Climbing the Hill: Gender Conflict in Congress

Climbing the Hill: Gender Conflict in Congress

Climbing the Hill: Gender Conflict in Congress

Climbing the Hill: Gender Conflict in Congress


Climbing the Hill explores the history and current status of women members and staff on Capitol Hill. It traces the difficult history of women in Congress, their slow and painful path to political power, and their hopes and fears of today. It presents a comprehensive analysis of women's success at the polls and within the congressional hierarchy - legislatively, politically, and socially. Through in-depth research and extensive personal interviews, the authors reveal the deep-rooted sexual divisions within the U.S. Congress and the continuing struggle of women to break into the "old boy" network. The book's comprehensive coverage is unique and up-to-date and will be of interest to scholars, students, and interested layreaders.


In 1866, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a pioneer for woman suffrage, ran as an independent candidate for Congress from the 8th District in New York. Running on a platform of free speech, free press, free trade, freed men, and universal suffrage, she received a total of 24 votes. Six years later she was arrested for the crime of voting in the national election of 1872.

Women have come a long way since then, with the election of 28 new women to Congress in 1992 the crowning achievement to date. But were just 28 women out of a 1992 freshman class of 110 any cause for celebration? A look at the daunting, often demeaning path that women have trod toward Capitol Hill may explain the giddy optimism that surrounded the 1992 elections.

Many of the early women in Congress were tokens. Some were appointed rather than elected, and many came to their office by way of "special elections" designed to fill the remainder of the term for a seat left vacant by the death or retirement of a spouse or other congressional incumbent. Often, the woman filling out the term was required to agree not to seek further office. Terms of only a few months were not unusual.

Some political analysts claim that too much has been made of the "matrimonial connection" for women in Congress, since, historically, the majority of seats left vacant by death have not been filled by the wife of the deceased. This misses the point that during the early history of women in Congress, succession to the seat of a deceased incumbent, particularly a spouse, was not only a frequent occurrence, it was the method of access for the overwhelming majority of women. Five of the first eight women in Congress came by their seats through the death of an incumbent. Up to . . .

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