The Power to Choose
Sara M. Evans, Professor, History, University of Minnesota
The 1992 elections represented unprecedented opportunities for the feminist
Political Action Committee (PAC), EMILY's List. In the aftermath of Senate
Judiciary Committee hearings concerning allegations of sexual harassment against
Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, a record number of women candidates ran
for political office at every level. Emily's List, which provides money for
pro-choice, Democratic women candidates, saw its membership and resources soar.
It was on the verge of becoming the most powerful PAC in the Democratic Party.
At this very moment of success, Emily's List faced a dilemma. In New York, two
heroes of feminist politics, Elizabeth Holtzman and Geraldine Ferraro, announced
that they would be candidates in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. This
case study provides details of the difficult decision Emily's List had to make.
Should it endorse and support one feminist over another one? Would endorsing one
feminist over another be a betrayal of feminist ideals? What should the process
and criteria for its decision be? This case supports a discussion of the
tradeoffs of feminist engagement with mainstream, electoral politics, conflicts
within feminism, and how feminist non-profit institutions operate to promote