Leaders from several womens rights organizations gathered yesterday for a nationally televised press conference on the role that women’s organizations and voters played in the historic midterm election last week. Feminist Majority Foundation President and Ms. magazine Publisher Eleanor Smeal joined representatives from the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the YWCA, the National Organization for Women, and the National Congress of Black Women to “salute and celebrate” the extraordinary success of women in the 2006 elections. YWCA CEO Dr. Lorraine Cole captured the message of the event, announcing, “When women vote, women win and more importantly, our country wins.”
Smeal, who was the first to identify the “gender gap” in how women and men vote, spoke of the importance of the women’s vote this year. In several close races, including the Senate races in Missouri, Montana, and Virginia, women’s votes decided the election. According to Smeal, “If only men had voted, Republicans would still be the majority in the Senate.” Sharing the preliminary results of an election eve poll conducted by Ms. magazine and the Women’s Donor Network, Smeal also revealed that women’s votes were integral in deciding ballot measures that affect women. According to Smeal, “women felt more intensely on some key issues,” including the Iraq war. When surveyed, 54 percent of women and 43 percent of men said that the Iraq war was “very important” to them.
Other speakers noted the importance of the Hispanic and African-American women’s votes, the strong presence of progressives in Congress, the efforts of women’s organizations across the country to get out women’s votes, and items feminists want to see on the 110th Congress’ agenda. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, offered her perspective on the legislative agenda, saying that she is hoping for more legislation on the work/family balance, reproductive health issues including stem cell research and emergency contraception, and the inclusion of gender in hate crime laws.