Political Bonanza

Albany, NY – We begin with a story. The first woman to run for president didn't even try to appeal to the broad swath of voters that Hillary Clinton courts. Victoria Woodhull ran against Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Her unconventional platform is subject of this short biography, which appears in the book Wild Women by Autumn Stevens. 51% contributor Selma Kaplan reads this summary of Woodhull's story.

Since Woodhull's time, women have obtained the right to vote - and they've gotten a little more savvy about their images. They can get help from groups like The White House Project, a non-profit organization with the mission to elect a female president. But much of the group's work is at the grass roots, encouraging women to run for any office. Faith Winter works in The White House Project's Colorado office, running training programs that prepare women to serve in public office.

Republican Jane Swift became the first female governor of Massachusetts in 2001, when the elected governor stepped down to become an ambassador to Mexico. She then became the first governor in the country to give birth while in office. Since leaving office in 2003, Swift has started her own consulting firm in Williamstown, Massachusetts, focusing on education issues. I spoke to Swift about her governorship and her perspective on the future of women in politics.

Laura Flanders has never served in office. But she has devoted her career to analyzing those who do...especially on the left side of the aisle. Flanders is host of RadioNation, a weekend morning talk show on the left-wing Air America. She has also just released a book called Blue Grit, where she traveled the country to connect with the liberal base. In her book, Flanders encourages Democrat politicians of both genders to pay more attention to their base of liberal supporters. At the same time, she says women face unique challenges when running for office.

Women have led countries all over the world - China, the UK and Chile, to name a few. In her travels, 51% commentator Helen Desfosses has noticed that the United States' all-male presidential roster has international observers scratching their heads.