Women Voters

October 11, 1972

Report Outline
Women and politics in 1972 election
Campaign for and Results of Suffrage
Women as a Growing Political Force
Special Focus

Women and politics in 1972 election

Political Impact of Women's Liberation Movement

The 1972 Presidential election will be the 14th in which American women have voted. The old anti-suffrage cliches—that when women first voted in 1920 they helped elect Warren G. Harding, a handsome but inept President, that the ladies are unable to grasp the deeper political issues and vote frivolously, if at all, or else mark their ballots as their husbands or fathers instruct—are seldom heard and rarely applauded. This year increased numbers of women have girded for political action, demanded a voice in party platforms, campaigned for candidates who support their programs, and run for office themselves.

The politicization of women is one consequence of the women's liberation movement. More than a year ago, Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women (Now), warned: “The women's liberation movement has crested now. If it doesn't become political, it will peter out, turn against itself and become nothing.” To gain social and economic equality, it is felt, women have to control some of the levers of power. There are now few feminine hands on these levers. Women comprise 52 per cent of the voting-age population but less than 3 per cent of all elected officials. Of the 535 members of Congress, only one elected senator and 12 representatives are women. And women account for only about 315 of the more than 7,500 state legislators. There are no women governors, and the National League of Cities counts only 23 women mayors.

In an attempt to remedy this situation, more than 300 women met in Washington on July 10–11, 1971, to form the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC). Among the organizers were Ms. Friedan, writer Gloria Steinem, Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D N.Y.), the first black woman ever elected to Congress, and Rep. Bella S. Abzug (D N.Y.). Participants complained that the vast majority of women in politics were regulated to behind-the-scenes dirty work—holding teas, addressing envelopes, mimeographing flyers and ringing doorbells—to help elect male candidates. The NVVPC welcomed women from all political parties and agreed to help “those candidates for public or party office, whether male or female. who support women's issues and employ women in decision-making positions on their administrative and campaign staffs.” The organization has formed branches at the state and local level with the ultimate goal of seeing women elected or appointed to at least half of all government positions. Rep. Abzug told the Washington meeting: “Women now hold a total of 1.6 per cent of the top jobs in government…1.6 per cent is close to invisibility.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Oct. 11, 1972  Women Voters
Aug. 05, 1970  Status of Women
Feb. 20, 1956  Women in Politics
Jan. 24, 1951  Womanpower in Mobilization
Apr. 04, 1946  Equal Rights Amendment
May 31, 1927  The Woman's Vote in National Elections
Civil Rights: Women
Voting and Suffrage