America just passed a little milestone on the long journey toward equality.
For the first time in the 207-year history of Congress, one state is represented by an equal number of women and men.
And that state is - surprise - Kansas.
Since Sen. Sheila Frahm succeeded Bob Dole in the Senate last week, the Kansas delegation in Washington numbers three women and three men. As far as historians of Congress can tell, that sort of gender balance has never happened in Congress, from any state.
“You would think California would be the first,” said William Schneider, a commentator on CNN. “Kansas is not normally regarded as, shall we say, trendy.”
If Kansans aren’t making a big deal about this - and they’re not - analysts still find it interesting. First, because of the larger social movement it reflects. And second, because it happened in a conservative state like Kansas, while more liberal states like Massachusetts and Minnesota have no women members of Congress at all.
For the rest of the nation, things are a bit different. With Frahm and Kansas’ other U.S. senator, Nancy Kassebaum, there are now nine women in the Senate, along with 91 men. The House percentages are similar.
For what it’s worth, Kansas women play down any great meaning to the moment.
“It says we have the best people representing Kansas,” said Frahm. “Gender is of little significance.”