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Women in the Club: Gender and Policy Making in the Senate, Michele L. Swers

Reviewed by Rosalyn Cooperman



The U.S. Senate’s status as a gentlemen’s club that kept women out of its membership ranks was laid bare in 1992 when thenā€candidate Democrat Dianne Feinstein remarked that “two percent may be good enough for milk but it’s not good enough for the Senate.” Since that time, women have steadily increased their numbers therein, making it possible to consider the nature, scope, and significance of their activity as senators. Given its membership size and institutional rules and norms of operation, the Senate serves as an ideal institution for monitoring women’s activity. In keeping with her previous work on gender and legislative activity in the House, Michele Swers concludes that gender serves as a defining characteristic ordering women senators’ policy priorities. Voters see women as experts on women’s and social welfare issues, and women senators are employed by both parties to burnish those credentials as it suits their respective party’s needs. The challenge, however, is that the incentives to act on those priorities are not equally enjoyed by Democratic and Republican women. Democratic women senators are often called on to play the role of offense in advancing the Democratic Party’s status as “fighters” for women and families, as highlig

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