“The Year of the Woman,” a moniker given to 1992, when a number of women…
8 Women Political Figures We Don’t Hear About Enough
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, it is important to recognize the women political figures that we don’t hear about enough. Whether it be as lawmakers or activists, the women on this list have made significant contributions to American political history that deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. To wrap up this historic month, here are just a few women political trailblazers who you should know about:
The daughter of Italian immigrants, Geraldine Ferraro served as district attorney in Queens, New York and became the first Congresswoman from Queens in 1980. As a Congresswoman, she was a strong advocate for women’s reproductive and economic rights, sponsoring the Economic Equity Act which reformed pensions for women, protected the rights of widows and divorced women and allowed homemakers to save as much as their working spouses in individual retirement accounts. In 1984, presidential candidate Walter Frederick selected Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket. “People are no longer hiding behind their hands and giggling when they talk about a woman for national office, and I think that’s wonderful,” Ferraro said about her chances of becoming vice president.
In 1952, Charlotta Bass became the first Black woman to be nominated for US Vice President when she ran as a candidate for the Progressive Party. She campaigned with the slogan: “Win or lose, we win by raising the issues.” Bass was also the first Black woman to own and operate a newspaper. She published the California Eagle from 1912 to 1951, which she used to advocate for civil rights for African Americans and women’s rights. She formed the Home Protective Association which fought against housing covenants that prevented people of color from buying homes in white neighborhoods and helped found the Industrial Business Council to help combat housing and employment discrimination.
After coming to the United States as a child refugee from Cuba, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen made history in 1989 when she became the first Latina elected to Congress and the first Republican woman from Florida elected to the House. While serving in the House, she was a powerful foreign policy leader who worked to draw attention to genocides and human rights abuses in countries like Rwanda, China, Sudan, and Iran. Ros-Lehtinen was also a strong advocate for equal rights domestically and in 2012 she became the first Republican in the House to support same-sex marriage.
In 1964, Patsy Mink, an attorney from Hawaii, became the first woman of color, first Asian American woman and first woman from the state of Hawaii elected to Congress. During her total of 12 terms serving as a Congresswoman, she co-wrote the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act which prohibited sex-based discrimination at schools. After her death in 2002, it was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. She also wrote bills like the Early Childhood Education Act and the Women’s Educational Equity Act. In 1972, she became the first Asian American woman to run for President.
Diane Nash emerged as an influential political activist during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. She was a prominent leader during significant campaigns of the movement like the Selma Voting Rights campaign and the Freedom Rides, which led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the desegregation of interstate travel. Nash was part of the national committee that promoted the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Patricia Roberts Harris
When President Jimmy Carter appointed Patricia Roberts Harris as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977, she became the first Black woman in history to serve in the Cabinet and the first to enter the line of succession to the Presidency. She was also the first Black woman to represent the United States as an ambassador when she served as US Ambassador to Luxembourg under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Harris was the first Black woman to be dean of a law school in the United States, at Howard University.
Republican feminist activist and former head of the White House Office of Women’s Programs, Jill Ruckelshaus was often referred to as the Gloria Steinem of the Republican Party due to her fight for abortion rights during the 1970’s. Ruckelshaus was not afraid to work across party lines, allying herself with liberals in her fight towards the ratification the Equal Rights Amendment and leading a 1980 march in Detroit through the Republican National Convention, in protest of her party’s stance on the ERA. In 1971, Jill Ruckelshaus joined Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Abzug to form the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC).
Gay and women’s rights activist, Midge Costanza was appointed Assistant to the President for Public Liaison in 1976 by Jimmy Carter, becoming the first woman to ever hold that title. Costanza, who had previously made history in 1973 as Rochester New York’s first ever councilwoman, had helped the president develop his presidential campaign and delivered upstate New York to him in the election. As a presidential assistant to President Carter, she consistently challenged him on issues of social justice such as LGBTQ rights, abortion and equal pay.