Monday, March 28, 2011

Was Ferraro a trailblazer or a novelty ?

As Michael Crowley pointed out in his reflection on the death of Geraldine Ferraro over the weekend, the first woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket inspired countless women of all political persuasions. As an 11-year-old candidate for student council president of my elementary school, I proudly wore a "Mondale-Ferraro" button along with my own campaign swag throughout the fall of 1984. It didn't do much for my chances in our Republican suburb, but every time I looked at that button, I swelled at the idea of a woman just a step away from the presidency

After reading this weekend that Ferraro appeared on four TIME covers in 1984 alone, I wondered whether that attention led to greater visibility for U.S. women in politics, as reflected by attention on the cover of this magazine. I looked through all of the covers from 1985 to the present, and what I found sadly didn't surprise me much.

In the twenty years following Ferraro's 1984 run, U.S. female politicians appeared on the cover of TIME a grand total of four times. That's right--while Ferraro was featured four times in one year, it took two decades for TIME to place the same number of American female politicians on the cover. And that's even using a broad definition of "politician." The four cover women? Three cabinet secretaries--Janet Reno, Madeline Albright, and Condoleezza Rice--and U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Clinton. Not even the much-proclaimed 1992 as "The Year of the Woman," when five women were elected to the U.S. Senate, earned a cover.....

There's still a long way to go.

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