Prof. Sheila Simon is interviewed by reporter Holly Kee about women running for public office

August 27, 2020 , Holly Kee | Harrisburg Register


SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- These days, she opts for the quiet life of a college professor who enjoys being home for dinner with her husband every night, but if you had to put a face on female political leaders in southern Illinois, Sheila Simon certainly fills the bill.

Today, as Illinois celebrates the centennial mark of women's suffrage, Simon continues encouraging young woman to step into the political arena.

It's not much of a stretch for the woman whose father was the estimable Paul Simon and whose mother, Jeanne Hurley Simon, was only the 17th woman to serve in the Illinois legislature.

When she first stepped into politic arena, Simon researched how many women had served in the state legislature prior to her mother's term, which was less than three decades after women gained the vote.

"She was the 17th woman to serve," she said. Today, nearly a third of Illinois' legislators are women.

Simon said that it's important for women to take part in politics and hold office.

"Every woman who's out there makes it a little bit easier for the next woman who comes along," she said. "We just make it more possible."

Simon said that she tells women, "Don't listen to that voice in your head asking 'Am I ready?' or 'Am I qualified?'."

She said women often second-guess their qualifications while men to jump in with ingrown self-assurance of their qualifications.

"I tell women to absolutely go for it," she said. "It's a great way to have an impact ... to move their communities, states and our country in a more positive direction."

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