How did Madeleine Kunin shape Vermont politics?
On January 10th, 1985, Madeleine Kunin made history in Vermont. She took an oath(an important promise) to become the first woman governor in the state. The governor is the head of the Vermont State government. They work closely with state lawmakers. From 1985 to 1991, Kunin was governor of Vermont. In the 1980s, many Vermont lawmakers were men. Women like Edna Beard and Consuelo Northrop Bailey worked in Vermont politics(how people living in a state or country make agreements about how to live together). But until Kunin, a woman had never been the state governor.
Kunin moved to the United States when she was 6 years old. Her family was from Switzerland. The Kunins had to move to escape persecution(oppression, especially because of race or religious beliefs). Their family was Jewish. During World War II, many Jewish people in Europe were killed. Kunin helped honor their memories through her work. Kunin was also the first Jewish governor of Vermont. Kunin later became the US Ambassador(an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its permanent representative in a foreign country) to Switzerland in 1996.
As governor, Kunin focused on education and the environment(relating to the natural world and the impact of human activity) in Vermont. She made sure all Vermont children went to kindergarten. In the 1980s many schools started at 1st grade. Kunin knew it was important to get Vermont students into schools earlier. Kindergarten helps students learn to work together. Kunin also worked with lawmakers to create Act(a law created by a government) 200. Vermont had other important environmental laws. Act 200 helped control how fast towns and cities in Vermont can grow. Vermont has a lot of important natural resources. Kunin wanted to protect the environment from people.
Madeleine Kunin also made sure that the state government hired more women. Many men had powerful jobs in the government in the 1980s. But Kunin knew that there were women able to do the same jobs. She made sure hiring was fair. As governor, Kunin hired several women to run state departments. Madeleine Kunin broke many barriers in Vermont politics. She made sure the state focused on education and the environment. Madeleine Kunin has retired from politics. There has not been another woman governor in Vermont. Today, Kunin still writes opinion articles for Vermont newspapers.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Madeleine Kunin was the first woman and first Jewish governor of Vermont. Being the first in something can be scary. Have you ever been the first to do something? If so, what?
Madeleine Kunin hired a lot of women to jobs in the Vermont state government. Why is it important that Kunin helped other women get jobs in the government?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
See the Digital Exhibit When Women Lead on Digital Vermont
Read more about Consuelo Northrop Bailey
Read more about Annette Chase Dimock
Listen to Madeleine Kunin speak about her experience running for office
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Madeleine Kunin." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 5, 2023. https://blog.vermonthistoryexplorer.org/madeleine-kunin