WOMEN ON THE HILL by Clara Bingham


Challenging the Culture of Congress
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 A workmanlike account of the 103rd Congress, elected in 1992, the Year of the Woman, focusing on four Democratic women: newcomers Senator Patty Murray and Representatives Cynthia McKinney and Louise Slaughter, as well as veteran representative Pat Schroeder. Through these four women, former Newsweek White House correspondent Bingham offers a recap of congressional activities in the pivotal years of 1992 to 1994, especially those of freshwomen brought to power after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. Although optimism was high at the beginning of the 103rd session, these women faced enormous obstacles in the long-held prejudices of the white-male-dominated power hierarchy. They were ignored, denigrated, and ogled. They were successful in some of their more important initiatives, such as passing the Family and Medical Leave Act, but not in others. Ultimately, the most significant contribution the 103rd Congress made to the political life of this country was in paving the way for a more equitable distribution of power between the sexes. Bingham offers a little background to the limited role of women in Congress over most of the past 100 years. However, many of the more recent events she relates are still fresh in the reader's mind, and she doesn't always add to what newspaper and magazine accounts have already reported. More serious is the fact that at least some of her interviews were confidential. With no attributions, it is difficult to judge, for example, her account of Murray's breast being groped in an elevator by nonagenarian fellow senator Strom Thurmond or her portrayal of Schroeder jealously guarding her hard-won power against the newcomers. An interesting, occasionally gossipy look behind Congress's closed doors, but hardly authoritative. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8129-6351-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996