Women in Politics

A Prediction

At the turn of the 20th century, women had been fighting for the right to vote for over 50 years. Suffragists had lost tough campaigns across the country, and only four western states had allowed its women access to full voting rights.

But up-and-coming suffrage organizer Carrie Chapman Catt remained optimistic. She was about to succeed Susan B. Anthony as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and represented a new generation of suffragists.

The week before the annual NAWSA convention, Catt was quoted in a New York newspaper about her thoughts on a woman president.

She said, “It is my hope and firm belief that before the close of the twentieth century a woman will have been elected President of the United States…We woman suffragists are working steadily and earnestly for a gradual change in the state and national laws which will put woman in her rightful position in the world, both political and social.”

Fast forward 120 years and a woman still hasn’t been elected to the office of the president.

At the turn of the 20th century, Carrie Chapman Catt predicted we would see a women elected president by the end of the 20th century. 

The 1920 Election

After a 72-year battle, women finally won the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th amendment. The amendment was signed by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby in late August, leaving just 10 weeks until the presidential election between Warren Harding and James Cox.

Suffragists assumed women would flock to the polls in large numbers, eager to use their new political power.

However, when the ballots were counted, it was estimated that only one-third of the eligible female electorate voted.

Reporters went to Catt looking for an explanation. She insisted that the low turnout was due to difficulties with registration.

Also contributing to the less-than-ideal turnout was the Jim Crow laws that were in place in the deep south, prohibiting African Americans and many poor white people from voting. The tactics of using poll taxes, property and literacy tests, grandfather clauses and illegal intimidation were eventually outlawed in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

But deep down, Catt also knew that political socialization was in play. Many men still opposed women having the right to vote and women weren’t immediately educated on the process of voting.

What happened in the first election that women nationwide were able to vote in? Why didn’t more women turn out to vote?

Women Voters Today

It took several decades for women to catch up to their male counterparts in terms of voter turnout.

Yet in every presidential election since 1964, the number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters. Similarly, beginning in 1980, the proportion of eligible female voters who cast a ballot has exceeded the proportion of eligible male voters who did so.

Women and men tend to differ in the political issues and parties they align most with. These differences are often referred to as gender gaps.

In terms of party affiliation, larger proportions of women align themselves with the Democratic party than the Republican party. Similarly, more women are members of the Democratic party than men.

In every presidential election since 1964, the number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters.

As a whole, women are more likely to support social spending on issues such as education, health care and child care.

Examine the gender gap in political party alignment between men and women.

Women Voters Today

While women may make up the majority of the voting electorate, they have yet to see the same results in holding political office.

Women face several barriers to running for office, including wrestling with media coverage and raising money.

Yet research shows that women are just as likely, if not more likely than similarly situated men to win. So for example, if a man and a woman are running for an open seat, both for the first time, they are equally as likely to come out on top.

Women face several barriers to running for office, including sterotypes, raising money and media coverage.

Women still face many gender sterotypes in America today.

When women run for office they are as likely to win as similarly situated men.

Women in Political Office

It’s been well over 100 years since Carrie Chapman Catt predicted that a woman would be president by the end of the 20th century. Women still have yet to shatter the highest glass ceiling — that being the office of the presidency — but have made progress in other areas in the political sphere.

In many respects, the percentage of women in public office today is at an all-time high. Women hold a third of the seats on the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 27 have women mayors.

In statewide elective executive office positions, such as those of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state, women currently make up a little under 30 percent of total positions.

As of 2020, there are nine women governors, 15 women lieutenant governors, eight attorneys general and 11 secretaries of state.

In state legislatures, women hold 29 percent of all positions nationwide.

As of 2020, 26 women hold seats in the U.S. Senate and 101 women hold seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing the proportion to about 24 percent of the combined houses.

Women having a seat at the table is important. Here's why.