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POLITICS: A New Importance
Women make up 53% of the nation's registered voters but hold only 5% of the elective positions. Still, the total—7,000 women in elective office—is double five years ago. And in this year's elections, predicts Barbara Jordan, "the candidates will play to women's issues wherever they think it will help them."
In all, 18 women serve in the 94th Congress, up from 16 in the 93rd. Mississippi and Kentucky last fall elected women as Lieutenant Governors (New York already had one). More than 1,200 women in 1974 were candidates for state legislative office, one-third more than in 1972. About half of them won.
Like blacks, women are making their greatest gains on the lower levels: mayor's councils, city councils, various boards and commissions. From there, more and more will be percolating up to state and federal office in future years. "When you write stories about the women's movement now," Jill Ruckelshaus told the National Press Club recently, "don't look for us in the streets. We have gone to the statehouse."
Female candidates must often overcome the inbred mistrust of some women voters, who can be even more critical than the male constituency. Yet, says Susan Block, a member of the Iowa Women's Political Caucus, "the public is beginning to look at women with less suspicion. Voters often view a woman candidate as someone who has lived the human experience, had kids, done volunteer work, cooked supper and been to the grocery store. People can relate to her better than to a man."
That thought comes close to the theory—less prevalent now than a few years ago—that women in positions of leadership would somehow humanize public affairs and gentle down the truculent, aggressive style practiced by men. It is a sexist notion, attributing superior virtues to women. As Smith's Jill Conway says, "There are lots of inhumane women in the world." (Two women who went far to prove that point were Lynette ["Squeaky"] Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore; both made attempts on the life of President Ford.)
Janet Gray Hayes, the first woman mayor of San Jose, Calif., points out a kind of reverse handicap for women in politics:
"The other night, when George Moscone won the mayoral election in San Francisco, he cried on television. I would never do that in public. I could never allow myself. You know what people would say—'emotional woman.' " Margaret Hance, the first woman mayor of Phoenix, is optimistic. "Obviously," she says, "the males of the country have overcome their fear of women in politics. Every success creates an aura of confidence for the next woman who tries it." (Women are also mayors of San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kans., Cincinnati and Lincoln, Neb.) Not long ago, a Gallup poll found that 73% of the American people would support a qualified woman running for President.
THE FAMILY: The Delicate Dilemmas
The ruination of the American family, so widely proclaimed during the '60s and frequently welcomed as a symptom of the liberating deluge, was obviously far from total. But American