Women Making A Difference

There is not a lot of politics on GovLoop for a reason. But I think its important to take a moment and recognize a group of women in government that have made a difference – specifically women political leaders.

The Alice Awards, named after suffragist Alice Paul – a key figure in the 19th Amendment fight that gave women the right to vote, honored Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine). You can read more about the awards here.

Dianne Feinstein was the first woman mayor of San Francisco. She had been President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and succeeded Mayor George Moscone in 1978 when he and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White. In 1990, Feinstein became the first woman to win a major party nomination for Governor of California (no woman has ever been elected Governor of California). She lost that election to the-US Senator Pete Wilson. Ironically, Feinstein’s rise to prominence came off the heels of that election.

Pete Wilson vacated his US Senate seat when he was inaugurated as Governor. He appointed a successor and a special election was held in November 1992 for the remainder of the term. Feinstein won the Democratic nomination for the special election and defeated Interim US Senator John Seymour (Wilson’s appointee) in the general. Feinstein became the first woman to represent California in the US Senate (having been sworn in 11/10/1992, and when Barbara Boxer was sworn in the following January – it became the first time in history that a state was served by two women simultaneously in the US Senate.

Feinstein has since become the first woman to chair the US Senate Rules and Administration Committee as well as the US Senate Intelligence Committee. She is well known for her adamant support of gun control, commenting to her colleague Larry Craig in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban debate that she “…has seen the effects of gun violence first hand” recounting her experience of the Moscone/Milk assassinations, where she was the first to arrive on the scene after the shots were fired.

Olympia J. Snowe was first elected to the Maine State Legislature upon the death of her husband, Peter Snowe. After serving out his term, she was re-elected to a full term in 1974. In 1976 she was elected to the Maine Senate, and in 1978 she was elected to the US House, becoming the second woman to serve Maine in the US Congress (the first having been Margaret Chase Smith). After serving 8 terms in the US House, Snowe was elected to the United States Senate in 1994.

Olympia Snowe is famous for her independent voting record. She was a member of the Gang of 14, who wished to take partisan politicking out of the US Senate’s confirmation process. Snowe has previously co-chaired the Bi-Partisan Congressional Women’s Caucus, after Republican co-founder Margaret Heckler R-Massachusetts was defeated for re-election in 1982.

Snowe became the first woman to chair the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in 2003, becoming Ranking Member in 2007 when Democrats regained control of the US Senate. In 2009 when Mary Landrieu D-Louisiana took over the chairmanship from John Kerry, making the US Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship the first to have a woman serve as chair and a woman serve as ranking member simultaneously.

Snowe and Feinstein are both up for re-election. They have served with distinction and have shattered a lot of glass ceilings in their careers. I hope there will be many more like them in the future.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply