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EDITORS: This release was written by Bernice Wuethrich, a science writing intern with the Stanford News Service. November elections a watershed for women, says Schroeder
STANFORD -- "We hope this year there is a tsunami, that lots of new women wash into Washington, D.C.," Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) told an audience of more than 500 in Stanford's Kresge Auditorium on Friday, April 3.
The audience, mostly young women, cheered and clapped throughout Schroeder's combative speech. In an appearance sponsored by the Stanford University Speakers Bureau, she talked about women and government, families, careers and choices. And she sounded an alarm for the November elections.
"I'm a pilot," she said. "When you're going down too fast, a computerized voice comes on and says 'Pull up - Pull up.' But as a society we haven't figured out how to pull up. This is still a democracy, they still let us vote and this is a very critical year."
November's elections may be a watershed, Schroeder said, giving women a "critical mass" of 25 to 35 percent of the seats in Congress. Institutions change their focus and priorities when women become a critical mass, she said.
Only 29 of the current House's 435 members are women - a tiny increase from the 25 women members in 1964. This year about 80 women are running for the House, and Schroeder predicted that many of them will win.
Schroeder introduced one candidate from the audience, Anna Eshoo, who is running in the 14th Congressional District, which includes Stanford.
Schroeder pointed to the major pro-choice march in Washington, scheduled for two days after her talk.
"The march about choice is terribly important because the Supreme Court is sure to turn down Roe v. Wade," she said. "This is way beyond an 'issue.' This is a fundamental principle: how a government treats over half its citizens."
The Freedom of Choice Act, which Schroeder co- sponsors, would put a woman's right to choose abortion into federal law.
Schroeder's work on women's and family issues also includes launching the Women's Health Equity Act, and investigations of gender discrepancies in research and services.
"Out of the 2,000 researchers at NIH (National Institutes of Health), only two are ob-gyns," she said.
Schroeder described the Family and Medical Leave Act, of which she is a leading sponsor. The act would give workers the right to a job-guaranteed unpaid leave for family emergencies.
Small children, adolescents and young adults are at risk, Schroeder said. She accused the government of breaking its covenant with young people, by inadequately funding Head Start and by taking a university education outside the reach of all but those born into wealth, members of the "lucky sperm club."
Schroeder made a special point of addressing the young women in the audience.
"The main economic message of the '80s was that you can either be upwardly mobile or have a family, but not both," she said.
Schroeder, now the most senior woman in Congress, said that she had two small children when she was first elected in 1972. Constantly questioned about how she could be both a Congresswoman and a mother, Schroeder said she finally responded, "Because I have a brain and a uterus, and they both work."
"As a woman who has come up through the process with children, I want to say to young people, it is possible," she said. "Stop heaping guilt on working moms."
A young woman asked from the floor whether Schroeder would enter the presidential race if there is a brokered Democratic Convention.
"I don't think you're ever going to see the party go for me because they don't think a woman is electable," she said. "Although I'm having a lot of fun seeing the ones they think are electable."
Evolution has not worked in national politics, Schroeder said. Neither the electorate nor the media have evolved. Now, rather than asking candidates for their vision of the nation's future, candidates are asked "why they were sent out in the hall in third grade for chewing gum," she said. "Without vision, people perish."
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