The Beltway Beauties featured in this 1960 election season fashion spread would likely please many of today’s retro Republicans who might be happier returning to a time when women in Washington knew their place – contained safely on the pages of a fashion spread.
Pink may not rule the runways but it is this season’s new color as far as politics go. A pink wave is hitting DC as a record number of women are running to fill the House and Senate.
With Republican men desperately clinging to their familiar “Century of the Man,” the “Year of the Woman” is nipping at their heels. But it is a steep uphill battle.
There is no old boy’s club that is older or clubbier than the U.S. Senate who are not happy accepting new applicants.
For years the Senate seemed like an institution frozen in time, remaining more Mad Men than Girl.s
After the recent bitter hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh showed sexism and misogynny is still front and center in politics one suspects those Senators would be more comfortable returning to those Mad Men years when women running up the steps of the Capitol were more likely to be part of a fashion shoot and not actually running for office.
I Dreamed I Stood on the Capitol Steps in My Pill Box Hat
With a presidential race heating up in the fall of 1960, fashion took a political turn in the Septemberissue of Ladies Home Journal.
In the unladylike, rough and tumble school of politics, women were better suited to be feminine and fashionable, featured as props against out Nation’s Capitol. Women were welcomed to be involved politically just in the service of someone else.
In her dashing tweed cape coat swinging cloak and dagger style, our Beltway “Gal Friday” Francie was fabulously fashion forward for the New Frontier.
Volunteering her time for that dreamy Democrat presidential hopeful, this “Kennedy Girl” was always smartly turned out in a perky pillbox hat or silhouette making dress.
Joining her on the Capital steps in her filibuster-stopping figurine suit with the feminine lines, was Missy who dutifully rang doorbells for Vice President No-Nonsense Nixon wearing her respectable Republican cloth coat.
Women In Politics
The fact is the Kennedy-Nixon race wasn’t the only one folks were talking about that election year.
There was one race that caught the public attention as much as the presidential run.
The press corp was going gaga over the high-profile senatorial race in Maine. What set tongues a wagging was that quite improbably both parties had nominated women, marking the first time two women had ever vied for the same Senate seat.
Making headlines, Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith, the tart-tongued Republican incumbent was challenged by Lucia Cormier, a congenial Democrat state Legislator, described as a “stocky even tempered, spinster.”
When Smith first jumped into the 1948 contest for senator her sex was an issue. The wife of one of her opponents in the Republican primary asked, “Why take a woman to Washington when you can get a man?”
Smith responded that the place for women is everywhere.
Although in 1960 Time explained that across the land “more bonnets” than ever before were being thrown in the political ring, the stats show 3 women running for Senate and 26 for Congress.
Americans would elect 27 governors, 34 senators and 437 Congressman Americans nearly all of them men. “Compared with other democracies, Time pointed out exactly 58 years ago,” the U.S. was been slow to use the abilities of the majority of its citizens- female.”
In 1960 women formed the largest single element in American electorate. “Next Nov 8, ” Time magazine said “will very likely go down in history as “Ladies Day” with women voters outnumbering men for the first time in any peaceful presidential election.”
But the “feminine” contest building up in Maine where 2 women were matched against one another for the first time was irresistible to the press for its novelty.
In the old boy’s club atmosphere that was Washington, the press at times appeared to be covering a cat fight between these 2 “Brains from Maine”
The venerable N.Y. Times was typical in its condescending slant. “So far,” it reported,” there has been no political hair pulling.”
Reporters regularly focused on clothing , hair dos and even choice of hats.
When it came right down to it, like our two young career girls, both gals knew keeping fashion forward was important in any race up the Capitol Steps.
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