This editorial is part of our GREAT DEBATE feature ‘Why Aren’t There More Women In Positions Of Power?‘
It is a credit to the women’s movement that its early days seem less like the distant past and more as if they were from a different civilisation. Jeannette Pickering Rankin—a Montana Republican and peace activist—became America’s first Congresswoman in 1916.
She reportedly burst into tears before voting against the declaration of war with Germany. “I felt the first time the first woman had a chance to say no to war she should say it,” she recalled. The New York Times’ editorialised that her vote was “final proof of the feminine incapacity for straight reasoning.”
Rankin’s very presence was taken as evidence of her radicalism. But slowly, women moved from the edges to the mainstream. The number of women in the 535 Congressional offices hovered around or just just under 20 seats for decades. But women admirably began filling out state-level offices at the same time.
The year 1992 was aptly dubbed, the “Year Of The Woman,” since there were more women elected to Congress than in any previous decade. This past election cycle is the first time that the number of women in Congress has stayed level since 1987. But there were a record number of Republican women elected thanks to the Palin Effect.
Worldwide, the U.S. ranks 90th in the number of women in a national legislature compared to other countries.
Photo: Jon Terbush / Business Insider
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