Women emerged from Maryland's election Tuesday with more government offices than ever before - half the state's congressional delegation, 27 seats in the state legislature, a majority of the seats on the Montgomery and Prince George's school boards, and a majority of the Montgomery County Council.
"Why Maryland? Good question," said Carolyn Bode of the National Women's Lobby. "But I think when you get down to it the reasons are fairly basic.
It is an area where women outnumber men. They run because they're affluent and well educated. They're successful to start with before they even get into politics. The women who are winning in Maryland aren't really feminists.
Whatever the reasons, women in elective office in Maryland is no longer new or different. The four women elected to Congress Tuesday did so easily. They were overwhelming favorite.
"You have to remember that this is a pretty sophisticated area," said Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Prince George's) who easily won a third term. "It's extremely enlightened compared to many areas of the country. Men don't feel as threatened by women here as in other places. Look how quickly the ERA passed in Maryland."
Statewide, women gained one seat in Congress and 10 in the General Assembly. In Montgomery County they gained one County seat and two school board seats and in Prince George's they picked up one County Council seat. Altogether, 15 women were newly elected to office in the four categories.
Successful candidates yesterday agreed on four major explanations for the unprecedented number of women elected Tuesday:
The socioeconomic make-up of the Washington metropolitan area.
Women have gained reputations as hardworking officeholders who perform well once in office. Men and women alike said that women have to work harder to get elected so they work harder to remain in office, and they are thought to have closer community ties and as a result provide better constituent services than many men.
The Hatch Act. Because a large portion of the Washington area work force consists of U.S. workers who cannot take part in partisan politics, many well-educated men cannot run for office.
Government is the major industry in the state, and is a natural outlet for talented and educated women.
Isn't it about time this happened?" asked Sue V. Mills, who was elected to an at-large seat on the Prince George's County Council. "You know I started in politics baking cakes for the Democratic club. That's the way a lot of women started.
"Men just decide they want to run for office and do it. Women have to work their way up. Because of that they probably pay more attention to details, like constituent services than a lot of men do. That kind of thing makes you popular."
Congresswoman Gladys N. Spellman and Marjorie Holt seem to bear this theory out. Spellman is considered to be as liberal as Holt is conservative. They rarely vote the same way in Congress. Yet both are immensely popular and were considered unbeatable - correctly - at the outset of the campaign.
"Women seem to take the little things about the job a lot more seriously," said Spellman. "They don't take anything for granted. People appreciate that."
Pauline Menes, chairman of the women's political caucus in the state general assembly said that the state general assembly said that the success of women previously elected to office has encouraged others to seek office.
"Once they see that women can win and that women can be effective legislators they feel more secure about getting involved themselves," she said. "They're exposed to politics throughout the state politically.They know what's going on before they get involved."
Bode pointed out that the success of women in Maryland did not appear to be part of a national trend. "We lost a couple of seats in Congress," she said. "What seems to be happening is that women are getting elected on the lower levels, at the state and local levels in greater numbers. But we still haven't made too much progress on higher levels."
In Maryland, progress in now all but taken for granted.
"It's become the norm," Spellman said. "No one's surprised any more."