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Robbie LaFleur is the Director of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
My constant feeling during this project, and
especially at the end, was, “There’s
not enough time! There’s not enough detail!
This is barely a start!” We vastly underestimated
the amount of time needed for verification and
editing. Each of the interesting essays could
be a pages-long article. Each brief entry could
be an essay. We wanted to add photos and work
on the graphical appeal of the timeline and essays,
but in the end, the time needed for research
and verification won out. We felt that concentrating
on the content was most important.
Thanks are due to many people. Our team had
an abundance of talent, experience, and enthusiasm.
Mary McGreevy’s writing, research, and
organization skills were key to the project’s
success. She was our only paid outside consultant
and she used her time wisely. If we’d had
more money for the project, the content would
only have become richer.
Amy Brenengen’s experience with legislation
was deep and important, and the project was her
Elizabeth Lincoln is a consummate editor, and
the most skilled librarian-multitasker I've
We couldn't have done the project without
the constant good humor and the immense talent
of the Library’s programmer, Mike Schatz.
He creatively devised the underlying database
and template for presentation and patiently made
the million changes we suggested.
Jenny Schwope, an intern with the Office on
the Economic Status of Women, gave generously
o f her unpaid time. It was valuable to have
the viewpoint of a young woman on our team. The
other research team members remember passage
of many of the laws on the timeline due to their
experience – or, uhmm, age. Since we want
the timeline to appeal to citizens and students
and researchers of all ages, having Jenny on
the team was so positive.
We are also thankful to the outside reviewers
who responded thoughtfully to our appeals for
ideas and who helped narrow down our longer list
to the set we could manage within the scope of
this modest project.
Finally, we are thankful to receive Legacy grant
funds for this project.
The work of the legislature has had a serious
impact on the lives of women, and we wanted to
include interesting and important laws. We didn't
include some that were fascinating, ….
Peeping… But even though we had a serious
purpose in mind, we couldn’t resist adding
a link to a funny Daily Show segment
in the essay on the Shakopee Women’s Prison.
At the Legislative Reference Library we are
looking constantly for new ways to pull together
information about issues and legislators and
about how legislation is passed. In our never-ending
quest to create more access to legislative information,
this project was a great fit. I liked this project
both for bringing together an interesting set
of historical materials and to serve as a model
for future projects. So often legislative actions
are examined in a narrow time slice – what
happened in a particular year or session? It’s
less common to look at broad topics over time,
and to get an idea of how the actions of the
Legislature fit into a larger historical picture.
Amy Brenengen is the former Director of the Office on the Economic Status of Women.
At one point in the process of completing this
project, I wrote an email to our project manager,
Mary McGreevy, that said, "In the end, the
story of the timeline may indeed be the story
of what is not on the timeline."
Narrowing the topics on the timeline was not an easy task. From the moment we began work on this project, we had ideas of how we could expand it. We
regularly revisited the resources at hand and the project timeline we had established to ensure that we stayed within the plan we had laid out and the
resources available to use.
We had several guiding principles as we explored the legislation:
These guiding principles
helped us assemble our original list of approximately
180 laws. As a team, we narrowed that list
down to about 65 laws. We shared this longer
document with several key stakeholders to get
their feedback as we narrowed the list. This
group included present and past legislators,
historians, leaders in women's organizations
of now and then, legislative staff, and other
A most common response
from our key stakeholders was "why narrow? " This
lead us to designing a timeline that included
a larger number of entries, most of which
had short descriptions. From this list, we
chose 15 - 20
for longer treatment. In some cases these
were selected for their historical significance,
in some cases they were simply fascinating
and little known achievements that we wanted
to raise up.
We hope that if readers have
ideas for "what's
next" for the timeline that they share them
in the comments section. One of the most
promising aspects of coming to the end of
this project is realizing how much more can
be done. We hope the timeline is a beginning - a
nudge that encourages readers to learn more,
ask more questions, and ultimately to find
Mary McGreevy is a consultant who specializes in interviewing, researching and writing. She also likes to tell stories on film, which can be seen at www.sevenandsixtyproductions.com.
It was a privilege to work on the Timeline Project. I fall into that demographic pocket of women that feels connected to two eras: the 1970s,
when giant, hard-fought strides were made for women across the country, and today, when it seems like there are some areas when the men are
falling behind! I am a beneficiary of all the work that women's rights advocates have done over the years, and I'm grateful to have had the
chance to look deeper into their history of accomplishment and struggle. It's especially interesting to see this history unfold in the Minnesota
Legislature, since we tend to think of national women's rights issues when we remember milestones for women. Minnesota has a fascinating story when
it comes to the incremental but vital changes in legislation for women over the years.
Not being a native of Minnesota, I found it especially interesting to see what a leader Minnesota was and is on issues of women's rights. In almost every
area we studied for the timeline, Minnesota was in the vanguard of change for women (and correspondingly, there are some states that are almost always
bringing up the rear in terms of legislative changes for women). Each and every law we studied reflected serious debate and negotiation among interest
groups, even the laws that to a modern eye seem obviously necessary. Imagine the heated debate over allowing female jurors; in its day, it generated as
much "heat" as the modern debates over Title IX regulations and ice time for females!
Choosing which laws to write about was the greatest challenge of the project. If you're reading this timeline and wondering about all the laws that we
couldn't feature due to time and space considerations, your instincts are correct: there are many more interesting milestones in Minnesota's legislative
history. (And not a lot written about them, just in case you're looking for a PhD thesis topic....) We tried to be very thoughtful about which laws to
feature and study, and we valued the advice given to us by current and past leaders on women's issues in the state. I hope you've learned as much as I
did about women's legislative history in Minnesota. If you have comments about the project, I hope you'll find the Feedback feature on the website and
chime in with your two cents. Thank you!
Elizabeth Lincoln is the Deputy Director of the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
Jenny Schwope was an intern for the Office on the Economic Status of Women.
I believe that I have had the opportunity to experience and help release a special element of Minnesota's history that many people,
both young and old, would never have had the to opportunity explore. Having such a key role in this project has certainly opened my eyes
to the struggles and disparities that women in the state of Minnesota faced and even continue to face, but it came with both reassurance
and some shock that as women, our equity was not always ensured -- we were not perceived as equals, nor did we have access to many of the
opportunities that we are so fortunate to experience today.
I had the challenging assignment to sort through the publications produced by the Office on the Economic Status of Women (and in its previous names)
which helped me to see the progress and strides women have made over the last 90 years. Additionally, I set out to look into the historical past of
women's lives and the legislation that directly impacted them after suffrage and before the Office was established. It was amazing how incredibly
challenging it would be to uncover some of the most interesting pieces of legislation due to the lack of advocacy groups on behalf of women's rights
and the lack of technology which we are privileged to have today which tracks all of these happenings. As the lead on making the initial list of
legislation affecting Minnesota women, I tried to honor the experiences of a diverse population of women in Minnesota. While we could not include
every law that was ever passed, we do offer an extensive variety of legislation which demonstrates that women's issues do touch many different
entities that some may never think about.
Given my background in women's studies, I was not shocked by the timing of some of the bills that passed through the legislature and when they did.
However, I can note that I was proud of Minnesota for charging ahead of the federal legislation in some legislative areas, such as domestic violence,
and for taking the initiative in strengthening certain policies to make them more sound, such as parental leave.
It has been a true pleasure having the opportunity to share this sphere of information that may have gone overlooked in Minnesota's history.
Furthermore, we hope that this project continues to blossom for the future and have a lasting impact on generations to come.