“The times, they are a-changing.” [Bob Dylan]
Tammy Baldwin was the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives from Wisconsin. She later became the first woman elected to the US Senate from Wisconsin. For these achievements alone, she enters the annals of First Women To. . .but she also holds a distinction that reflects changes in American culture. Tammy Baldwin was the first openly gay person elected to Congress. There are other gay representatives and senators in our nation’s capitol, some even openly so, but none had come out until after being elected to Congress.
Tammy Baldwin was quoted in Time magazine as saying, “I didn’t run to make history,” but her success is our history. She has never hidden her sexuality and yet held public office at all levels. In 1986 she was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors and served in that position for eight years. She also filled a vacancy on the Madison City Council for one year.
She was elected to represent Wisconsin’s Second Congressional District, a liberal section of Madison, in 1999 and won seven terms. By the time she ran for the Senate, she won in spite of the fact that the rest of the state is less liberal than her own district. She ran against Tommy Thompson, a four-time former Governor of the state, and Secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush. She ran as a progressive, concerned about economic issues such as unemployment, protecting American goods and supporting technology. As a sign of the changing times, the issue of Baldwin’s sexuality was a nonissue, in a state that had approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions only six years earlier.
Baldwin may be one of the most liberal members of Congress. She voted against the invasion of Iraq, and authored the amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare) that permitted young people to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26. She is a proponent of universal health care and urges stronger enforcement of laws against sexual violence and all violence against women.
Now that this “rainbow ceiling” has been broken, perhaps we can focus on why women make up only 17percent of the Senate and House. A recent Institute for Women’s Policy Research study showed that at the current rate, it would take more than a century for women to reach parity in Congress.
See her Wisconsin Senator page: http://www.baldwin.senate.gov
Check out her committee assignments and the bills she has sponsored: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/tammy_baldwin/400013
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
What concrete actions can we take to change the Women’s Policy Research projection that it will take a century for women to reach parity in Congress?