East Tennessee women make strides, break barriers

Womens History

While suffragettes paved the way, there’s still progress to be made. Modern women from East Tennessee are making big strides and breaking barriers.

Mayor Madeline Rogero

“I think each of us, whether it’s a woman in business or education or whatever the field, when you’re the first, it always encourages others,” said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Knoxville welcomed its first female mayor eight years ago. Rogero has been breaking barriers not only in Knoxville, but by serving as the first woman to hold the top job in any of the four big cities in Tennessee.

“So I think our job is to blaze a new trail and to not just blaze a trail, but to try and pull others behind with us,” she said.

Police Chief Eve Thomas

After the departure of Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch, Mayor Rogero appointed Knoxville’s first female chief of police.

“Wow, chief of police, I can still barely believe it,” she said.

A graduate of the FBI National Academy, Thomas led the criminal investigation division for KPD before her promotion.

Justice Sharon Lee

Another first was picked up by an East Tennessee judge. Sharon Lee was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2008, the first woman to serve on the eastern section of the court in its 79-year history.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn

Marsha Blackburn, the state’s first female senator, was sworn in as part of the 116th Congress, the most diverse makeup of legislators our country has ever seen.

“It’s another barrier that will be broken for women, to have a woman win a statewide race, to have a woman elected to the Senate, which our state has never had,” she said.

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