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Woman to Women: A brief history of women in Congress

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013




How do American voters feel about women running for office? In the Ladies Home Journal in October, it was asked, “Do you believe men or women make better political leaders?” Twenty percent answered men, 27 percent said women and 53 percent said gender doesn’t make a difference.

If there was actually a war on women during the 2012 election, it’s safe to say that women clearly won. A record number of women will now serve in the U.S. Congress. Twenty women will now serve in the 100-member Senate and at least 81 of the 435 seats in the House will be represented by women.

A woman was first elected to Congress in 1916, four years before women won the right to vote. Jeannette Rankin became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1960, the feminist movement brought in a new wave of congresswomen.

A feminist advocates that social, political, and all other rights of women should equal those of men or another way of saying it would be everyone should have the same social, political and other rights.

Two women elected in 1960 were Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress, and Bella Abzug, one of the first to advocate for gay rights.

Still women never accounted for more than 2 or 3 percent of members until the watershed election of 1992, The Year of Women, when 39 women ran for open seats and 22 won. This year, 26 women ran in open seat elections, and 14 won.

For various policy and sociological reasons, women are more active in the Democratic Party: 190 female Democrats ran for the House this year, compared with 109 Republicans. Republicans have fewer programs to groom female candidates. Still women competed in less than one-third of congressional races.

It is interesting that regardless of party affiliation, female legislators are more likely than men to cite the needs of the poor, the sick, the elderly and children as priorities.

Why don’t more women run? Political jobs are all-consuming and leave little time for family. Many women run for office after they have raised their children. Nancy Pelosi raised five children before she ran for office. Also, studies show that women with the same qualifications as men rate themselves as unqualified for office. Women have to work harder in the classroom, in politics and the boardroom.

Lee Perkins moved to Atascadero with her family in 1986 and is now retired. She has worked as a secretary, office administrator/public relations, and school counselor K-12.

For the complete article see the 01-04-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-04-2013 paper.











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