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June 03, 2013 11:40 AM Women in Politics? What a Concept!

By Seth Masket

Actual NYT quote:

The Congress of yore might conjure images of spittoons and old male politicians with briefcases, but the 113th has ushered in a historic number of women — 20 in the Senate, and 81 in the House — and with them a historic number of handbags.

Actual WaPo quote:

It may say more about Washington than White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler that she’s known in the West Wing for her fabulous shoes.

Okay, quick history lesson. See this person?

That’s Jeanette Rankin. She was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. That happened in 1916. 1916. As in Season 2 of Downton Abbey. At that time, a woman serving in Congress was a novelty, and it was appropriate to report it as such. But that was nearly a century ago. Today, women serve at all levels of government, and even if their percentages in the Congress don’t come close to their percentages in the general population, they are not a novelty anymore.

There are plenty of important stories just begging to be covered. Is the presence of handbags in the Senate cloak room really one of them?

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.