As COVID-19 sent the world indoors, Ann Bedsole found herself in a position like the rest of us — holed up inside with no idea how long she would be there. Not one for inactivity (or squandered time), she decided to use the opportunity to write her life story.
Bedsole had plenty of material to work with. Born in Selma in 1930 and raised in Jackson, she eventually moved to Mobile, where she became the first Republican woman elected to the Alabama House of Representatives and the first woman elected to the state Senate. Oh, and she was also a founder of the Alabama School of Math and Science, a founder of Mobile Historic Homes Tours and chairman of the Mobile Tricentennial Committee. The list goes on.
Thankfully, her book doesn’t read like a resume. Bedsole writes casually, as if she’s dishing secrets to a relative on an Oakleigh front porch. (In fact, the project began as a keepsake for her children and grandchildren.)
She recounts childhood memories in Jackson, where pine straw sat thick enough to carry a sled: “No Yankee child ever had more fun playing in the snow than we South Alabama redneck kids had on that pine-straw-covered hill,” she writes.
She describes her playmates and the influence they would have on her life: “So, I grew up playing with the boys. Years later, when I was in the state Senate, I always thought about that. ‘Good God,’ I’d think, ‘these esteemed state senators are no different than the boys I played with in Jackson.’”
She details her path to politics and the hard lessons learned in Montgomery. Written and organized under the guidance of longtime Mobile Press-Register reporter Eddie Curran, the book also features two sections of character profiles, including Bedsole’s take on the Bushes and the Doles, as well as some personalities closer to home.
“I grew up playing with boys. Years later, when I was in the state Senate, I always thought about that. ‘Good God,’ I’d think, ‘these esteemed state senators are no different from the boys I played with in Jackson.’”
The result is an insightful look at local and state politics, a woman’s experience at a time of terrific change in the state capitol — and yet another feather in the cap for Ann Bedsole.
(Scroll down for an excerpt from “Leave Your Footprint”)
Excerpt from “Leave Your Footprint”
In mid-January, 1979, I rode up with Mary Zoghby to start our new lives as members of the Alabama House of Representatives. When we arrived, Mary proudly pulled into the lot marked, “Legislators Only.” We stepped out with our brand-new briefcases and started up the hill, ready to take on the world. Our quiet reverie was quickly broken when we saw a man running toward us and yelling, “You ladies gotta move that car! This is just for the Legislature!”
Mary, who is as all who know her cool under pressure, feisty, and sharp-witted, looked back and snapped, “We know!”
We kept walking.
We women were all serious, all business and scared to death. The men seemed so full of good cheer, happy to be together again, sure of themselves and very much at home. The club was starting back and they were charter members…
In the beginning, we were curiosities. Women aren’t noticed as a separate species in ordinary circumstances, but when only four women are seated in a room with 101 men, it is a bit unusual. Of course, we were not the first. There had been women before, just not very many. A total of four prior to 1970 and a small handful since then.
After I won, there were stories about me being the first Republican woman elected to the Legislature, the first woman this, the first woman that, and so on. I was strongly for women’s rights, which were the same as my rights. But I was no radical feminist. I didn’t walk into the Legislature asking for special treatment or seeking to turn little slights into major feminist dustups. But there were some stories I’ll never forget. One involved a big old country boy state trooper.
In 1980, the House was in recess, so rather than drive back to Mobile, I headed to Fort Walton, to see my mother. I got a late start and was speeding when I saw blue lights flashing. I pulled over and waited.
The trooper’s swagger as he came up behind me was exaggerated by his big belly. He was right out of central casting. He looked at my license and asked, “Whose car is this, Miz Bedsole?” There was a legislative tag on my rear bumper, which he’d seen. I told him it was my car and explained about my meeting and anxiousness to get to Fort Walton. He again asked me whose car it was I was driving. I once again told him that the car was mine. Then he snarled, “Ain’t this yore husband’s car, Miz Bedsole?”
I became firm. “No, it is my car.”
That made him mad and he seemed to threaten me. “Ain’t it yore husband in the Alabama Legislature?”
Now, I was in command. I didn’t even give him my legislative ID. I said, slowly, “No, I am.”
I lived all year on the pleasure I got out of his expression and then his apology. My, I loved being in the Legislature!
Another one involved the telephone system in the Legislature, which was something out of the 1930s. We were given cards with our names and identifying numbers. We would ring the operator, give the number we needed to call, then tell the operator the name and number on our card. On one of the first calls I made, I followed the procedure, then the operator asked, “Name, please?”
I repeated my name. Again, she said, “Name, please.” I repeated my name again. We played this again and she got huffy. “Look honey, would you just give me the man’s name!” I didn’t know what to say. So, stupidly, I said, “I’m the man.”
“Oh my God, you’re one of them,” she said. She was horrified, apologized profusely and put me through.
“Oh, you’re one of them.” People were always saying that, like they were shocked and we were some kind of invaders. Visitors to the House, such as for meetings, even members of the public, would look at us and say, “Honey, can you get me a pad and a pencil?” Or, “Hey, you, bring me some coffee.”
Perfect strangers, bossing duly elected House members around because they were men and we were just women!