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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, October 7, 2007

Power of Women Explored in Recent Publications

Even though women constitute slightly more than 50 percent of the American population, they certainly don't dominate the political structure. Women hold only 16.3 percent of the seats in the U.S. Congress, 24.1 percent of the elective state-level executive positions and 23.5 percent of the state legislative seats.

Here are some recent books by and about women who have defied the odds.

If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear by Melinda Henneberger (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Born and raised in Mount Carmel, Ill., Henneberger graduated from Notre Dame and was a New York Times reporter and Newsweek editor before her current position at huffingtonpost.com.

After the 2004 presidential election, Henneberger interviewed about 250 women in 20 states to learn why they voted the way they did. In this honest, intelligent and warm analysis, Henneberger concludes that many women who would otherwise vote Democratic have been alienated by the Democrats' uncompromising stand on abortion, as well as their perceived intellectual and anti-religious snootiness.

Henneberger will be speaking Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Evansville Central Library at a free program presented by the Library with sponsorship from the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana. (see box at right).

A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007).

Bernstein, who shared a Pulitzer Prize with Bob Woodward for their Watergate coverage, not only scoured all pertinent published material but also interviewed 200 of Clinton's colleagues, friends and enemies for this biography.

Raised in a traditional Protestant, middle-class home in Republican suburban Chicago, Clinton formed strong religious and political views that led her to the Democratic Party and a life of activism. Already a political star in 1969, she gave a commencement speech at Wellesley College that was celebrated in Life magazine.

What emerges is a multidimensional view of a strong woman with lots of hard-earned governmental experience. We read the details not only of her remarkable successes but also of her infamous personal and political mistakes.

Considering that Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, this is worth the read.

Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power by Marcus Mabry (Modern Times, 2007).

Secretary of State Rice, also raised in a traditional Protestant, middle-class home but in suburban Birmingham, Ala., embraced the Republican Party at her educator father's knees and never left it.

Also a star in her youth, Rice skipped two grades and excelled at both the piano and figure skating before settling on a major in international affairs, ending up with a doctorate and later teaching and serving as provost at Stanford University. Interestingly enough, one of her teachers was Josef Korbel, father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Mabry, chief of correspondents for Newsweek and the recipient of many top journalism awards, is as an African-American uniquely positioned to flesh out our understanding of Rice from both a cultural and political perspective. He explores Rice's personal life, her relationship to the predominantly Democratic black community and African-American causes, her world view and her dedication, through the two Bush administrations.

Pam Locker is manager of Oaklyn Branch Library and alternates writing "Check it Out" with other Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library staff members. Readers may contact Locker at (812) 428-8234, ext. 5403. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.