Harriet’s List, a new Political Action Committee geared toward supporting progressive women candidates in Missouri, was launched yesterday at a press conference in University City, Missouri. The PAC is named in honor of Harriett Woods, who was the first woman to hold statewide office in Missouri. According to Harriet’s List, the organization will be modeled after EMILY’s List.
Currently, progressive women hold only 21 of 197 Missouri legislative seats and 2 of 6 statewide offices. Current US Senator Claire McCaskill is the first woman elected to the Senate from Missouri. Former Senator Jean Carnahan was appointed to the US Senate after her husband, former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash.
Woods, who died of leukemia in 2007, was a trailblazer for women in politics. As a state senator in Missouri, Woods was a leader in the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. She ran a vigorous campaign in 1982 for US Senate. Although a veteran politician and public elected official, the Democrats chose to endorse a man who had no elected and limited party experience. With the help of the National Organization for Women (NOW) — her campaign manager was the Missouri NOW State President — and other women’s organizations, she beat the anointed Democrat and came close to defeating the incumbent Republican (Senator John Danforth) in a near upset. Two years later, she won her race for the office of Lieutenant Governor, the highest statewide position ever held by a woman in Missouri.