Capitol Feminism: Work, Politics, and Gender in Congress, 1960-1980

Pierce, Rachel, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Aron, Millicent, Department of History, University of Virginia

In 1976, Rep. Alphonso Bell (R-CA) gave in to the women’s liberation movement. Explaining his decision to support continued funding for Title IX, Bell asserted that “There’s no way I can vote wrong on this bill. My administrative assistant is in there, and cares with her guts.” His aide was not alone. As one lobbyist described, Title IX benefitted from “a new phenomenon”: the conference committee room “was replete with professional women.” Historians have long depicted government as the province of men, in some ways naturalizing the state as a writer and an upholder of laws and cultural norms that privilege men. This dissertation challenges that assumption by examining the Hill as a work world and social space. Through the 1970s, female staffers on the Hill adopted and adapted the rhetoric, ideological precepts, and policy goals of the women’s movement. Some staffers worked to challenge local work and social practices. Others worked to research, write, and lobby for feminist legislation with national ramifications. All women used the close relationships cultivated within Congress to advance feminism. In the U.S. Congress during the 1970s, the politics of women’s rights was deeply personal.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Feminism, U.S. Congress, office work, policy
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