News / USA

Retiring Texas Senator Says Barriers to Women in Politics Have Diminished

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the highest ranking female Republican in the U.S. Senate recently announced she will not run for re-election in 2012 and will retire from politics. A conservative and a four-term Senator, Hutchison will be remembered for her commitment to Texas, to education and women’s issues and for her southern charm.

There were only seven female Senators in the U.S. Senate when Kay Bailey Hutchison won a 1993 special election in Texas.  She has now been re-elected three times. A former bank executive and State Treasurer, Hutchison - at age 49 - was the first woman to represent the state of Texas in the U.S. Senate. She says a lot has changed for American women in politics since she first ran for the Senate.

"When I first started in politics I had to prove that I can do the job, prove that I was tough and strong and you’re tested," she said.  "But I think that each time women do well in a higher office then people aren’t worried anymore and I think we have made good progress in that regard."

Hutchison was a trail blazer even before she became a U.S. Senator. She was the first woman to earn a law degree at the University of Texas and the first Republican woman to be Texas State Treasurer.

"Kay Bailey Hutchison has had many, many firsts; she’s opened many doors for women in Texas and in the Republican Party, " said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor for the Cook Political Report.

In the Senate, Hutchison became known as a great supporter of the U.S. space agency NASA, whose mission control center is in Houston, Texas. She is also a supporter of education and the U.S. military.  She says she never ran as a woman but as an American wanting to make a change.

"What you really want is not to be an issue whether that you are a woman or man. It’s what you believe and what you say you are going to do that really is important," she said. "You just want to be judged like everyone else rather than having to be better in order to be equal."

Though popular in her home state - the largest oil-producing state in the nation - Hutchison was criticized elsewhere at times for receiving contributions from oil companies and for not supporting environmental issues.  In her 17 years in Washington, she says she felt constantly challenged and cast some votes she found difficult - including authorizing the use of military force in Iraq in 2002.

"It’s not an easy job because you know you will make some people unhappy in a controversial vote," she said. "There are many times that you are torn but you have to make a decision, that’s part of the job."

One of her proudest achievements is the passage of a bill that gives American stay-at- home mothers retirement accounts, a benefit previously only held by working women. The bill was a bipartisan effort that got the support of her democratic, counterparts including then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

"What I think she will be remembered for in the history of the United States Senate is her ability to work with people outside her party and ability to find answers to problems and to forge that compromise that results in successful legislation," Jennifer Duffy said.

In 2009, Hutchison ran for Governor of Texas but lost in the Republican primary.  While she has no plans to seek higher office herself, she says America is closer than ever to having a woman president.

"I think it’s going to happen very soon, I do. I think that we have women now in the Senate, women who have proven themselves in business," she said.  "All are getting up there and I do believe we will have a woman president in my lifetime."

Senator Hutchison will leave the Senate next year after almost two decades in Washington.

She says there are fewer barriers now for women in politics than when she ran for the first time. But she points out that the 100-member Senate still has only 17 women - only 10 more than when she first took office.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid