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Editorial: Women run the show

After Tuesday’s election, these are the names of New Hampshire’s top political office holders: Maggie, Jeanne, Kelly, Annie and Carol.

Notice anything interesting?

New Hampshire has just elected an all-female congressional delegation and a female governor: U.S. Reps.-elect Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter will join U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte in Washington. At the State House, Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan will take charge in January.

Can you say first-in-the-nation?

What an inspiration to politically-minded young women across the state – and across the country!

The five women – four Democrats and a Republican – have been endorsed by voters not simply for their gender, of course. Last night’s winners ran good, smart campaigns that emphasized the issues that resonated most with voters – including issues of women’s health. Shaheen and Ayotte – not up for election this year – come from different parties with vastly different politics, but they share the voters’ respect for their hard work, their smarts and their civility.

Nonetheless, the idea that voters in New Hampshire have no trouble imagining a woman as governor, as a member of Congress, as a U.S. senator is a milestone to savor. Women have had the right to vote and participate in politics for nearly a century. But no woman had held the governor’s office in the state until 1996. The state didn’t send a woman to Washington until 2006.

What seems suddenly commonplace was rare until just recently.

Last weekend, a friend told her young daughter that two presidents would be in Concord on Sunday: Presidents Obama and Clinton. The girl thought about that for a moment and then replied, “I didn’t know that she had been president” – assuming that her mother was referring to Hillary.

She wasn’t, of course, but to a girl who won’t vote for a few more elections, the idea of a woman running the country seemed like just another piece of political trivia. Could such a delicious misunderstanding have happened at any other point in our nation’s history?

New Hampshire’s new leading women have tough jobs ahead of them. At the State House and at the Capitol, there are enormous challenges awaiting them. But for now, they can revel just a bit in the glass ceiling that they have collectively shattered.

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