Women of the House: Betty Sutton and Emilia Sykes
In honor of Women’s History Month, Kent State Today will be looking at the accomplishments of Kent State women who have advanced the cause of women, broken glass ceilings and left a lasting impact on women’s history.
In 2006, Betty Sutton became the first Kent State alumna to serve in the U.S. Congress, when she was elected to represent Ohio’s 13th District in the House of Representatives.
Sutton, a native of Barberton, Ohio, graduated from Kent State in 1985, and later graduated from law school at the University of Akron. Active as an attorney for more than 30 years, Sutton has a long history of public service.
While still in law school, she was elected to serve as an at-large councilwoman for Barberton. Then she served two years on Summit County Council, before being elected, in 1992, to the Ohio House of Representatives.
At the time of her election, Sutton was the youngest woman ever elected to serve in the Ohio House. She served in the Ohio House for eight years, leaving in 2000.
She ran successfully for Congress in 2006, serving from 2007 through 2012.
Sutton’s election to Congress at the time made her the only Ohioan to ever serve as a legislator at the city, county, state and federal levels of government.
In 2020, Sutton was elected a judge on Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals, where she currently serves, and she has sat as a visiting judge on the Ohio Supreme Court.
In 2022, Kent State alumna Emilia Sykes, a native of Akron, Ohio, also was elected to represent Ohio’s 13th House District in Congress, making her the first Black Kent State alum to serve in the House of Representatives.
Sykes graduated with high honors from Kent State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2007.
Sykes earned a Juris Doctor with a certificate in family law and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Florida.
She served for eight years in the Ohio House of Representatives, including four years in Democratic leadership with three years as House Minority Leader.
With her election to Congress in 2022, Sykes became the first Black person ever to represent the 13th Congressional District.