* IF THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT OF THE '70S WAS THE lightning flash of female empowerment, then the long-awaited roll of thunder began to resound in this year's election results. From coast to coast, women candidates, thrust forward by Anita Hill-inspired outrage and helped along by anti-incumbency sentiment, were in contention as never before.
A record 11 women sought Senate seats. Five won (including an incumbent), bringing the number in that body to seven, from three. In Illinois, an obscure Cook County recorder of deeds, Carol Moseley Braun, rolled to victory in the primary over a Democratic incumbent who had supported Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, then won in the general election over an ex-Reagan official. Braun will be the first black woman Senator. California, with two seats open, chose establishment Democrat Dianne Feinstein and liberal firebrand Barbara Boxer. Once mocked as "a mom in tennis shoes," Washington state senator Patty Murray becomes a U.S. Senator after a campaign that turned insult to advantage. But Lynn Yeakel lost to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in a fierce battle.
Dozens of new women are coming to the House, perhaps doubling the current number of 28. The fresh faces include Eva Clayton, the first black Congresswoman from North Carolina, and New York's Nydia Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican female in Congress.
"When I ran," recalls two-time Senate candidate and former Missouri Lieutenant Governor Harriett Woods, "there was a 10% automatic disadvantage for a woman. This year there may have even been a slight benefit" -- a trend that will not easily be reversed. (See related story in main section.)