Running Time: 0m 54s
Source film: 16mm; b&w; sound
Reporter: Lew Colby
On a rainy, January 1964 day in Portland, Maine, WCSH-TV reporter Lew Colby hit the streets with a camera crew and a microphone to address the pressing question of the day. After Maine’s own Republican Senator, Margaret Chase Smith, had voiced an interest in running for the presidency that year, the voting population was confronted with a startling potential choice: vote for a man … or vote for a woman!
Technically speaking, Smith wasn’t the first female candidate for the American presidency — you’d have to go back more than nine decades to 19th century spiritualist and women’s suffrage leader Victoria Woodhull for that — but she was experienced, qualified, and local. If there was anywhere in the United States that would support a female president at that time, surely it would be the largest metropolis in her own home state. So, how did a random sampling of Portland’s population answer the question, “would you vote for a woman president?”
The first respondent, herself a woman, states, “I don’t believe women are as capable as men.” Sheesh. 0 for 1.
An older fellow believes that the country can “stand a change of sex” in the Oval Office. That’s … a sort of endorsement.
A second female respondent feels that a woman’s place is in the home, and the next male respondent is equally unkind, stating that women are “lucky to be congressmen.” Yes. Because when you think of “lucky” people, the first groups who come to mind tend to be lottery winners, people struck by lightning, and members of Congress.
Perhaps this next speaker, a younger man in a tie with a portfolio under his arm, will hold a more progressive attitude. “Yes… if she’s good looking,” he says.
An older, bespectacled woman provides the first firm answer in the affirmative before another gentleman says sure, we might as well let women take over for awhile.
So, what did we learn in approximate 40 seconds of unvarnished political thought from seven random people from Portland, Maine in 1964? Some were open-minded, others were not at all, and yet others couldn’t help but make sexist comments instead of just answering the question. Consider, for a moment, the last nine months of presidential campaign politics and the ugly gendered attacks deployed by supporters and candidates alike. How much has changed?
- Margaret Chase Smith Supersisters Card
- The Unfavored Daughter: When Margaret Chase Smith Ran in the New Hampshire Primary (Ellen Fitzpatrick, The New Yorker)
- Margaret Chase Smith Library
- Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women’s Activism Content
- Shirley Chisholm, Supersisters No. 71