First appearing in The Tempe Republic on March 25, 2011
Writer: Jay Mark

Today’s trivia quiz. How many women have served on the Tempe City Council since elections began in 1920? And for good measure, when was the glass ceiling broken?

You might be surprised by the answers. As of 2011, of the 87 individuals who have stepped up to serve as city council members, only 11 have been women. That’s less than 13%. And nearly half were elected since 2000.

Tempe has had its share of important women who have contributed to making this city what it is. People like Sallie Davis Hayden, wife of Charles Trumbull Hayden was an early activist for women’s suffrage in Arizona.

Nan Hayden, wife of Carl Hayden sewed Arizona’s first state flag. Guess Birchett, was the “Bird Lady of Tempe.” Irma Connolly, was the wife and contributing partner of Tempe Daily News publisher Frank Connolly.

Estelle Craig Hackett, was Tempe’s first telephone operator. And Judith Greenberg who rose through the ranks became Tempe’s first Public Works director.

Each was distinguished in her own right, but none ran for the City Council.

Of course, in its first four decades Tempe women did not have the right to vote. That changed in 1912 when Arizona, Kansas and Oregon each granted suffrage to women.

Nationally, the women’s right to vote would come eight years later in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment that after more than eight decades of struggle at long last granted women equality.

Although women had been voting in Tempe since Statehood, more than a half-century would elapse before a woman would be elected to the city council.

The honor goes to Dorothy Cooper (Nelson) who served two terms between 1966 and 1974.

Eleven women have served on the Tempe City Council between 2011 and 1920:
Dorothy Cooper Nelson (1966-1974)
Beverly Hermon (1974-1980)
Patricia Hatton (1976-1990)
Carol Estes Smith (1986-1994)
Barbara Sherman (1988-1992)
Linda Spears (1994-1998)
Barb Carter (2000-2008)
Pam Goronkin (2002-2006)
Onnie Shekerjian (2006 – present)
Shana Ellis (2006 – present)
Robin Arredondo-Savage (2010 – present)