Women in the District have made great strides in recent years winning political offices at each level of government and they have political activists like Anita Shelton, the president of DC Women in Politics, to thank.
“Women bring a special quality to politics that I think benefits everyone,” Shelton said. “Women politicians tend to work well with others, even those whom they disagree with and women tend to understand the plight and needs of those who are underprivileged and disadvantaged.”
Shelton has worked for many years publicly but often behind the scenes to help females win elected office primarily through DCWIP. The organization played a pivotal role in elected Christina Henderson to the D.C. Council at-large seat in 2020 as an independent, despite the support pro-business candidate Vincent Orange and progressive hopeful Ed Lazere had throughout the city.
“We advised Christina to stay out of the spat between Orange and Lazere and we told her to go out and talk to the people,” Shelton said. “She listened to us and that’s why she won.”
Shelton holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s in social work from Howard University. She said as a social worker, she developed an understanding that reforms needed to aid indigent District residents could come from women politicians rather than men.
“When I started getting active in politics years ago, there were not enough women in the higher offices in the city,” she said. “That’s why I went to work to change that. It has been my experience that women in office want to help people more.”
Shelton made it clear DCWIP promotes the candidacies of women of all races.
“We are stronger if we work together,” she said. “Too often in this city, Blacks and whites are on two different streets but they are working on the same cause. I have noticed over the years that Black women are leaders in their community, like in their households, while white women may not be and are learning how to do that.”
Shelton expressed pride in women holding leading District elective3 positions such as the delegate to the U.S. Congress, mayor and being in the majority on the D.C. Council.
“I am very proud to see these women serving in these roles,” she said. “They are role models for younger women.”
However, she worries that some females in these positions may not necessarily be working in the best interest of women.
“I don’t see some working hard enough to end discrimination against women,” Shelton said. “They don’t seem to be aggressive enough in doing that. You can have a woman in place to change things but I don’t see them making change.”