This week we’re looking at the many barriers still facing women in politics, business, and academia. For one of our segments, we talk to Ellen Fitzpatrick, whose new book The Highest Glass Ceiling details three women’s quest for the American presidency. Along the way, she exposes the prejudices that have persisted from 1872, when Victoria Woodhull first took a shot at that highest office, to today. Here’s an excerpt from her book:
In mid-November of 1963, a week before he left for his fateful campaign trip to Dallas, Texas, John F. Kennedy held the last press conference of his Presidency, where he fielded a question about the upcoming 1964 Presidential race. “Would you comment on the possible candidacy of Margaret Chase Smith, and specifically what effect that would have on the New Hampshire primary?” a reporter asked. The question alone provoked merriment among the largely male press corps. The prospect of a female Presidential contender clearly seemed preposterous to many. But Kennedy… parried the question gracefully: “I would think if I were a Republican candidate, I would not look forward to campaigning against Margaret Chase Smith in New Hampshire, or as a possible candidate for President.” The gathered reporters laughed heartily. “I think she is very formidable, if that is the appropriate word to use about a very fine lady,” Kennedy continued. “She is a very formidable political figure.”
For the full chapter, check out Dr. Fitzpatrick’s write-up in the New Yorker.
And if hearing about the obstacles still faced by “fine, formidable” ladies leaves you needing a bit of inspiration, why not watch an episode of the Maker’s Minute. It’s a longstanding project to collect the voices of trailblazing women in lightning-round, question-and-answer format — a feminist pick-me-up in the middle of your workday.
Don’t believe us? Just watch this hilarious 60 seconds from writer, broadcaster, and formidable lady Sandi Toksvig: