Vote! For state's groundbreaking top women

Illinois Top 200 bicentennial celebration tries to determine top people, places, and things in state history

 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Ireland, lost her family in an outbreak of yellow fever in Memphis, Tenn., lost all her possessions in the Great Chicago Fire, and went on to be a renowned labor organizer with the United Mine Workers — not that we’re suggesting how to vote.

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Ireland, lost her family in an outbreak of yellow fever in Memphis, Tenn., lost all her possessions in the Great Chicago Fire, and went on to be a renowned labor organizer with the United Mine Workers — not that we’re suggesting how to vote.

By Ted Cox

Who was Illinois’s most groundbreaking woman?

Illinoisans are voting now in the 17th of 20 categories to establish an Illinois Top 200 of people, places, and things for the state’s bicentennial, to be formally celebrated Dec. 3 at the United Center in Chicago.

Nominees for groundbreaking Illinois women include first ladies Mary Todd Lincoln, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, activists “Mother” Jones, Jane Addams, and Lucy Eldine Gonzales Parsons, politicians Jane Byrne and Carol Moseley Braun, writers Ida B. Wells and Betty Friedan, and influential media figures Phyllis Schlafly and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

The campaign has been conducted by the Lincoln Presidential Library, the State Journal-Regster, and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, but it hasn’t always been promoted that well, resulting in some curious winners, such as REO Speedwagon being named the state’s top musicians over Miles Davis, an Alton native raised in East St. Louis, Chicago native Benny Goodman, and Decatur native Alison Krauss.

Voters online cast ballots for five figures, and the top 10 in each category make up the Illinois Top 200.

Thus far, winners in the first 16 categories have been:

  • Movie: “The Blues Brothers”

  • Business: Archer Daniels Midland

  • Invention: steel plow

  • Building: Wrigley Field

  • Historic site: Lincoln’s New Salem

  • Scenic spot: Elsah

  • Museum: Lincoln Presidential Museum

  • Book: “The Wizard of Oz”

  • Author: Ernest Hemingway

  • Heartbreaking moment: Lincoln’s assassination

  • Musicians: you know already and we won’t mention it again

  • Artist: Frank Lloyd Wright, followed by Lorado Taft and Louis Sullivan

  • Actor: Dick Van Dyke

  • Entertainer: Walt Disney, followed by comedians Bob Newhart, Jack Benny, and Richard Pyror

  • Scientist: Enrico Fermi

  • Athlete: Michael Jordan, followed by Dick Butkus and Walter Payton

So warm up for the November election by getting out there and voting for the state’s most groundbreaking women, until noon Oct. 12, to be followed by minority trailblazers, leaders, and greatest moments leading up to the bicentennial birthday bash Dec. 3.