Thursday, November 6, 2014

Progress for women?

GOP Sen.-elect Joni Ernst addresses supporters on Nov.
Joni Ernst, new senator from Iowa

Next year when the 114th Congress begins, there will be 81 women in the House and 20 or 21 in the Senate. 

Are we supposed to cheer?

The Washington Post notes that the rate of increase is "a trickle."  Which is to say, it's dismally slow.

Slate takes statistics from Rutgers' Center for American Women and Politics and produces a stunning graphic.

In 1917, one woman in Congress.  My mother will be born in 1919.  The 19th Amendment will be passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920.

In 1927, five women.  My mother is eight years old.  My grandmother is 32 years old.  Did she vote for or against Warren Harding in 1920?  Did she vote for Calvin Coolidge in 1924?  Did she care that women had the right to vote?  It was still a very male-dominated world.

In 1937, eight women in Congress including two US senators.  My mother turns 18.  She's in training to become a nurse, and she will join the Navy Nurse Corps in 1943.

In 1947, still eight women.  Not including Rosie the Riveter.  Only one US senator.  I will be born in 1948.

In 1957, 16 women now in Congress, but still only one woman in the US Senate.  I am 9 years old.

In 1967, now only 12 women in Congress.  The total of 20 women in 1961 has shrunk.  Time for a revolution, but only a few women know that.  I'm in my first year of college.  

In 1977, 20 women in Congress.  We're back to the level of 1961, and this is considered progress.  I am 29 years old and working for the ERA while in grad school.  

In 1987, 25 women in Congress but the off-and-on maximum of two women US senators has been the limit since 1935.  The ERA went down in flames in 1982, and I am now the mother of three daughters.  Geraldine Ferraro has run on the Democratic ticket for Vice President of the US.  

In 1997, 65 women in Congress including 9 senators.  A significant gain--more than doubling the number in ten years.  My oldest daughter is 15 years old.  

In 2007, 88 women in Congress.  Growth has slowed.  I am now 59 years old.  My mother, now 88, will die in 2008.  She knows that Hillary Clinton is running for president, but she has Altzheimer's and sometimes thinks I'm running.

In 2017...   ?

Will I live to see a woman president of the US?

Will my daughters see a Senate and House of Representatives that are 50% women?

For more reflection, consider the timeline of women's suffrage, starting in 1840.  Where will we be by 2040?

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