Women Politicians and the Media

By Maria Braden | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5

THE 1970 S WERE A DECADE OF MANY CONTRADICTIONS, AS WOMEN SOUGHT EQUAL opportunities with men and the news media wrestled with fair coverage. Congress finally approved the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Women were elected to the governorship of Connecticut in 1974 and of Washington state in 1976 without succeeding their husbands in office. Women who advocated women's rights were elected to the House of Representatives, and a woman was elected to the Senate in 1978, which had been without female representation since voters retired Margaret Chase Smith in 1972.

Women began to organize into political groups, a sure sign that they intended to stick around. The National Women's Political Caucus was founded in 1971, and the W omen's Campaign Fund was started in 1973, at that time the only bipartisan national organization giving financial support to women candidates. Women journalists were moving off the women's pages and into the city rooms, where a few were reporting politics and government. Awareness was growing of the sexism that had pervaded news stories, and some made efforts to correct it. There was also a rapid increase in the use of socalled "paid media" -- televised political advertising -- to supplement the news and feature stories that politicians call "free media."

By the end of the decade, some things had changed but others stayed the same. As Pat Schroeder said in 1979, "We are still novelty acts." Several highly visible women had given up their seats in Congress, including Democrats Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Elizabeth Holtzman and Bella Abzug of New York, who left the House to run unsuccessful Senate campaigns, and a number of others who simply stepped down, such as Barbara Jordan (D-Texas), Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), Martha Griffiths (D-Michigan), and Edith Green (D-Oregon).

Even as the public became more accepting of women holding public office and being given wider opportunities in journalism, there remained an undercurrent of fear of what was viewed as potentially destructive social change.


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