TOPEKA, Kan. — A female state senator says she views women’s suffrage as a sign that American society doesn’t value the family enough but she wouldn’t deprive women of the vote.
Sen. Kay O’Connor on Friday confirmed reports that she told leaders of the Johnson County League of Women Voters she does not celebrate the enactment of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.
“We have a society that does tear families apart,” said O’Connor. “I think the 19th Amendment, while it’s not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don’t approve of.”
O’Connor, 59, who describes herself as an “old-fashioned conservative lady,” serves as vice chairwoman of the Senate Elections and Local Government Committee.
She says she believes women should have the right to cast their ballot but if men were doing their job of taking care of women and children, then women wouldn’t be required to vote.
“The 19th Amendment is around because men weren’t doing their jobs, and I think that’s sad,” she said. “I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family.”
O’Connor, one of the Legislature’s most conservative members on social issues, has said she was forced into the workplace because of her ailing daughter’s medical bills.
She is serving her first year in the Senate after having served eight years in the House.
Delores Furtado, co-president of the Johnson County League of Women Voters, told The Kansas City Star she asked the 59-year-old Republican to the league’s “Celebrate the Right to Vote” luncheon, and O’Connor responded: “You probably wouldn’t want me there because of what I would have to say.”
Furtado said she was shocked because as a state senator “she is the beneficiary of a system she doesn’t support.”
Thirteen of the Kansas Senate’s 40 members are women, and 10 are Republicans. In the House, women hold 40 of 125 seats, and they include 23 Republicans.
“It takes both genders to cover the wide variety of issues in state government,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Lana Oleen. “Kansans didn’t start out as homemakers. They started out as pioneer women.”
O’Connor said she did not fear any reprisals for making her views known.
“If I don’t get re-elected, my only punishment is to go home to my husband and my roses and my children and my grandchildren,” she said. “And if the trips to Topeka get to be too much and my husband asks me to quit I would.”
Still, two statewide officeholders said she should resign and the chairman of the state GOP repudiated her remarks, while saying that the party doesn’t intend to censure her because she’s entitled to her opinion.
“She should resign, so she can give her seat to someone who believes in the right of everyone to vote,” said Attorney General Carla Stovall, a Republican.
Legislative leaders say they weren’t planning any action against O’Connor.
“I admire her for the courage of her convictions; I just can’t imagine anyone in 2001 having those convictions,” said state Rep. Bill Reardon, a Democrat.