Posted: April 2, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There would not seem to be much in the way of "firsts" left for women in Delaware politics.

First woman elected to the legislature? Check. She was Florence Hanby, a Republican state representative who went to Dover in 1924, four years after women got the vote. First woman elected statewide? Check, Vera Davis as the Republican state treasurer in 1956.

First woman as governor? Check, She-who-must-not-be-named.

Still, the state has not yet seen the last of the firsts -- not as long as it shares the dubious distinction as one of the four states never to send a woman to the Congress -- but there is also another first to come, one that people probably would never guess.

Melanie George Smith, a Democratic state representative from Bear, is pregnant, and nobody can remember another legislator giving birth as a member of the General Assembly.

"I don't think it's ever happened," said Roger Martin, a former Democratic state senator himself who is the unofficial historian of Legislative Hall.

"In my memory I go back to 1959, so I think it's pretty safe to say. It's exciting," said Nancy Cook, who was a legislative aide before she was a Democratic state senator from 1974 until 2010.

Plenty of legislators have had babies while in office, of course, but they were men, and like the fabled hen discussing breakfast with the pig, the men were committed but not involved. Lincoln Willis, a Republican state representative from Clayton, became a father about three months ago.

Plenty of women in the legislature have had babies, too, but customarily motherhood comes before the election. Cook herself is an example. She gave birth to a Cabinet officer. Tom Cook is the finance secretary for Jack Markell, the Democratic governor.

George Smith, a lawyer who has spent 10 years in the House of Representatives, gets how special this is. "So many men in the legislature have. The difference is, they have wives," she quipped.

George Smith comes from a family in which politics is a birthright and its birthright is politics.

She was born in 1972 on the Election Day that put her father on the Wilmington City Council. Lonnie George, now the president of Delaware Tech, then went on to be a Democratic state representative himself for more than 20 years, including a term as speaker, and he and his wife Linda had three more daughters while he was in the House.

George Smith and her husband Frank are expecting on Sept. 2. The timing is barely better than her own arrival as a baby. Primary Day 2012 is Sept. 11.

"That was the first thing that went through my mind," George Smith said.

Not that George Smith should have much to worry about. In her five prior campaigns in an exceedingly Democratic district, she never had a Republican run against her and only one Democrat in a primary. It was her first race, and she smoked him with 92 percent of the vote.

She should only deliver a baby the way she delivers an election.

# # #

For the record, here is a chart of the women who were -- or are -- legislators, all of whom except for George Smith did not have babies while there.




Marion P. Anderson D House 1976-1986
Myrna L. Bair R Senate 1980-2000
Margo Ewing Bane R Senate 1986-1990
Patricia M. Blevins D Senate 1990-present
Stephanie T. Bolden D House 2010-present
Marybeth T. Boykin R House 1982-1992
Peggy G. Bradley D House 1992-1994
Ruth Briggs King R House 2009-present
Catherine A. Cloutier R

House 1998-2000

Senate 2000-present

Louise T. Connor R Senate 1964-1972
Dorinda A. Connor R Senate 1997-present
Nancy W. Cook D Senate 1974-2010
Vera G. Davis R

Senate 1946-1950

House 1952-1954

State treasurer

Tina K. Fallon R House 1978-2006
Melanie George Smith D House 2002-present
Mary Etta Gooding D House 1964-1968
Bethany A. Hall-Long D

House 2002-2008

Senate 2008-present

Florence M. Hanby R House 1924-1926
Clarice U. Heckert R House 1964-1974
Debra J. Heffernan D House 2010-present
Margaret Rose Henry R, D Senate 1994-present
Deborah D. Hudson R House 1994-present
Katharine M. Jester D House 1980-1990
Henrietta Johnson D House 1970-1978
Helene M. Keeley D House 1996-present
Lois M. Lesher R House 1972-1976
Valerie J. Longhurst D House 2004-present
Evelyn M. Lord R Senate 1962-1964
Wilfreda J. Lytle R House 1946-1948
Pamela S. Maier R House 1994-2008
Margaret R. Manning R

House 1956-1960

Senate 1960-1976

Jane P. Maroney R House 1978-1998
Diana M. McWilliams D House 2004-2008
Karen Jennings Miller D House 1974-1978
Ruth Ann Minner D

House 1974-1982

Senate 1982-1992

Lieutenant governor


Karen E. Peterson D Senate 2002-present
Hazel D. Plant D House 2001-2010
Shirley A. Price D House 1996-2002
Donna Reed R Senate 1994-1998
Teresa L. Schooley D House 2004-present
Marion I. Seibel R House 1968-1976
Gwynne P. Smith R House 1974-1990
Ada Leigh Soles D House 1980-1992
Liane M. Sorenson R

House 1992-1994

Senate 1994-present

Winifred M. Spence R

House 1972-1976

Senate 1976-1980

Donna D. Stone R House 1994-2008
Pamela J. Thornburg R House 2000-2010
Estelle W. Tschudy R House 1930-1932
Mildred S. Tunnell D House 1954-1956
Stephanie A. Ulbrich R House 1994-2008
Nancy H. Wagner R House 1992-2008
Rebecca Walker D House 2010-present
Catherine W. Wojewodski D House 1992-1994
Sandra L. Worthen D House 1972-1978
Joan C. Wright D House 1969-1972

Source: Secretary of State's Office; 146th General Assembly