Friday, January 2, 2009

Women in Politics

Okay, here we are again -- how many woman are in Congress? How many women have been elected to your state legislature?

In Congress, 74 out of 435 representatives (17%) and 16 out of 100 Senators (16%)are female. According to the Center on Congress, this is the highest number of women in the history of Congress! Jeannette Rankin of Montana (pictured below) was the first woman ever elected to Congress -- in 1916 -- several years before the Constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote was affirmed by the states.

In my state of Virginia, it's about the same: out of 100 state delegates, 13 are women (13%); the state Senate percentage is a little better -- 8 out of 40 (20%). Still, for a state where over half the population are women, this is pretty pitiful, especially since none of the top three executive positions (governor, lt. governor and attorney general) have no females and haven't since Mary Sue Terry was attorney general from 1986 to 1994 (and she's the only female to have held one of the "big three").

Why is this? What do you think?

How do we find women willing to run and encourage them? Sphere: Related Content


Born in 1939, I politically was baptized by the election of JFK in 1960. A pre-baby boomer, I took my own babies on picket lines in suburban Maryland and Virginia in the mid-60s to protest housing segregation. Our proudest accomplishment was getting the Johnson DoD to end housing segregation for the families of troops serving during the Vietnam War. In mid-life I went to law school, joined the Southern Environmental Law Center and have worked for 23 years to protect our environment. Along the way, I also served in local government, was mayor of Charlottesville and ran for Congress in a special election against a then little-known politician named George Allen. I learned first hand the difficulties of running an issue-based campaign when Allen attacked me in an ad implying I was disloyal to my country: The NRCC TV ad depicted a rally against the Gulf War in front of the Capitol, a protestor holding a sign reading "Victory to Iraq" and a still photo of me saying "Kay Slaughter and the liberals in Congress opposed fighting Saddam Hussein." The President Elect, who also got into politics because of his principles, ran the kind of campaign I strove to run. I plan to celebrate his victory (with my daughter) and that of Congressman Tom Perriello (VA) on Inauguration Day. I worked for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- canvassing when I swore I never would again -- and standing in the rain at a Republican precinct on Election Day. A lifelong Virginia Democrat, I proffered mint juleps to my election night guests as Virginia went Democratic. I will be in Washington on Inauguration Day as it will be the most significant Inauguration of my lifetime and, I hope, the beginning of a better day in America and the world. Sphere: Related Content