A record number of women winning public offices was the big story of the 2018 Midterm election. Daisy Elliott, State of Michigan legislator and Michigan Constitutional Convention delegate, is the foremother of that movement. Leaving a successful career as a realtor at 42 years old, Elliott ran to be a delegate to the 1961-1962 Constitutional Convention (or Con Con, for short).
Voters “say yes” to Con Con
In 1960, Michigan voters approved Con Con and districts across Michigan held elections to choose delegates to represent them. Con Con was serious business. These delegates would rewrite Michigan’s Constitution, something that had not been done since 1908. Elliott wanted the opportunity improve the lives of Michigan’s African Americans and women and bring their interests to Lansing.
The 1961-1962 Con Con was the first in Michigan’s history to have delegates who were not white men. Nine white women, three African American women and eleven African American men were elected across the state.
Delegates get to work & civil rights is on Elliott’s agenda
Each Con Con delegate joined different committees that focused on writing specific amendments to the new constitution. Each committee met with community leaders, constitutional scholars and every day people about what they thought the constitution should include. Delegates could also send proposals to any committee.
The Committee on the Declaration of Rights, Suffrage and Elections wrote amendments about the civil rights of Michigan residents. Daisy Elliott submitted a number of proposals to this committee that protected a citizen’s civil rights, calling for equal protection in the law for Michiganians based on race, creed, national origin or religion.
Elliott also lobbied for the creation of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to investigate discrimination and civil rights violations. The commission also grants judgments for victims of discrimination. Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that has a civil rights commission protected in their constitution. We still use the 1963 Constitution today.
Daisy Elliott’s civil rights legacy
After Con Con ended, Daisy Elliott served in the Michigan House of Representatives for Detroit from 1962-1982. Elliott continued to support laws that strengthened civil rights protections for Michigan residents. She oversaw the opening of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and wrote the laws that authorized its work.
Elliott’s greatest contribution to Michigan is the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976. The Elliott-Larsen Act broadened the application of civil rights protections in the 1963 Constitution to include age, sex, marital status, physical appearance, family status, pregnancy or disability.