chapter  1
Where We Were
Women of the 1950s
Pages 18

In 1956, sixteen women were elected to Congress, fifteen in the House and one in the Senate. The nation had elected President Dwight Eisenhower to a second term of office with 57.4 percent of the popular vote. Eisenhower's electoral appeal, however, was not sufficient to capture control of Congress. The successful launch of Sputnik by the Soviets added to the anxiety about the ongoing Cold War and sparked a debate about the quality of education in the nation. In the 1950s, women were socialized to view politics as a man's game, a game that was inconsistent with the gender roles to which women were assigned. As Jeane Kirkpatrick explained: Like men, women gain status for effective, responsible performance of culturally sanctioned roles. In 1958, Knutson was running for her third term. One of the most prevalent explanations for the slow integration of women into Congress is "the pipeline theory."