Betty G. Scholarship

The Betty Gissendanner Memorial Scholarship

The Betty Gissendanner Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Charlotte County young women who are graduating from high school and are registered or pre-registered as Democrats. They are chosen on the characteristics that illustrate the values that were so important to Betty as a Charlotte County Democrat:  Civic Engagement, Equal Opportunity, Women’s Rights and Scholarship.  In addition to the standard transcript and letters of recommendation that go with the application, the applicants must also submit an essay on a political topic chosen by the Scholarship Committee.

Betty Gissendanner grew up in very Jim Crow Alabama. Betty was one of 22 black students that integrated her high school.  She was the first member of her family to attend college.  She became a nurse and received a Master’s Degree in nursing.  When she moved to Charlotte County, she ran a very successful small business, served as an Officer with the DWC and the DEC.  She ran for State Rep (unsucessfully) and was constantly encouraging others the run for office, offering advice and financial support.  She was an active member of Ruth’s List, the Florida branch of Emily’s List. She serves as an inspiration to all young women.

To Donate to the Scholarship Fund make checks payable to DWC Scholarship Fund and deliver or mail to:  DWC Treasurer, DWC of Charlotte County, 3596 Tamiami Trail, Suite 202, Port Charlotte, FL  33952.

Betty Gissendanner with Omevhy Rivera-Martinez, a student she mentored in the Take Stock in Children Program. Omevhy received one of the first scholarships given in Betty’s name in 2019.
salowitz twins
Betty with Sabrina (r) and Shannon (l) Salovitz. Sabrina is a 2019 scholarship recipient.

Jane Merriam, Andrew Gillum and Melissa Leon Pons at Leadership Blue 2019.

scholarship winners 2018
The DWC Scholarship Committee with previous winners: (Front Row l-r) Kelly Shearin, Tien Thuy Le, and Taylor Torres.
(l-r) DWC President Kay Blue with scholarship recipients Maya Zwack and Sabrina Salovitz, and Young Dems member Melissa Leon Pons.

Here is a link to a more complete story about the 2019 Awards

As part of the application process, students submit essays on the topic Why Women in Politics Matter.  The 2019 essays follow:

Omehvy Rivera-Martinez

Why Women in Politics Matters

“Well behaved women seldom make history” – Laurel Thatcher.

Susan B Anthony knew this when she fought for women’s rights to vote. Esraa Abdel Fattah knew this when she was a leader of a revolutionary group in Egypt during the Arab Spring under the threat of an oppressive president; Samantha Powers, former U.S. Ambassador for the UN Council, lived by this when she created her own campaign, “FreeThe20”, to release female political prisoners around the world. Women like this are the perfect representation of why women in politics matter. Women, often sidelined, have often been some of the first to witness or experience oppression. A 2010 research paper by Craig Volden, Alan E. Wiseman, an Dana E. Wittmer titled “The Legislative Effectiveness of Women in Congress” showed that the priority of legislation divided by gender is often different. Women often focus their policies around the idea of a better quality of life. Especially for any minority group who’s daily lives are affected by social structure and policies against them, it makes sense that these would be the policies that are a priority for women throughout the whole spectrum of politics. U.S. citizens can look at the current politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for proof. She is running on a campaign fighting for the improved quality of life for residentsori in Flint, Michigan, fighting for the children in the Bronx, and the daily lives affected by extreme climate change.

Females make up 50% of America’s population and the world. With regressive regimes that priorities the birth of males, women around the world are fighting just to survive, just so they may one day have the chance to live their lives. There is alway undiscovered talent in female minority groups whose flames are too often snuffed out by the subconscious stereotypes of women. A democracy is not effective if half of its population does not have a representative. When there is nothing to lose and so much to gain, women are risking it all to reform society and fight stigma back with such fearlessness just to have our voice heard. The world cannot evolve without women in it to help facilitate equal change. For centuries women have had to scream to have their voice heard. They’ve screamed because they were the voice for those who were too afraid. Policies about female contraceptives and healthcare are spearheaded by men who have no first hand life experience on the issues that affect women directly. When there is no one left to speak for half the world, half the world is forced to live in silence. That is why the women who have had to struggle to be recognized have the experience and humbleness to make the greatest change in the world.


Sabrina Salovitz

Why Women in Politics Matter

Simply put, women in politics matter because representation matters. It is an unvarnished truth that men cannot speak to the struggles of women as well as women themselves, and history has proven that men in power are rarely staunch advocates for women’s issues. They lack the perspective and the experience, and they have allowed women’s issues to go unaddressed for decades. Women have historically been denied a voice in politics; an ostracism that is no accident; in fact, the American political structure has been exclusionary to women since its inception for one obvious reason: when women do not have a seat at the table, the issues that matter to them the most can be systematically ignored, mishandled, and misrepresented.

Issues that affect girls and women the most acutely have remained untouched by male politicians; for example, in a majority of states there is a sales tax on pads and tampons, goods that are regarded as luxury items, unlike the untaxed necessities: Viagra, Rogaine and condoms. This disparity exists because feminine hygiene products are not a daily concern of men, so even though it should not take a woman to know that there is nothing “luxurious” about choosing to wear pads and tampons, male politicians ignore this blatant inequality.

The other flaw in the way that male politicians address women’s issues is in how they address them, not in a manner which is best for the girls and women themselves but through heavy reference to religious dogma. Women’s rights are to this day held back by the precepts of a 2,000- year-old religion, which views women as being responsible for all sin and suffering, and considers every aspect of their existence, but most especially their sexuality, to be dangerous and thus something to be controlled and repressed. The impact of these attitudes can be found in the prevalence of abstinence sex education, which teaches young people less about biology and more about morality; as well as the widespread acceptance of child marriage, which remains because of the popular notion that the only thing worse than a teen mom is an unmarried teen mom; and the current war on abortion, a medical procedure which women can be denied of at every stage, from the doctor’s office, to the pharmacy. The only way we can start to bring more reality and less ideology into the way we address women’s issues is by having women represent themselves.

Old-fashioned traditions and misconceptions have kept women out of the political arena, and maintained an almost uninterrupted flow of men in and out of office, not because each and every one of them was the most qualified, or because they were the most intelligent, honest, or forward thinking, but because they fit the mold of an American politician. Today, things are changing; the mold is changing, allowing for a more diverse political landscape than this nation has ever seen.

Maya Zwack

Why Women in Politics Matter

Women compose half of the globe’s population, yet are highly underrepresented when it comes to government’ and politics. Women’s participation and acceptance into governmental leadership positions has grown and of course, historically, women faced greater oppression, not only from their legal restrictions from obtaining positions of power, but were even denied the fundamental democratic right to vote. However, despite the vital progress that has been made, the proportion of men und women in politics is far from equal, posing a risk to democracy in the United States and worldwide.

Women arc often discouraged from running for office due to social expectations and stereotypical discrimination from the public. Women face greater criticism and doubt when it comes to their suitability and qualifications to run for office and to potentially obtain a leadership position as compared to men; this is directly related to the fact that voters and candidates are accustomed to and comfortable with seeing a majority of men in government while women with equal positions are few and far between. As a result, potential candidates and voters are hesitant and wary to run for office and to vote for female candidates. The solution to put an end to this cycle is to elect more women and close the gap in numbers between men and women in politics so that future candidates and voters trust in their ability to lead and trust their elected officials lo represent them justly and with compassion. When equal representation is the norm, women will have the chance to pass crucial legislation and have an influence on the laws that are passed, many of which directly affect women in the United Slates. Women in politics set a standard for young women interested in leading and protecting their country; therefore, it is vital for there to be women to be this inspiration and example. Without women having a direct impact on legislation, half of the population is not protected and accurately represented.

The hope for the future is that the fundamental disparity in the hardship in getting elected between men and women will be eliminated; however, currently, this is not the case. When women are in office they have the chance to pass meaningful legislation not only to serve and protect the people, but also to set the standard that women are equally qualified, capable, and effective in doing so. It is common sense that women deserve a say in the laws that govern them, especially when it comes to laws that dictate what rights they have concerning their bodies, families, and workplaces. Women are equally affected by the choices of the government and should therefore have an equal say in these making choices. This is why women in politics matter.