A record number of women—262, in all—ran campaigns for the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Despite this wave of women, fewer will be in the House once the 112th Congress begins than were in the 111th. 75 women will take their seats in the voting body, many of them for the first time. Here is a look at several first-year Representatives. On the Senate side, 36 women ran campaigns—also a record—and four were elected, keeping the total for women in the Senate at 17. There will be, notably, no African-American Senators when the new Congress begins in January. What issues will the newest female members of Congress bring with them and what might it mean for feminist political strategists and women?
The U.S. presidential election in 2008 generated a turnout of voters
not seen since the late 1960s. More than 63 percent of the eligible
electorate cast votes for President, amounting to more than 128 million
votes. If these 2010 midterm elections follow historical precedent,
there will be 10-15 percent fewer voters at the polls than in the
presidental election two years ago. That would still bring out more
than 100 million people. That there is interest in this election—in
which Republicans are looking to take back the Senate and at least make
a dent in the Democrats' hold on the House—is an understatement. There are also gubernatorial elections in 37 states up for grabs next month.
At the Federal and State levels, the electoral map could look very
different on November 3. But let's back up for a moment and ask a
simple-sounding question: Does any of this matter?
If Alice Paul had gotten her way, the United States Constitution would read:
Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This, her proposed text of the Equal Rights Amendment, has never come to pass. Drafted by Paul and introduced by two Republicans in 1923—one of whom was Susan B. Anthony's nephew—the ERA was introduced in every congressional session thereafter, until 1980. Nearly 60 years of finding a sponsor, and for all but three of those years, ERA died in committee. In those other three years, it either failed on a close vote in the Senate, or it passed, but with a rider that none of its supporters could stomach.