Twenty-five years ago Harry Truman was counseling his fellow politicians that “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” This year women chose to alter that slogan a little. As never before, they left their kitchens to raise the collective temperature—and consciousness—of politics. Emboldened by the feminist movement, aided by Watergate’s pall of mistrust of incumbents, women won several important statewide offices, as well as increasing their hold on the more traditional congressional seats. Premiere among the political victors was Ella Tambussi Grasso, age 55, Democratic governor-elect of Connecticut and the first woman in American history to capture a governorship without having inherited the office from her husband.
It was no feminist fluke. An advocate of women’s rights without being an ardent liberationist, Mrs. Grasso (she prefers it to Ms.) capitalized on a popularity built up during a 22-year political career which included two terms in Congress. She was not, she insists, a “women’s candidate.” “I was the people’s candidate,” she says, “and the results have sustained me.” (She won by a 200,000-vote margin.) “I would hope that whatever qualities I have would be a credit to women as well as to the human race—of which I am also a part.”
Thus far, her admirable disclaimer has been largely ignored. The novelty of Mrs. Grasso’s victory and the curiosity that surrounds it have placed her, however unwillingly, in the ranks of women basketball players, forklift operators and telephone splicers. The feminists want to lionize her, homemakers want to know how she cooks spaghetti (she doesn’t), and everyone is curious about Mr. Grasso (he’s a retired school principal). Naturally she already is being mentioned as vice-presidential timber, despite the fact that she doesn’t inherit the governor’s office until January 8. In the new math of the new politics, Mrs. Grasso would, the pols agree, add “balance” to a Democratic ticket.