In the summer of 2008, Nancy Pelosi wrote a book, "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters." In it, the San Francisco congresswoman implored the country's young women to thank her for breaking the so-called "marble ceiling" in Congress and becoming the first woman speaker of the House.
"The President, always gracious, welcomed me as a new member of the leadership," she wrote about her inaugural meeting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as speaker. As he began the discussion, I suddenly felt crowded in my chair. It was truly an astonishing experience, as if Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and all the other suffragettes and activists who had worked hard to advance women in government and in life were right there with me. I was enthralled by their presence, and then I could clearly hear them say: 'At last we have a seat at the table.'
"After a moment," she wrote, "they were gone."
From this point of view, women activists of yore must be horribly disappointed about the recent midterm elections, and what they will mean for Pelosi's career.. As for myself, I'm delighted that we are now approaching the historic moment of having a female former speaker of the House. You win some, you lose some; We've seen that idea playing out in these midterm elections. And with the loss of the first woman speaker, we gain a presumptive speaker in Rep. John Boehner, who is willing to defend the most defenseless among us -- the unborn. Bring him on.
And yet, in the wake of the election -- which, frankly, had funereal aspects for all of us -- it wasn't a total win for either party -- there were headlines like: "Americans slam women in midterm election." That one's from an article in an online magazine for women executives. Reacting to the Democrats' relegation to minority status in the House, the article struggled with the loss of Speaker Pelosi: "how will women survive in this man's world come 2012?"
Quite fine, thank you. This last election cycle has engaged many Americans, including women, in citizen-activist roles -- working for women and men in Congress who understand that Washington has been guilty of some comprehensive fiscal, moral and Constitutional malpractice of late. We've got hope for change that will put us all in a much better position -- perhaps, before long, with some change to spare, for once. We want good policy from Washington, and we know that men are quite capable of it, too.
The "slam" headline and opening of that silly chick-zine article weren't too off from my prediction for a New York Times headline if incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, an ardent legal-abortion activist, lost her tight reelection bid to pro-life businesswoman Carly Fiorina: "Republican Women Win, Women Hurt the Most."