IN THE VANGUARD: Six American Women in Public Life by Peggy Lamson

IN THE VANGUARD: Six American Women in Public Life

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Only 8 percent of U.S. officeholders are women, and six of the most intriguing are superficially profiled here. Peggy Lamson, author of an earlier look at political women, Few Are Chosen (1968), admits to being ""entirely subjective"" in selecting women she ""admired. . . as public figures."" The result is a giant press release, which does, however, provide impressions of the six and their concerns. We meet two members of Congress, New Jersey's Millicent Fenwick and New York's Elizabeth Holtzman; Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps; Eleanor Holmes Norton, head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Rose Bird, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court; and Elaine Noble of Massachusetts, ""the first avowed homosexual ever elected to any state legislature."" Lamson describes each briefly (Fenwick: ""a tall, handsome patrician with the understated elegance of the Vogue editor that she once was""), making issues the real backdrop for her subjects: Holtzman string Nixon for the illegal bombing of Cambodia and participating in the House impeachment hearings; Noble failing with a Gay Rights bill, but pushing ERA through the Legislature; Bird helping Jerry Brown with California's farm labor law. Of the six, Norton comes most to life, whether working with SNCC in Mississippi or defending (for the ACLU) George Wallace's right to speak in New York. Lamson's habit of injecting her questions to move the story along is clumsy and amateurish (""I asked if she thought that business or government would ever view an organization like the PTA as a likely training ground,"" Lamson writes of her interview with Kreps, letting the Secretary praise women in the ""nonprofit sector""). But these are six characters strong enough to do without a strong author.

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 1979
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin