Pennsylvania Center For Women in Politics

For most of the history of Pittsburgh, elected officials have been white men. But in 1956, then-Mayor David L. Lawrence did something unheard of: he appointed a woman to City Council.

That woman was Irma D’Ascenzo, an Italian-American Hazelwood resident who was working as secretary and chief examiner for the city's Civil Service Commission. Throughout World War II, and in the years following, she’d been volunteering and was active in her community.

D’Ascenzo’s great-granddaughter, Jeanne Persuit, said Lawrence recognized that rising to council was a natural step for her.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

One day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, women, men and children marched in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh.

Women were encouraged to run for office at all levels: federal, state and local. But was that call to action taken to heart and was it reflected in the recently held Pennsylvania Primary?  

Emily Cohen / NewsWorks

At 5:30 in the morning of November 9, 2016, Natasha Taylor-Smith crept into her 13-year-old daughter's bedroom. 

She picked up her daughter's smartphone, typed "CNN.com" into the browser and saw a large picture of now-President Donald Trump.

Taylor-Smith put down the phone and woke her daughter up.

"As soon as she opened her eyes, she says, 'Did Hillary win?' and I said, 'No,'" Taylor-Smith recalled. 

Her daughter gave her a confused look. 

"'Donald Trump's going to be our president?" she asked.

"Yes," Taylor-Smith replied.

KEITH SRAKOCIC / AP

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin behind the headlines for an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

No women represent Allegheny County in the Pennsylvania state legislature, and only 18 percent of the state seats are filled by women at all. The situation is more than a diversity problem, argued Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner. She called it a crisis. As a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she’s advocating for more women to run for office, to improve the political process and better reflect the actual demographics of the Commonwealth.

Frankie Leon / flickr

In the 95 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, women have not only earned the right to vote, but have been consistently outvoting men in elections. While the trend is significant, no woman has held the nation's top office and only 19% of the Pennsylvania legislature are women.  Dana Brown is the Executive Director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics. She’s helping to organize Chatham’s celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26th and provides a history of women’s suffrage in the United States.