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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage

How did this timeline get started?

The Timeline of Significant Women's Legislation in Minnesota is a joint project of the Office on the Economic Status of Women (OESW) and the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (LRL). Amy Brenengen of OESW and Robbie La Fleur of the LRL proposed the timeline idea to the Minnesota Historical Society and received a grant from the MHS to complete the timeline. The objective of the timeline is to have a visual display of the history of significant laws for women, passed by the Minnesota Legislature, since the advent of women's suffrage (Minnesota approved the suffrage amendment in 1919, but the 19th Amendment wasn't fully ratified until 1920).

Where did you find the information about these laws?

Our research staff had numerous sources of information: the Legislative Reference Library, the Revisor of Statutes database, files from the Office on the Economic Status of Women, Minnesota Laws, Minnesota Statutes, Minnesota Statutes Annotated, files at the Minnesota Historical Society and a variety of other published and online materials, both in book and online resource form.

Why not include more information about the federal women's rights movement? What about all the milestones achieved through the Minnesota courts?

The mission of our timeline was simple: to focus on the efforts of Minnesota legislators and the way that their work affected women in Minnesota over the years. This timeline tells the story of our public servants using the democratic process to implement change, sometimes in small ways and often in dramatic ways. Other areas of women's history have a different story to tell, all equally important. But this story is of state legislation, painstakingly crafted and debated. There is ample research on federal and legal landmarks for women, but we didn't have an easily accessible source of information about the significant state laws passed in Minnesota.

Why did you include some laws and not others on the timeline? How did you choose which ones to include?

Space and time limitations forced us to narrow down the total number of laws that we could present. Also, we wanted the timeline to be visually appealing and easily understandable -- something that any Minnesota citizen can enjoy and that wasn't overwhelming to absorb in a timeline format. Choosing which laws to include was a difficult process! We started with hundreds of potential laws, but felt strongly that there were some laws that deserved special merit for their significance. We knew that in order to keep the timeline readable and visually appealing, we would have to leave some important laws out, but we worked hard to include an interesting and balanced selection on the timeline. In selecting laws, we focused on these areas:

  • Showing what progress was made in each decade since 1920
  • Marking prominent milestones, or "firsts," but not necessarily including all the updates to each law
  • Focusing primarily on the economic progress of women, but also touching on other areas such as health, family and criminal issues.

Who worked on this project?

From the Office on the Economic Status of Women, the team included Amy Brenengen, Mary McGreevy and Jenny Schwope. From the Legislative Reference Library, the team included Robbie LaFleur, Elizabeth Lincoln and Mike Schatz. Also, we had a group of two dozen key people who were invited to review the timeline in its development. This group included women's advocates, current and former legislators, legislative staff and women's historians. They provided their feedback in both written and survey form, which was then integrated into the final product.

Read comments from team members.

Where can I make a comment about the timeline or suggest a change?

We'd love your comments! Contact the Legislative Reference Library.

The Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline is made possible in part by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.
MNHS Legacy Grant Receipient Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment