WHEELING - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant asked female high school students at Rhododendron Girls State on Monday if they believe in something so strongly they would go without food to achieve it.
Tennant referred to the struggles and sacrifices of women seeking the right to vote as she spoke on the first day of Girls State, a gathering of about 400 young women throughout West Virginia chosen as leaders in their high schools.
Girls State is meeting this week on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University. The annual gathering seeks to educate young women about running for elected office and the workings of government and politics
Photo by Joselyn King
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, left, speaks with Briana Leathers of Brooke High School, Mollie McKinley of Bridgeport (W.Va.) High School and Brittany Strother of Lewis County High School before addressing the citizens of Girl State on Monday at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Tennant talked about people who took part in historic struggles to make the changes needed in their time. She pointed out they have protested and gone to prison to make a statement about their convictions, noting some have even been "strung up."
Tennant asked the girls to hold their arms above their heads in an awkward position - one similar to the way she said some women suffragists were tied up in prison for seeking the right to vote. She had them continue to hold their arms up as she spoke.
"Sure you want to be leaders now, but sometimes leaders have to endure terrible things," Tennant said. "Sometimes we just want to read about it in history books. Sometimes we don't want to make that sacrifice.
"It's personal embarrassment. It's questioning. It's losing friends. ... It's hard when you're trying to make history at the time," she said.
Earlier in the day, Girls State citizens attended classes on the workings of city government taught by Joelle Ennis of the Regional Economic Development Partnership; on county government taught by Ohio County Clerk of Courts Brenda Miller; and on state government taught by Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke.
Miller asked each of the girls planning to run for a Girls State office this week to stand up and introduce themselves. She also offered them some campaign advice.
"People want to know what your qualifications are," Miller said. "Don't tear down your opponent. Toot your own horn."
The females attending Girls State are incoming high school seniors. They can register to vote now if they turn 18 prior to the Nov. 6 presidential election.