivers gave Saudi women free rides to the polls that first day.

Those Saudi women remind me of Japanese women at the end of World War II. Japanese women were allowed to be elected to office because General Douglas MacArthur said so. William Manchester’s fascinating biography of the general – “American Caesar” – reports Japanese men didn’t like the idea of women in government, but MacArthur insisted.

Ironically, the women of America at that time didn’t even come close to being so fully welcome in government.

(The Manchester book revealed that MacArthur was intensely devoted to his mother. That makes me assume Mom was the general’s motive for the political liberation of Japanese women.)

Treating women as fully equal was a new concept when I was a teenager. It’s hard to believe now that I used to live in a world where women were regarded as second-class citizens.

In fact, I recall a day in high school in 1954 when I was joining the wrestling team. We were required to get a physical at a doctor’s office. My family didn’t have a regular doctor. When I arrived at an office near the high school, the receptionist warily mentioned that the doctor was a woman!

I instantly declined. I understood that doctors get professionally personal during physicals. They expect you to drop your drawers and be subjected to probing while being stared at. That was embarrassing enough, let alone with a female of our species in charge.

I ran blushing down the stairs. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a female doctor in Idaho back then.

Oddly enough, in the beginning, Idaho was one of the very first states to give women the vote – Wyoming first in 1890, Colorado second in 1893 followed by Utah and Idaho tied for third in 1896 – all before a federal constitutional amendment liberated all of our womenfolk for voting.

I have a theory about those first states – Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho. On the whole, they were more agricultural than many other states. My parents and most other farmers worked unbelievably hard.

It was a simple equation: If you do half the work, you should have half the say in how the farm and your country are managed.

The same goes for immigrants. The people who come here almost all work harder than you and I ever will. Especially me.

Whatever happened to today’s now-backward Wyoming, Utah and Idaho?

Colorado has gone into the marijuana business and it is impossible to understand that state’s slow, mumbly conversations.

Wyoming, Utah and Idaho have fallen off the edge of thelr flat earth, still trying to get their women under complete control.

Contact Bill Hall at wilberth@cableone.net or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501