FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 17, 2005
Women in power: From Germany to the U.S. the political landscape is changing
Assign your students to follow newspaper reports about Condoleezza Rice in her role as Secretary of State and of Republican presidential campaign news. Also have them track Hillary Clinton in her role as a U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential campaign news.
Ask your students to find news stories about women in power positions whether in politics, business or the entertainment fields. Have them make a list of the most powerful women they are aware of. Are most of the women American? Why is that?
Local elections will be held across the country in November. Ask your students to check out their newspapers for candidate ads, issue ads, campaign stories, letters to the editor and editorial page endorsements of candidates. Have them invite a local editor to the classroom to discuss the process the newspaper follows in selecting candidates to endorse for office.
News came last week that Angela Merkel will replace Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor of Germany, becoming the first woman and first East German to hold the office. President George W. Bush has nominated Harriet Miers to succeed the nation's first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. And on television a new attention-getting series, "Commander-in-Chief," starring Geena Davis as the first female President is drawing big audiences.
Are forces at work that in the 2008 election could put a woman in the White House -- not as First Lady but as President? And could the first female President also be the first black President? A former adviser to President Bill Clinton thinks so -- and in a book released this month he insists that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the only Republican candidate who could defeat a Hillary Clinton candidacy.
Now, for the first time, a majority of voters say they would back a woman running for President.
Senator Clinton: Hillary Rodham Clinton is working to change her image from a polarizing liberal feminist to a softer moderate U.S. senator who is strong on national security. She won her U.S. Senate seat while she was still First Lady by out-debating and out-campaigning a conservative Republican. This middle-class Chicago-born woman, a Wellesley and Yale Law School graduate, served as a staff lawyer during the House of Representatives' Watergate hearings that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. While her husband, Bill Clinton, served as governor of Arkansas, she was the money-making lawyer of the family. When he ran for President, she was regarded by some insiders as the toughest and best political brain in the campaign. She stuck with him through the Monica Lewinsky scandal during his presidency. Many have given her high marks as an effective U.S. senator and recognize her as the strongest and most likely Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. She has written several books and once taught law at the University of Arkansas. She was born Oct. 26, 1947, and has a daughter. She has not said she will seek the presidency, but there are few people on the planet who think she will not.
Condoleezza Rice: Born the same year as the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling, Brown vs. Board of Education, Condoleezza Rice was a schoolmate of one of the young girls killed in the 1963 white supremacist bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. She has said that growing up in segregationist times taught her determination in the face of adversity and that she would need to be "twice as good" as non-minorities to succeed. She is an intellectual, once a Stanford University political science professor and provost and an accomplished pianist. Rice often insists that her dream job would be to serve as commissioner of the National Football League. During the first Bush term, she settled for being the first female national security adviser. And for his second term, she became the second woman and second African-American to serve as Secretary of State. She speaks Russian, French and Spanish. Her first name is a variation of the musical term, "con dolcezza," which is a direction to play with sweetness. Grilled intensely not long ago about whether she would be a presidential candidate, Rice repeatedly said she had no such plans. On the other hand, she did not say she would not run. Americansforrice.com is one of the Web sites pushing a draft-Rice movement. She was born Nov. 14, 1954, in Birmingham, Ala., and is single.
Condi vs. Hillary: The new book, "Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race," written by former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, makes the case for why only Condoleezza Rice can defeat Hillary Clinton. He explores the two women's backgrounds, analyzes their electability, evaluates electoral trends the two parties might use in the campaigns, predicts strategies Rice and Clinton would pursue and suggests how each woman would respond to crises as President.
Susan B. Anthony vindicated: If Clinton or Rice take the oath of office as President of the United States in January 2009 it would come 137 years after Susan B. Anthony was arrested the first time for trying to vote in Rochester, N.Y., in 1872. The next year she again tried to vote and again was arrested. She was tried and convicted of violating voting laws because women had no right to vote. She was fined, but flatly refused to pay a penny and no one dared to try collecting. She became the star of the women's suffrage movement and also was a leading abolitionist. She died in 1906, 14 years before American women won the right to vote.
Firsts in politics by women: If Rice or Clinton wins the presidency, it would be the culmination of a long political struggle for American women, led by a number of pioneers in the field.
The first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress was Montana's Jeannette Rankin, elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, four years before American women had the right to vote. She promptly introduced the first bill that would have given women U.S. citizenship independent of their husbands. A fierce pacifist, Rankin was one of 49 members of Congress who voted against the U.S. entry into World War I. That stand cost her a Republican Senate nomination and she lost a campaign as an independent. In 1940, she ran as an antiwar candidate, won another House term and was the only member of Congress to vote against going to war after Pearl Harbor. She didn't try for re-election. But she didn't quit on her convictions either. In 1968, at the age of 87, she led 5,000 women in an antiwar march to Capitol Hill to protest the Vietnam War.
The first woman U.S. Senator was Rebecca Felton of Georgia who served for 24 hours, from noon Nov. 21 to noon Nov. 22, 1922. She was appointed as a Democrat by the governor after the death of the incumbent, Thomas Watson. Because a successor already had been elected to replace Watson, Felton's service was a one-day symbol, but she made a speech in that one day that was described as "well received". In addition to serving the shortest Senate term, at 87 she was the oldest Senator sworn in for the first time.
The first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Caraway, an Arkansas Democrat who came to be known as "Silent Hattie" because she served from 1932 to 1945 but never made a speech from the Senate floor.
The first woman to serve as a state governor was Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, elected in 1924 to succeed her late husband. She also was the first woman director of the U.S. Mint, appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. She served until 1953. Ahead of its time more than once, Wyoming passed a women's suffrage law in 1869, some 51 years before it was adopted nationwide.
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