Radical Woman of the Day: Lindy Boggs

On this day in 1916 was born Lindy Boggs, first woman elected to the United States Congress by the state of Louisiana. When a plane carrying her husband, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, disappeared over Alaska in 1972, she ran for his seat in a special election and won.

Boggs won re-election for a full term in 1974 and was re-elected another seven times, serving from 1973 to 1991. In her most closely-contested race, against Rob Couhig in 1980, she won 63.8%–36.2%; in all other contested races she garnered over 80% of the vote. A white member of Sigma Gamma Rho, a traditionally African-American sorority, she ran unopposed in her last four races, which took place after her district lines had been redrawn to give it an African-American majority.

Boggs served as the permanent chairwoman of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, making her the first woman to chair a major party convention. In 1994, she was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, and in 1997 President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.


This past Friday was International Women’s Day, and this interactive chart will show you when each country in the world granted women the right to vote and to run for office, and when it elected its first woman. Just click a category and drag the slider back and forth; it’s really fun. Also, clicking an individual country on the map will show you more specific information.

Via Feministing.

Radical Woman of the Day: Michelle Bachelet

On this day in 2006 Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria took office as the first female President of Chile. Forced to flee the country when a military coup overthrew the democratic government in 1973, Bachelet had to continue her studies as a medical student in Germany, although she returned to Chile in 1979 and graduated with her M.D. in 1983. Working in non-governmental medical organizations for the remainder of the 80s, she took a position in the Ministry of Health after democracy was restored in 1990.

In the mid–90s Bachelet began to study military strategy, eventually earning a Master’s degree in the subject from the Chilean Army’s War Academy in 1998. In 2000, then-President Ricardo Lagos appointed her Minister of Health. During her tenure in that position she was able to reduce waiting lists at public hospitals by 90% and gave away the morning-after pill to victims of sexual abuse. In 2002 Lagos appointed her Defense Minister, making her the first female minister of defense in a Latin American country. She was subsequently nominated by the Concert of Parties for Democracy to run for president in the 2006 elections. She won in a runoff election with 53.5% of the vote, having taken 46% in the general election.

During Bachelet’s term as President she focused on several social issues, reforming Chile’s pension system, introducing legislation mandating gender pay equality, distributing books to 400,000 poor families with 1st–4th-grade children, and passing a law allowing emergency contraception to be distributed to children under 14 without parental consent. She also passed an education reform bill and created the National Institute for Human Rights.

Following her single term as President—the Chilean Constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms—Bachelet was appointed head of the newly-created UN Women, taking office in September 2010. A May 2012 poll indicates that 51% of Chileans would like her to return to the presidency.

Radical Woman of the Day: Helen Zille

On this day in 1951 was born Helen Zille, former journalist and anti-apartheid activist, former Mayor of Cape Town, and current Premier of the Western Cape. Born in Johannesburg and educated at the University of the Witwatersrand, Zille began working as a journalist for the anti-apartheid paper the Rand Daily Mail in 1974.

In 1977 Zille broke a monumental story when she obtained evidence that activist Steve Biko had died in prison from a head injury, not—as Minister of Justice and the Police J.T. Kruger claimed—as a result of a hunger strike. Despite the evidence being later corroborated by Biko’s inquest, Zille and her editor Allister Sparks were found guilty of “tendentious reporting” by the Press Council, and the paper was forced to issue a “correction”. Zille and Sparks later resigned from the Rand Daily Mail when its owner tried to force them to dilute the paper’s equal-rights platform.

Throughout the 1980s Zille participated actively in the anti-apartheid movement, at one point being forced into hiding along with her two-year-old son. In 1993, after the apartheid policy had officially ended, she accepted the position of Director of Development and Public Affairs at the University of Cape Town, and a few years later she got involved with the Democratic Party when they asked her to draft a policy for Education in the Western Cape. In 2004 she won election to Parliament with the Democratic Alliance and in 2006 was elected Mayor of Cape Town in 2006. In 2007 she succeeded Tony Leon as leader of the Democratic Alliance, and she currently leads the party while serving as Premier of the Western Cape, a seat she won in 2009.

Congress Passes Violence Against Women Act

Includes the provisions covering LGBT women and immigrants and expanding the jurisdictions of Native American tribal courts to crimes committed by non-Indians. Not a moment too soon.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Some Republicans Come Out in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

More than 100 prominent Republicans signed an amicus brief last week, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. Almost 300 businesses signed a similar brief asking the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman.

The national GOP platform, adopted in August at the Republican National Convention, called for a constitutional amendment echoing the one man, one woman standard. When President Barack Obama instructed his Justice Department not to defend DOMA in court, House Republican leaders authorized spending taxpayer money to do so.

But as the high court prepares to hear arguments in back-to-back cases challenging DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, some big Republican names are asking the court to recognize that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed.

I suspect this just indicates that a few of the more foresighted members of the GOP have realized they need to get ahead of the game or face inevitable defeat, but I’ll take equality however I can get it.

The 300 businesses, on the other hand, may just be seeking good buzz, but I’m inclined to be optimistic and think that they really do want marriage equality. Let’s hope it becomes a trend.

Radical Woman of the Day: Jeannette Rankin

On this day in 1917 Jeanette Pickering Rankin was sworn in as the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing Montana. Already a suffragist who had participated in successful campaigns to bring women the vote in Washington and Montana, she took office in Congress at a time when many women in the United States were still disenfranchised.

One of Rankin’s first major acts in Congress was voting against the United States’ participation in World War I. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of only 50 representatives who voted against the war resolution, saying, “I felt the first time the first woman had a chance to say no to war she should say it.” During her later second term in office, Rankin also voted against the country’s entrance into World War II, and in this case she stood alone amongst the entire Congress and had to call congressional police for an escort when an angry mob followed her home after the vote.

Rankin held a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Montana and briefly attended the New York School of Philanthropy. She left her property in Georgia to be used for helping “mature, unemployed women workers”, and her surviving friends used the money from her estate to found the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, which has given away over $1.8 million in scholarships for women’s education. A statue of her stands in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

Hillary Clinton Is Running for President, OK?

It is time to stop pretending to be surprised at reports that Clinton is running for president. “Hillary will be our next president and she will be a great one,” [campaign donor Angelo] Tsakopoulos said last weekend at a private California banquet, the Greek Reporter says. "I talked to her husband, and he confirmed it. She will run.” He even had campaign staffing specifics, saying his daughter, Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, will be a Clinton aide during the campaign.

As additional persuasion, see this timeline of Barack Obama’s dance toward campaigning.

I’m going to go on record now and say that if Clinton runs, we’ll have to invent a new word for “landslide”.

Violence Against Women Act Reintroduced

The 112th Congress let it fall through the cracks, but Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are reintroducing not only the bill but the provisions intended to include Native American and LGBT women. Leahy’s statement on Tuesday pulls no punches:

"The fate of the Violence Against Women Act still lays squarely on the shoulders of Eric Cantor and John Boehner. To date they have refused to listen to countless law enforcement and women’s groups as well as moderate voices in their own party in the House and Senate who’ve said we need to pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill that extends protections to millions of new women.

"In a new Congress, on a newly reintroduced bill, the House Republican leadership faces the same choice. They can either kowtow [to] those on the far right of their caucus who would turn battered women away from care, or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe that who a person loves, where they live, or their immigration status shouldn’t determine whether they are protected from violence.

Too right.

House GOP Lets Violence Against Women Act Die Without A Vote

So when I said this:

But The Violence Against Women Act of 2012 passed the House earlier this year, and while partisanship and social conservatism have held up reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the bill, it is still expected to eventually pass and be signed into law.

That was obviously far from true. Hollow victory for anyone wishing to score claim chowder points against me, though.

The GOP’s reason for letting the bill die:

In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven.

What three groups were those, you ask? LGBT, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. I don’t even understand the inclusion of Native Americans, and although I know why Republicans voted against additional protection for undocumented immigrants and LGBT women, I can’t at all sympathize. Even believing that someone is destroying our economy or committing an abomination against The Lord doesn’t justify tolerating violence against them.