National Affairs: A Dozen Who Made a Difference

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The 1936 yearbook of Connecticut's elite Chaffee School predicted that Ella Rosa Giovanna Oliva Tambussi, the Italian immigrants' daughter who was there on scholarship, would become the first woman mayor of her home town, Windsor Locks, Conn. That was much too modest a forecast. As a young wife and mother, with a Phi Beta Kappa key and M.A. in economics from Mount Holyoke, Ella Grasso was elected to the state assembly in 1952. Captivated by her drive and political savvy, Democratic Boss John Bailey took her on as a speechwriter and adviser. Bailey once told her, she recalls, that "the only time he would run a woman was when he knew he was going to be beaten. He was not convinced that a woman could win until he was shown." Grasso showed him. She was elected Connecticut's secretary of state, then a U.S. Congresswoman and in 1974, by a landslide, the first woman Governor who did not have a husband in office before her.

Like most Governors, Grasso, 56, has had a rough year. Women's groups have assailed her anti-abortion stand (says she: "Bella calls me up and screams at me over the phone"). Most important, her longtime allies in labor and the Democratic legislature rejected her demands for cutbacks in social spending and an increase in the work week for state employees (from 35 to 40 hours) to narrow a big budget deficit. Grasso has responded by ordering layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers. "I'm still classically compassionate," she says, "but what am I supposed to do? Sell the state down the river to accommodate labor's wishes?" Answering her own question, she says: "Women in office can be as tough as anyone else."

BARBARA JORDAN: Rising Representative

After only three years in Congress, Barbara Jordan, 39, the sternly eloquent Democrat from Texas, already commands more respect and power than many Representatives can look forward to in a lifetime. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee, where she voiced one of the most cogent and impassioned defenses of constitutional principles that emerged from the Nixon impeachment hearings; she is also on the Government Operations Committee, as well as the Democratic Steering Committee and the task force that drafted a Democratic plan to revive the economy last year. And she was the forceful co-chairman at the recent Democratic Issues Convention in Louisville. In a recent Redbook survey, 700 Americans were asked to name five women whom they would like to see become that still distant figure: the first woman candidate for President. Jordan, who was named by 44%, led the list.

Daughter of a Baptist preacher in Houston, Jordan earned a B.A. in political science from Texas Southern University and a law degree from Boston University in 1959. She then returned to her parents' home and set up a law practice on the dining-room table. In 1966 she won a seat in the Texas senate, becoming its first black member since Reconstruction and its first woman since 1882. After engineering fair-employment and minimum-wage legislation and blocking passage of a restrictive voter-registration law, she went to Congress in 1972 with 81% of her district's vote.

SUSIE SHARP: Judicious Blueprint

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