THE "GLAMOUR GIRLS" OF CONGRESS
BOTH WERE BEAUTIFUL. BOTH WERE ACTRESSES BEFORE BECOMING MEMBERS OF CONgress. And -- best of all for the press -- the two women represented different political parties. When Helen Gahagan Douglas joined Clare Boothe Luce in the House of Representatives in 1944, it promised to be a juicy ongoing story -- the catfight of the decade. Suggestive headlines started appearing almost as soon as Douglas won the July 1944 Democratic primary in California for a seat in the House, beating six male opponents. She was to address the Democratic National Convention in Chicago the same week. Luce, elected a member of Congress from Connecticut two years before, had just been tapped to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. One Chicago paper bannered a story with the headline: HELEN VS. CLARE: TORCH VS. ICICLE.
Luce, who had been dubbed " Connecticut's gift to the glamour department of Congress" by the New York Daily News and the "congressional snake charmer" by a trade publication, wasn't about to buy into the female feud that was being created by the press. She was more interested in getting her message across to the public. It was reported at the time that she refused to be part of the program unless she could speak at an evening session with nationwide press and radio coverage. "Whether she did it for that purpose or not, it served to advance the fortunes of women in both parties," First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote later, "establishing a precedent that has been followed ever since."
But precedents for covering women politicians seemed carved in stone. At a press conference arranged for Douglas in Chicago after she arrived for the Democratic convention, little attention was paid to matters of substance. "Attention was paid to my hat ('It's too large for the photographers -- would you mind removing it?'), my knees, which were revealed when I sat down in my narrow skirt, and the color of my eyes (blue)," Douglas recalled. "Some one asked pertly what I would be wearing when I addressed the convention."