Women on the Hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress

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In 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to accuse Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The outrage among feminists that greeted Thomas's subsequent confirmation as a Supreme Court justice swept women into high political office in unprecedented numbers. Women on the Hill addresses the politics of gender in the aftermath of Anita Hill's allegations. Of equal importance, it presents four of the women on the front lines of the gender battles: Cynthia McKinney (Rep.-Georgia), Louise ...
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Overview

In 1991, Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to accuse Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The outrage among feminists that greeted Thomas's subsequent confirmation as a Supreme Court justice swept women into high political office in unprecedented numbers. Women on the Hill addresses the politics of gender in the aftermath of Anita Hill's allegations. Of equal importance, it presents four of the women on the front lines of the gender battles: Cynthia McKinney (Rep.-Georgia), Louise Slaughter (Rep.-New York), Patty Murray (Sen.-Washington), and Pat Schroeder (Rep.-Colorado). In Women on the Hill, Clara Bingham, a former Newsweek reporter, tells the story of what happened as all four women sought to change nothing less than the culture of Congress and the agenda of a nation. She observes that this generation of congresswomen views itself as a group of settlers rather than pioneers, free to reframe the public debate. As a result, the congresswomen have experimented with political styles - meeting with varying degrees of success - and Bingham chronicles the political showdowns, gains, and reverses that these women have encountered.

Set against the backdrop of an extraordinarily volatile electorate (which would propel the Gingrich Republican radicals into power by the 1994 midterm elections) Women on the Hill chronicles two years that began in optimism and idealism, but ended in a disconcerting mix of disappoinment and compromise. Bingham transcends partisan politics by focusing on the ways in which politics of gender affect us all. 208 pp. Author tour. Targeted print ads. Online promo. 15,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1992, the 103rd Congress had 24 newly elected female representatives in the House and five female freshmen senators, which gave it a unique opportunity to pass legislation on women's issues. In this interesting and competently written study of four Democratic congresswomen of the 103rd, Bingham, a former White House correspondent for Newsweek, goes behind the scenes of our political system. Drawing on personal interviews and archival material, the author details how veteran representative Pat Schroeder (Colo.), first-time senator Patty Murray (Wash.), third-term representative Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) and first-term African American representative Cynthia McKinney (Ga.) struggled against an entrenched male leadership. Although they lost the battle for health-care reform, Bingham describes how hard-won legislative victories on family leave, sexual harassment and abortion were achieved by bringing a bipartisan women's support network to committee rooms and floor fights. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Bingham, formerly a political writer for Newsweek, has written an engaging analysis of the impact of women members on the 103rd Congress, elected inNovember 1992 ("The Year of the Woman"). Bingham focuses on four Democratic members: Patricia Schroeder (Colorado), elected initially in 1972; Louise Slaughter (New York), also a veteran member, elected for the first time in 1986; and Cynthia McKinney (Georgia), and Patty Murray (Washington State), both newly chosen in 1992. Bingham offers some background on their motivation for running and elaborates on key issues (for example, family leave) to illustrate their work styles. The reportage benefits from Bingham's access to the papers of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues. Her assessment is positive: 66 bills passed benefiting women. But Bingham also observes flaws and tensions. Schroeder comes in for particular criticism: Bingham finds her a loner, rigid, and impolitic. This volume should prove interesting to students of politics as well as to a wider general audience.-Cynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
A workmanlike account of the 103rd Congress, elected in 1992, the Year of the Woman, focusing on four Democratic women: newcomers Senator Patty Murray and Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Louise Slaughter, as well as veteran representative Pat Schroeder.

Through these four women, former Newsweek White House correspondent Bingham offers a recap of congressional activities in the pivotal years of 1992 to 1994, especially those of freshwomen brought to power after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. Although optimism was high at the beginning of the 103rd session, these women faced enormous obstacles in the long-held prejudices of the white-male-dominated power hierarchy. They were ignored, denigrated, and ogled. They were successful in some of their more important initiatives, such as passing the Family and Medical Leave Act, but not in others. Ultimately, the most significant contribution the 103rd Congress made to the political life of this country was in paving the way for a more equitable distribution of power between the sexes. Bingham offers a little background to the limited role of women in Congress over most of the past 100 years. However, many of the more recent events she relates are still fresh in the reader's mind, and she doesn't always add to what newspaper and magazine accounts have already reported. More serious is the fact that at least some of her interviews were confidential. With no attributions, it is difficult to judge, for example, her account of Murray's breast being groped in an elevator by nonagenarian fellow senator Strom Thurmond or her portrayal of Schroeder jealously guarding her hard-won power against the newcomers.

An interesting, occasionally gossipy look behind Congress's closed doors, but hardly authoritative.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812963519
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/24/1996
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Year of the Woman 28
2 The McKinneys 48
3 The Women's Caucus Convenes 69
4 Initiation 95
5 Family and Medical Leave 106
6 Parliamentarians 125
7 The Squeaky Wheel 143
8 Harassment 163
9 Health Care 203
10 Winner's Guilt 225
Afterword 252
Notes on Sources 259
Acknowledgments 267
Index 271
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