Studies in American Political Development

Movement Activists and Partisan Insurgents

Bruce Miroff a1
a1 University at Albany, State University of New York

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On the opening day of the 1972 Democratic convention, the women's caucus gave George McGovern a standing ovation. Its first meeting was packed, with 700 female delegates in attendance, exuberant over their numbers at the convention—triple the representation from four years earlier—and their new clout in presidential politics. Of all of the presidential candidates appearing, only Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to run for president, was greeted with enthusiasm comparable to the warm reception for McGovern. Most of the women at the meeting were fervently anti-war and respected McGovern for his early and courageous stance on Vietnam. However, the size of the gathering attested to another of McGovern's achievements: his chairing of the reform commission that had rewritten the Democratic Party's rules on delegate selection, leading to the huge leap in the representation of women. As Liz Carpenter, a former White House aide to LBJ, put it when introducing McGovern, “We know we wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for you.”