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Catherine Hanaway: The First Woman Elected House Speaker in Missouri (Part One)

Catherine Hanaway was the first woman elected House Speaker in Missouri...She assumed the post in January, 2003...Just five years after first getting elected to the House. KSMU's Missy Shelton sat down with Hanaway last week before the legislative session ended to talk about her legislative career.

I sat down with House Speaker Catherine Hanaway at a large, wooden conference table in her capitol office.

This is the same table where Hanaway met with the press for a weekly briefing during her tenure as House Speaker.

It was at this table over the last two years that Hanaway had responded to the criticism, questions and accusations that get tossed across party lines during legislative sessions.

I wanted to know about her experiences both public and private as the first female Speaker of the House.

Catherine Hanaway says she believes she's leaving a legacy of positive change.

She says she ushered in a change with a different party being in control.She's tried to shrink government but it's been difficult.

People have said to her that she's stirring things up and she says that's something she's done intentionally.

She says people have responded to her differently because she's a woman but she points out women have a different way of dealing with things.

She says it's not good or bad it's just been different.

There have been some differences in her approach.

She points out she's the first mother to serve as speaker.

That has driven her to work on changing the state's foster care system.

She hopes more women will be encouraged to run for public office.

She says more than having a woman in power, term limits have reduced the presence of a "good oldboys' network."

She says no one is entrenched in the legislature like they used to be.

She says that's a very positive thing.

The last two years have been hard because she misses her family.

She says the part no one sees is the phone call she makes to her home, trying to catch her five-year-old daughter before she goes to bed.

She says she's really wondering and praying if she's making the right choice.

She says a lot of prayer has gone into whether being at the capitol is the best use of her time given that she has two children.

But the rest of the year, she says she has a lot more flexibility than other mothers and she believes what she's doing will make the world better for her daughter.