Who’s The Boss? In New Hampshire, It’s Women
3:30 pm, January 7th | by Colette McIntyre
If Texas defunding Planned Parenthood, California granting a rapist a retrial due to the marital status of his victim, and the horrifying events in Steubenville have got you down, just remember this: a record number of women were elected to the 113th Congress — eighty-one women in the House and twenty women in the Senate — including the first openly bisexual woman in the House.
If you’re having a particularly anti-feminist, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, try this on for size: not only does New Hampshire have the the nation’s only female Democratic governor, it also is the first state to have elected an all-female delegation. Five women — Democratic governor Maggie Hassan, Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen, Republican senator Kelly Ayotte, and congressional representatives Ann McLane-Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter — will be running the state of New Hampshire. How cool is that?
Buzzfeed’s Hillary Reinsberg (and our esteemed former colleague at The Jane Dough) has written a fascinating analysis of New Hampshire’s long history of putting women in positions of political power, explaining why this state in particular was primed for achieving this kind of gender parity. Reinsberg finds that the key to female political success in the state is the unpaid, “volunteer” nature of the legislature. New Hampshire’s state senators and state legislators are poorly compensated. What difference does this make? Reinsberg explains:
In a state with an abnormally large, unpaid legislature, the ground-level civic engagement that has always been the province of stay-at-home-moms — school boards, letter-writing campaigns — becomes the work of low-rent state legislators. These positions carry less of the fanfare or pay that come with legislatures in almost any other state. But they do something else: They offer a path past a glass ceiling that, in other states, can block women with similar career paths from running for Congress from their perches on, say, school boards or community groups.
Since the legislature isn’t seen as a viable career on its own, the pay being too paltry to support a family, there is, as Governor Hassan says, “a little more space for women.” Women who wouldn’t normally be attracted to the legislature — retirees, women with grown children, women with established careers outside of politics — have the opportunity to pursue careers in office. Another important factor: New Hampshire’s “abnormally huge number” of Congressional seats per capita.
The rest of the story is fascinating, profiling Governor Hassan’s unique journey to a career in politics. It’s just the sort of promising political news we’re looking for on a Monday.