Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Women Politicians and the Media

Women Politicians and the Media

Maria Braden
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Women Politicians and the Media
    Book Description:

    All American politicians face the glare of media coverage, both in running for office and in representing their constituents if elected. But for women seeking or holding high public office, as Maria Braden demonstrates, the scrutiny by newspapers and television can be both withering and damaging -- a fact that has changed little over the decades despite the emergence of more women in politics and more women in the news media.

    Particularly disturbing is the fact that the increase in the number of women reporters appears to have had little effect on the way women candidates are portrayed in the media. Some women reporters, in fact, seem intent on proving that they can be just as tough on women candidates as their male counterparts, thus perpetuating the misrepresentations of the past.

    Braden examines the political fortunes of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. House; those of the congressional "glamour girls" of the 1940s, Clare Boothe Luce and Helen Gahagan Douglas; the long Senate career of Margaret Chase Smith; the political struggles of diverse women of more recent decades, including Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Holtzman, Nancy Kassebaum, Barbara Jordan, Dianne Feinstein, and Ann Richards; and the disastrous vice presidential bid of Geraldine Ferraro.

    Braden traces a persistent double standard in media coverage of women's political campaigns through the past eighty years. Journalists dwell on the candidates' novelty in public office and describe them in ways that stereotype and trivialize them. Especially demeaning are comments on women's appearance, personality, and family connections -- comments of a sort that would rarely be made about men candidates. Are they too pretty or too plain? What do their clothes say about them? Are they "feminine" enough or "too masculine"? Are they still just ordinary housewives or are they neglecting their families by heading for Washington or the state house?

    Braden's study is based on both media accounts and the revealing personal interviews she conducted with a broad range of recent women politicians, including Margaret Chase Smith, Bella Abzug, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Nancy Kassebaum, and Ann Richards. All describe agonizing struggles to get across to the public the message that they are serious and competent candidates capable of holding high office and shaping our nation's course.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5855-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Going Forward, Walking Backward
    (pp. 1-18)

    Susan B. Anthony didn’t think much of the Press. But she was savvy enough to lace her speech with gentle irony instead of insulting reporters directly. Journalists had heaped ridicule on the women’s suffrage movement for years, but Anthony knew that news coverage was a key to getting the women’s message to the public—and that biased coverage was better than no coverage at all. More than a century later, women politicians are still discovering what Anthony had learned—that journalists often ask women politicians questions they don’t ask men. That reporters describe women politicians in ways and with words...

  6. Chapter 2 The First and Only
    (pp. 19-37)

    As held secretary for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Jeannette Rankin was no stranger to public life. Yet when she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana in 1916, the press ignored her. Women couldn’t even vote in most states, so journalists must have thought it ludicrous for a woman to seek election to Congress. Even theNew York Timesthought it such a dim possibility that editors returned Rankin’s biographical material before the election. Yet Rankin’s candidacy caught the imagination of many, who saw in her a symbol of the right to vote and be heard....

  7. Chapter 3 The “Glamour Girls” of Congress
    (pp. 38-49)

    Both were beautiful. Both were actresses before becoming members of Congress. And—best of all for the press—the two women represented different political parties. When Helen Gahagan Douglas joined Clare Boothe Luce in the House of Representatives in 1944, it promised to be a juicy ongoing story—the catfight of the decade. Suggestive headlines started appearing almost as soon as Douglas won the July 1944 Democratic primary in California for a seat in the House, beating six male opponents. She was to address the Democratic National Convention in Chicago the same week. Luce, elected a member of Congress from...

  8. Chapter 4 A Rose by Any Other Name
    (pp. 50-62)

    She always wore a single rose in her lapel. But a rose is fragile and short lived, unlike the strong-willed, independent Margaret Chase Smith, whose career spanned thirty-two years in the House and Senate. A woman of few words, she had a reputation for doing her legislative homework, and people listened when she spoke. For nearly a quarter-century she was the only woman in the U.S. Senate. Frequently mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate, she aimed higher, running for president in 1964. But she couldn’t break through the glass ceiling of her gender. The media didn’t help much.


  9. Chapter 5 The Push for Equal Rights
    (pp. 63-78)

    The 1970S were a decade of Many contradictions, as women sought equal opportunities with men and the news media wrestled with fair coverage. Congress finally approved the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Women were elected to the governorship of Connecticut in 1974 and of Washington state in 1976 without succeeding their husbands in office. Women who advocated women’s rights were elected to the House of Representatives, and a woman was elected to the Senate in 1978, which had been without female representation since voters retired Margaret Chase Smith in 1972.

    Women began to organize into political groups, a sure sign...

  10. Chapter 6 Battling Bella
    (pp. 79-88)

    One of the heroines of the women’s political movement, New York representative Bella Abzug, is outspoken and assertive and regularly challenges the status quo. When she ran for Congress in 1970 she had a clear idea of her objectives, which included trying to stop the war in Vietnam and changing laws to provide equal treatment for women. She hit the floor running, introducing a resolution on her first day in the House that demanded an immediate end to the war. But much of her press coverage created a stereotype of her as strident and bellicose. She was frequently described in...

  11. Chapter 7 Are We There Yet?
    (pp. 89-104)

    The 1980s were supposed to be the decade of the woman. “Battling Bella” and others had paved the way. The campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment had been lost, but news coverage of the struggle to get it passed by Congress and then ratified by the states had made more people aware of women’s struggle for equal opportunity and equal pay. As Betty Lall, a 1982 candidate for Congress from New York, put it: “A lot of people have been harboring thoughts they didn’t articulate because they didn’t think they were accepted thoughts. Now they are beginning to act...

  12. Chapter 8 Almost a Bridesmaid
    (pp. 105-118)

    As the first woman ever nominated for vice president on a major party ticket, Geraldine Ferraro knew she would be in the media spotlight. She figured she could handle the media attention in the 1984 presidential race because she had weathered a nasty congressional race six years earlier. But she didn’t know how bad it would get. She was scrutinized as a woman and as an Italian-American, and news stories linked her and her family with organized crime. “I hadn’t been worried. We had nothing to hide,” she says. “Never did I anticipate the fury of the storm we ....

  13. Chapter 9 1992 and All That
    (pp. 119-133)

    1992 was billed by the news media as the “year of the woman” in politics. Women’s time had finally come. Or had it? Perhaps headlines should have saidAnotherYear of the Woman, reflecting the fact that this was only the latest fanfare marking record gains by women. In fact, the media had dubbed 1969 the Year of the Woman when a record number of women were elected to the House. And it happened again in 1984 and in 1988. 1990 was proclaimed the Year of the Woman until women candidates began to look vulnerable and the Year fizzled out...

  14. Chapter 10 The Kamikaze Campaign and Politics as Usual
    (pp. 134-143)

    Elizabeth Holtzman and Ann Richards waged election campaigns that, according to media pundits, set new lows for sleaze and acrimony. After her 1992 New York Senate primary battle, Holtzman was dubbed the “town witch—the most hated Democrat in New York politics” byNew Yorkmagazine, while Richards accepted accolades for being tough enough to take and sling back political mud in her 1990 Texas gubernatorial campaign. How did Holtzman end up in the media gutter while Richards enjoyed what theNew York Timescalled the “national adoration of the press”? The most obvious answer is that the media judged...

  15. Chapter 11 Nearing the Millennium
    (pp. 144-165)

    When Harriett Woods, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, visited Louisville in April 1994 to stump for two women congressional candidates—a Republican and a Democrat—a reporter asked her The Question: What if both women were to win the May primary and end up facing each other in the November election? “Then we can’t lose,” said Woods. But what if two men were to win their primaries and end up facing each other in the November election? Reporters wouldn’t give it a second thought. Journalists continue to make gender a primary attribute when they’re covering women politicians. Women...

  16. Chapter 12 From a Woman’s Point of View
    (pp. 166-182)

    Linda Wertheimer, National Public Radio’s political correspondent, was a child when she watched Pauline Frederick’s broadcasts about Soviet troops crushing the revolution in Hungary in 1956. She found herself thinking, “Look! A woman can do news!” Her surprise is understandable. Women have always been a part of American journalism, first as printers and later as reporters, editors, and occasionally as publishers, but only recently have substantial numbers of women broken into the traditionally male areas of covering politics, government, or international affairs. Women journalists have worked in a male dominated milieu and may have experienced discrimination, so they are likely...

  17. Chapter 13 Ms. President?
    (pp. 183-197)

    The press wasn’t alone in shunning Victoria Woodhull when she ran for president in 1872. Even Susan B. Anthony turned off the auditorium lights when Woodhull tried to address the National Woman Suffrage Association. Soon afterward, lacking the support of the suffrage movement, Woodhull’s candidacy fell apart. Backed by the Equal Rights Party, a coalition of socialists, feminists, Spiritualists, and communists, Woodhull advocated sexual freedom for women and attacked marriage as an institution that enslaves women. America wasn’t ready for her.

    Voters wouldn’t be any more eager to embrace someone like Woodhull today than they were more than a century...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 198-218)
  19. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 219-224)
  20. Index
    (pp. 225-236)