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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 13, 2019


Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith on CBS News in 1956
My dear friends,
This week's democratic debate reminded me of one of my favorite largely-untold stories from American history. It was two women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith, who appeared in very first televised presidential debate in the United States. Eleanor was of course an accomplished diplomat and high-profile democrat while Margaret was a long-serving republican member of Congress from Maine. I love everything about this story except that it isn't told enough!
Which presidential campaign produced the first nationally televised debate? The typical answer to that question is 1960, Kennedy v. Nixon. In fact, the first televised debate occurred four years earlier, when Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson challenged incumbent Republican president Dwight Eisenhower—but those two men did not appear in the debate. Instead, on November 4, 1956, two surrogates debated the issues on network television. For the Democrats, former First Lady and party icon Eleanor Roosevelt. For the Republicans, the senior senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith. That’s right—the first televised presidential debate featured two women.

By 1956 Margaret Chase Smith was in her second term in the Senate and had known Eleanor Roosevelt for two decades. “I respected and admired Mrs. Roosevelt for her intelligence and active leadership,” wrote Smith in her autobiography. Smith had been a frequent visitor to the Roosevelt White House and had appeared on the First Lady’s radio program. They both published a daily newspaper column. By 1956 both women routinely appeared on lists of America’s most admired women.

As the 1956 campaign began, Roosevelt emerged as Adlai Stevenson’s strongest advocate. She played such a crucial role in cinching his nomination that she became known as the “Heroine of the Convention,” and then proved to be a skilled campaigner. Senator Smith also was a seasoned politician by this time. She gained national attention in 1950 when she took on Joe McCarthy, became the first woman to serve on the Armed Services Committee in 1953, and in 1954 easily trounced her opponent to gain reelection. When the Republican National Committee was looking for a worthy opponent for Eleanor Roosevelt, Smith was the logical choice.

The forum for debate was the CBS program Face the Nation, then in its second season, and this was the first time a woman appeared on that program. Although Smith was not yet sure of her debating skills, she was confident that she could offer a strong argument in support of Eisenhower. For that reason, she insisted on a two-minute closing statement and CBS reluctantly agreed. Smith then carefully calculated choices in wardrobe and hairstyle, to provide a contrast to the more grandmotherly Roosevelt. She also considered demeanor. She had to be forceful, but polite; knowledgeable, yet demure. “I would answer the questions as briefly as possible,” Smith decided, and in an “even-pitched tone.”

Vox RCV poll.jpg

In partnership with FairVote, Vox released a Ranked Choice Voting poll this week of the democratic presidential candidates that shows how this 'instant runoff' system works. Ranked Choice Voting is a partisan-neutral tool that gives more power to voters to select their top candidates along with back up choices if their favorite candidate doesn't win. Read the full report and check out FairVote's interactive site to see how the elimination of candidates impacts the remaining candidates' vote tallies:


FairVote commissioned YouGov to conduct this national poll of 1,002 likely Democratic presidential primary voters that took place from September 2 through 6. The goal of our poll was to elevate approaches to polling crowded fields that provide greater insight than the usual focus on “single choice” results. We partnered with Vox, which showcases a ranked choice voting simulation on its website, and we were assisted by a team of data analysts whose findings are featured below.

This presentation of findings includes: (1) the toplines report from YouGov; (2) crosstab analysis from University of Iowa's Kellen Gracey; (3) our initial analysis on featured insights; (4) a series of interactive web pages (see links below) that allow users to simulate ranked choice voting and head-to-head comparisons; and (5) a FairVote press release about the poll. 


There was an entertaining story in the Washington Post about the new Ms Monopoly game that pays innovative women more than men - no this isn't April Fool's Day, just another step in the path to parity and equality for women!

Rich Uncle Pennybags has willed his empire to his niece, Ms. Monopoly, in Hasbro’s latest iteration of its iconic board game, where female entrepreneurs and inventors are not only celebrated but paid more than men.

“The first game where women make more than men,” reads the bottom of the new Ms. Monopoly game, which Hasbro says will feature a new game-host character for the first time in Monopoly’s history.

Ms. Monopoly wears a blazer. She holds a coffee. She stands with her hand on her popped hip.

In her world, the experiences of women, and their broad contributions to society, form the basis of the board game.


Republican Women for Progress (RWFP) is hosting a rooftop fundraiser in Adams Morgan!

We're kicking off the fall and the road to 2020 with an evening of cocktails and commentary. Whether you come to say goodbye to summer, hello to fall or to chat about 2020 - we have a drink for you!

  • Wed, September 18, 2019
  • 6:30 - 8:30 pm
  • Adams Morgan Rooftop, Washington, DC 20009
  • Register here


Last year RepresentWomen was lucky to have a terrific fellow from Kyrgyzstan who is one of the leading experts in that country on gender equality - I suspect he had a lot to do with the announcement that the president of Kyrgyzstan has signed a bill for gender quotas for women at the local level - here is a link to the full story and a teaser:

Umutai Dauletova, UNDP Gender Coordinator, Kyrgyzstan

 “Do I have to be a man to be elected to the office?”- is the slogan of one of the posters that Ms. Avazkan Ormonova, acting local council deputy, a very strong advocate for gender quotas and UNDP mentor for women-candidates has designed together with other activists when lobbying the quota legislation for local parliament. 

Avazkan was elected as a deputy to local village council in the South of the country back in 2012, served for two election periods and know a lot about challenges being a single woman-deputy among 31 men in her council.

Speaking of women's equality, Vox responded to the World Economic Forum forecast that it will take 208 years to achieve equality for women:

Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) measures 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. In 2018, the United States ranked No. 51 out of the 149 countries measured, but that wasn’t the headline that made waves. In June 2019, the WEF released a shocking new finding: At the current rate of change, it will take the United States 208 years to close the gender gap.

It’s important to note that the WEF is not measuring women’s empowerment by country; it’s measuring gender parity, which is to say the gap between men and women. While the US has actually seen improvement in three of the four categories over the last dozen years, it has declined in one key category: health and survival. One reason is that the maternal mortality rate is worse in the United States than any other developed country. Another is that the healthy life expectancy for both women and men has declined in the last 12 years, but the decline for women is almost four times that of men, as evidenced in the 2006 and 2018 WEF reports. On the upside, parity in educational attainment has been achieved, even if it has not yet translated to the gender gap in the workforce or in political representation. In fact, the United States ranked 98th out of the 149 countries for political representation.

But having room to grow means there is hope that closing the gap could happen a lot faster than the projected 208 years. Any action can go a long way to ensure that the United States does not have to wait 208 years for gender equality; watch the video for some ideas of where to start.


Former Obama White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, pictured in 2009, called out Forbes for including just one woman on its list of top innovators. “If your methodology produced only one woman out of the 100 most innovative leaders, obviously you should have challenged it rather than publishing it,” Jarrett tweeted. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
In a decision I suspect they now regret, Forbes Magazine released their list of '100 most innovative leaders' and named just one woman - Ross Stores CEO Barbara Rentler. There has been a very lively and swift pushback that I do not have time to share here but I trust you can find it! This Washington Post story offers a sense of the response:

Forbes Magazine may be best known for its lists of the world’s wealthiest billionaires, but its recent ranking of the most innovative CEOs is the one that has been getting the most attention — and not for good reason.

Last week, Forbes published its list of 100 CEOs — or as it called them, “the most creative and successful business minds of today” — the top of which included a largely predictable catalogue of tech titans and billionaires including Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who tied for first; Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post), Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook (No. 3 and No. 8, respectively), and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (tied for No. 10).

But readers had to scroll all the way down to No. 75 to find the first — and only — woman on the list, Ross Stores CEO Barbara Rentler. A photo of her was not included.

Check out the new website When Women Vote by voting administration super star Amber McReynolds and note their nice graphic - above. Stay tuned for Amber's book When Women Vote that will be released later this fall and follow them on social media!
Speaking of books, another women's representation super star Kate Black has a new book out Represent: A Women's Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World! Congratulations Kate!
That's all I have time for this week but wishing everyone a restful weekend, and as the fabulous Sandy Boynton intones offer whatever light you can....

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