SMU - Women in Congress, Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Quotes and Stories from Women in Congress

Florence Dwyer“A Congresswoman must look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, speak on any given subject with authority and most of all work like a dog.”

Representative Florence Dwyer (R-NJ, 1957-1973)
Quoted in Karen Foerstel, Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women

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Women candidates “can’t afford…not to be nice, [or they will] immediately be branded as a bitch.”

Political Consultant Beth Sullivan
Quoted in Witt, et. al., Running as a Woman

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Loretta SanchezWhen you ask a man to run, he says, ‘Okay, but the party is going to have to do this for me, and the party is going to have to do that for me, and you are going to have to throw a fundraiser for me.’ When you ask a woman to run, she says, ‘Do you think I’m qualified?’

Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, 2003-present)
Interview by the Authors

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“Crying is almost a ritual that male politicians must do to prove they are compassionate, but women are supposed to wear iron britches.”

Representative Pat Schroeder (D-CO, 1973-1997) in her book,
Twenty-four Years of House Work and the Place is Still a Mess

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We met at this really nice restaurant in downtown Washington to talk about how our PAC could help her. She came with her finance director, her campaign manager, and her three-month-old baby. I told a lot of people about that meeting. Some people were shocked that she would bring her baby along to meetings where she was trying to present herself as a serious candidate. But most people I talked to thought it was great that she brought her child. Young women who have children too often feel pressure to hide that fact when they are doing business. Debbie is a role model for proving that a woman can be professional and a mother at the same time.

Susannah Shakow, President of Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, about Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schulz
Interview by the Authors

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Susan Molinari“There I’d be, in a war zone in Bosnia, and some reporter – usually female – would comment on how I was dressed, then turn to my male colleague for answers to questions of substance.”

Susan Molinari (R-NY. 1990-1997) in her book, Representative Mom

 

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“Men are raised to play football, to bash their heads and come back for more. Women are raised to stand back. We aren’t raised to be risk takers.”

Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC, 1995-present)
Quoted in Karen Foerstel, Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women

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Shirley ChisholmWhen Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) came to Washington, D.C. in 1968, she asked to be assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor.  She was a former teacher with extensive experience in education policy while serving in the New York Assembly.  Education was extremely important to her poor, black, Brooklyn district.  The Democratic Party leadership in Congress, however, assigned her to the Agriculture Committee and the Subcommittee on Forestry and Rural Development.  Outraged, she refused the assignment and took her case to Speaker of the House John McCormack (D-MA).  He told her she should be a “good soldier,” put her time in on the committee, and wait for a better assignment.  Chisholm responded, “All my forty-three years I have been a good soldier…The time is growing late, and I can’t be a good soldier any longer.”
— Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling

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Pat SchroederIn 1972, Representative Pat Schroeder (D-CO) did receive an assignment on the committee of her choice, Armed Services, but the Chair, F. Edward Hebert, a seventy-two-year-old Democrat from Louisiana, made it clear he did not want a woman on his committee.  Hebert was also outraged that session because a newly elected African American was assigned to his committee, Representative Ron Dellums (D-CA).  Hebert announced that, “women and blacks were worth only half of one ‘regular’ member,” so Schroeder and Dellums were forced to share a chair during committee meetings.
— Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling

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Of the forty women who have succeeded their husbands in the House, all but one were widows.  The election of Katherine Langley (R-KY) to the House was not because her husband died, but because he was thrown in jail.  Katherine was the daughter of Representative James Gudger (D-NC) and wife of John Langley, a Kentucky Republican first elected in 1906.  John and his father-in-law served together as members of the House during the Sixty-Second and Sixty-Third Congresses (1911-1915).  In 1924, Congressman Langley was tried and convicted of “conspiring illegally to transport and sell liquor.”  He attempted to bribe a Prohibition officer.  He was subsequently jailed at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. In 1926, Katherine won the 10th District seat vacated by her husband.  Later, President Calvin Coolidge, at Katherine’s urging, issued a grant of clemency to her husband; his release was subject to the condition that he would not seek election to any public office.  In 1929, a less-than-grateful John declared himself a candidate for his former seat.  Katherine, however, refused to give up her seat “for John or anyone else.”
— Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling