AMBLER — Elizabeth Holtzman can relate to being a part of the minority.
On March 19, the author and politician spoke at the Ambler Campus about her experiences to more than 40 students, staff, faculty and community members about serving as a woman in politics.
Holtzman, 66, was the youngest woman elected to Congress when she captured New York’s 16th district in 1972 at age 31.
When Holtzman first ran for Congress, her election committee raised $32,000. Holtzman said that today, that would amount to about $1 million.
“At the high cost of elections, combined with the various discriminatory acts against women, it has really kept young women out of our national legislature,” Holtzman said. “That’s a problem, and it’s wrong, because we need a variety of perspectives. We need the kind of abrasive audacity and idealism that young people bring, and we also need some of that leveling that older people bring to the process as well.”
Holtzman said she never imagined herself working in politics.
“I didn’t grow up dreaming about being in politics,” she said. “I wasn’t like President Clinton who met John F. Kennedy and said, ‘I want to be president.’ I had no dreams of going to Washington. It never occurred to me in a million years.”
Holtzman ran for the U.S. Senate in 1980. She spoke about the campaign, referencing an article from the New York Times profiling the four candidates in the democratic primary. The question below her photo referred to “how she would look in a low-cut evening gown.” Holtzman said she was judged more about how she would look then how she would perform as a senator. She compared her experiences to Hillary Clinton’s current run for president.
“We should be beyond talking about women’s clothing who are running for office in the year 2008, but those issues still daunt us,” Holtzman said.
Senior history major Jared Dowd said the lecture put gender equality issues into perspective.
“From a guy’s perspective, I would guess we have slightly gotten past the age where it mattered that you’re a woman,” he said. “It was interesting that she pointed out, 30 years since, we’re still undergoing the same problems.”
Holtzman said she was further criticized by the media when she ran for district attorney in New York.
“I was running against what the image people had of what a DA was,” she said. “People would come up to me and say ‘Liz, I voted for you for the Senate and I voted for you for the Congress, but this is not the job for a woman.’”
In reference to the presidential election, Holtzman said she is thrilled to see a woman running.
Former Temple student Nancy Miller attended the lecture and said she enjoyed hearing Holtzman’s firsthand experiences and challenges in office.
“I thought hearing her firsthand experiences, challenges in office and personal experience of impeachment committees [was interesting]; it’s dynamic that women with a lot of interesting perspectives serve in office. This was a great way to celebrate Women’s History Month,” Miller said.
While serving in politics, Holtzman’s accomplishments include authoring Who Said it Would be Easy: One Woman’s Life in the Political Arena and The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens. She also held a seat on the House Judiciary Committee to impeach President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate scandal. When Holtzman first lobbied to take a seat on the House Judiciary Committee against the president, she didn’t want it. She said Nixon’s impeachment had an impact on her life.
“I felt lucky, privileged and honored to be able to participate in a momentous position,” Holtzman said.
She said society needs to remember the battles that women still fight for equality every day.
“As we commemorate Women’s History Month, we see the amazing obstacles that young women face and that we, as a country, face for the fact that more than 30 years now, we haven’t broken any record.”
Sarada Jailal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.