American women first voted in 1920. Yet in the almost 100 years since then, no female has been elected president of the United States. “Why is that?” asked Lynn Hawley, Delta College history instructor, at the March American Association of University Women meeting.
According to Hawley, while women campaigned for the vote, they never had an agenda beyond being able to vote in 1920. When women voted, they voted similarly to men. Women voted in the same percentages as men, as both Republicans and Democrats. Women never fielded large numbers of candidates with lobby groups in support of them or for their issues.
In addition, there are major barriers to women as political candidates. Discrimination against women in many institutions prevented them from getting into the political stream. For example, most U.S. Presidents graduated from Harvard or Yale. However, Harvard did not admit women until 1973, while Yale first admitted women in 1969. Americans elect men who have leadership experience, particularly in the military, in their resumes. However, women have been prevented from attaining high military rank by being prohibited from serving in combat.
Finally, Americans elect men who exhibit sensitivity. Thus, Americans favor fathers with attractive families. But the double standard treats men and women who run for office differently. No one asks men who is minding their children while they are on the campaign trail. However, women who have run for office as recently as 2008 have been hounded with questions about whether they can be good mothers and still be successful in a high-powered job.
Hawley concluded her talk by saying that she looks forward to the day, which she hopes is soon, when there will be a woman president of the U.S.
AAUW will host the next meeting on April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the United Congregational Church. Pat Stump will speak about the Master Gardener Program. Everyone is invited. Contact Margie Paulsen at 209-334-4443 regarding the program and Sharon Ceresa at 209-481-3007 regarding membership.