In this difficult year, we celebrate the hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. Paying homage to the suffragists’ victory securing the right for women to vote, this volume pushes forward the conversation they started, exploring why women’s representation in public office here has lagged so far behind other democracies.
Guest editors Jennifer M. Piscopo and Shauna L. Shames describe how suffrage movements around the world—from Europe to the relatively new democracies of Latin America—often focused not only on women’s right to vote, but also the right to stand for office.
When these movements succeeded, they embraced the right to be elected as a positive right, enabling nationwide efforts to encourage and actively recruit female candidates, often with quota systems for elected officials or party slates.
In the United States, why hasn’t a woman’s right to be elected been seen as coequal with her right to vote? And what if we took up the challenge of putting them on the same footing? Responding to Piscopo’s forum essay, scholars and advocates of women’s political participation consider U.S. culture, the political landscape, the interplay of race and gender, and different electoral strategies for women candidates. But they agree that democracy without women is not democracy.
Other essays in this volume explore a wide range of topics—whether women govern differently, the importance of Shirley Chisholm as a political figure, and the history of the ill-fated ERA. The Right to Be Elected is not a history of women in politics, nor a primer on strategies to encourage more women to run for (and succeed in) political office. At its core, it simply asks what does gender equity in a democracy look like.