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Women in Politics

U.S. Senator (D-NY) and former first lady Hillary Clinton addresses the first graduating class of CUNY Honors College.

With the rise of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s, women demanded a political voice. Two of those voices belonged to Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug. Chisholm was elected Congresswoman from Brooklyn in 1969 under the slogan “unbought and unbossed.” She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress. A tireless activist for civil and women’s rights, Chisholm co-founded the National Organization for Women and even ran for the presidency in 1972.

Bella Abzug, an outspoken rabble-rouser from the Bronx, identifiable by her big hats, was a Civil rights lawyer and peace activist before running for Congress in 1970. Her six years as a representative demonstrated her dedication to social justice issues, and she co-authored additions to the Freedom of Information Act and the Right to Privacy Act (1974).

Throughout the next three decades, women steadily made inroads to political power. However, the most significant year for women in politics was 1992, when as many as 60 million women voted, and their impact was felt. After the ballots were counted, 24 new women had been elected to the House of Representatives along with five new female senators, the largest increase of women political leaders in American history.

Christine Todd Whitman served as New Jersey’s first female governor before becoming Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001.

Women now began to find their political footing. Christine Todd Whitman served as New Jersey’s first and only woman governor from 1994 to 2001, and Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina made a serious bid for the 2000 presidential election. Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton won a seat in the Senate representing New York State. Today, 68 women including Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Nydia Velazquez of New York, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, and Mary Bono of California serve in the House of Representatives. Fourteen women are in the Senate, including Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein from California, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA), center, is flanked by fellow women senators from far left, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Boxer; Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); and Patty Murray (D-WA); as they hold hands during a fund-raiser for Boxer's re-election campaign Wednesday, April 23, 2003, in San Francisco.



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