Women in the Senate 

The feature film at the14th Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival a couple of Sundays ago was “14 Women,” which tells about the number of females who are now U.S. senators.

I turned out with about 300 people for the showing that created the biggest audience for any of the other 80 films during the nine-day festival. Why are people interested in it?

First, we now have the largest number of women in the nation’s Senate. Also, remember that the first woman ever to win a full term in the Senate was Hattie Caraway of Jonesboro, who defeated a half-dozen men in 1932. Second, one of the 14 is Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Helena, who at age 38 was the youngest person ever elected to the Senate. And the woman who is making the film, Mary Lambert, is Blanche’s sister, a California movie director who produced “Pet Sematary,” Disney’s “Return to Halloween Town” and several other movies and videos.

Both Lincoln and Lambert spoke before the movie. Lincoln, nine years younger than Lambert, said both her sister and her mother were among the few who always thought she would be elected. Lincoln praised her sister’s cinematography and said she thought “14 Women” could bring more women into politics. Women have “tremendous diversity” she said, adding “there are amazing things that women can offer in politics.”

She believes that it’s the women’s fault that there aren’t more in Congress and that “14 Women” might urge more to run. “More women in the Senate would mean more peace in the world,” she said.

But she believes that too many women think that they can’t be in Congress and be married and have children. The film, she said, could show that women can be a senator, wife and mother at the same time. She has twin boys, and she and her husband, Steve Lincoln, a physician from Little Rock, manage to take care of them. She doesn’t get to see the boys every day, and sometimes she has to take them with her to her office. “After all,” she said, “doctors and airplane pilots and a lot of other people don’t get to see their kids every day.”

There are no speeches or formal interviews from the female senators in the movie. They are photographed in their offices and at home, in the halls of the capitol, at the Democratic convention last year, discussing bills with fellow senators and talking informally to aides, lobbyists and visitors.

There are nine women Democrats and five Republicans in the Senate, but so far only four of the Republicans are in the film. That’s why Mary Lambert and her co-producer, Nicole Boxer, daughter of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., say that the film is “a work in progress” that they plan to finish next year. It runs 37 minutes now but will be 75 minutes when completed.

Then Lambert plans to show it at other documentary sessions like Sundance and Oxygen and try to sell it to HBO and other cable networks. “I also really want to get it into schools all over the country,” she said.

I think that’s important. We need more women everywhere when laws are decided. Unfortunately, our president doesn’t agree. He appointed his loyal female lawyer from Texas to the Supreme Court, but she only got embarrassment and pitifully withdrew. Surely he knew that even his Republican senators wouldn’t vote for a woman who had never been a judge. So now he has appointed an experienced male judge who probably will be approved by the Senate, leaving the Supreme Court with eight men and only one woman.

The Little Rock Airport Commission shocked city hall last week when it announced that it wanted to build a new terminal that would cost from $187 million to $245 million, and it wants the city and the state to pay for a lot of it. It already has drawings, but I don’t think that the city or the state will be anxious to pitch in.

The state is looking for money to build millions of dollars of new buildings on college campuses and to find out and fix what is wrong with so many of our public schools. The city is going to raise the sales tax to help build a county jail so that we can stop letting old prisoners out so as to take new ones in. And we taxpayers are advised our gas to heat our houses is going to cost 15 to 26 percent more.

Ever since she took over as executive director of the airport, Deborah Schwartz has been dressing it up. Right now she is putting in bigger windows, and the work has clogged the concourse for travelers who really aren’t interested in airport views. Her goal, however, is to have people leaving on one level and arriving on another like the airports in the really big cities. It’s true that the boardings have increased 2.6 percent since 2000, but that doesn’t require spending millions of dollars of tax money to beautify something that many Arkansans will never see.


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