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BEING FIRST: THEY ROSE TO PROMINENCE IN THE YEAR OF THE WOMAN, NOW THEY ARE LIVING OUT WHAT THEY FOUGHT TO WIN.

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Jan Graham was no stranger to court, or to giving testimony. She'd been a litigator for 10 years with one of the state's largest law firms. Still she was awed as she testified for the first time before the U.S. Congress.

As Utah's new attorney general on that day in 1993, Graham remembers feeling part of something grave. Something large. Something historic.A few minutes into her testimony she glanced up into the tiers of desks, at the solemn faces of the members of Congress looking down at her. She saw her friend, Karen Shepherd.

They stared at each other, this first Utah woman ever to be elected to statewide office and the second Utah woman to be elected to Congress.

And as Shepherd and Graham watched each other at work that day, they both had the same thought at the same time. They were not thinking, I've made it, they were thinking, We've made it. For Utah women, now, there will be no going back.

Their composure never faltered as they looked at each other, Shepherd recalls. "But inside, we were shouting, `Look at us! Look at us! Look Ma, no hands!' "

It was just a label: The Year of The Woman. However, in Utah, 1992 was significant. The first female mayor of the state's capital city was sworn in in January. In July, Cecelia Foxley became the first female commissioner of higher education. November brought the second woman to be elected to Congress and two more firsts for women: lieutenant governor and attorney general.

During 1993, the ripples continued to be felt. Of the first 11 new department heads appointed in state government, six were female. In the fall elections, 26 women were elected mayors of Utah towns, twice as many as ever before.

In 1994, Enid Waldholtz again ran against Shepherd for the 2nd Congressional District seat. This time Waldholtz won. This time it wasn't historic that two women were running against each other.

How quickly they became part of our collective consciousness. If you see them addressing the Rotary, or when the legislature meets as a body, you might be struck, still, by the way their jewel-toned suits stand out among all those drab clothes. Then you might remember that women with political power are still in the minority.

But for the most part, they don't seem unusual any more. You see Jan Graham on television, and you wonder what she is going to have to say about the abortion appeal, or some other issue. You don't think of her as the first female attorney general. You think of her as the attorney general.

It took Congresswoman Wald-holtz's pregnancy to start the discussion again: How will she do it? Be a mother and a congresswoman? This is a first. Will she neglect her job, her baby? What will her husband be doing? We'll all be watching.

It's amazing really, if you stop to think about it, which none of us does anymore. Five years ago, who would have envisioned a commissioner of higher education whose area of research was gender discrimination? A lieutenant governor who is a grandmother with a graduate degree from Harvard? An attorney general whose "old boy network" includes the women who helped her start Women Lawyers, the largest and most active section of the Utah Bar?

They are sometimes aware that being first makes them role models, that young women will be influenced by watching them work; by the way they integrate marriage, career and children; by the vision they have for the next generation.

There is grace in the way Cecelia Foxley conducts a meeting. The commissioner of higher education has a cultured voice and a hearty laugh. As her staff gathers around a long, dark table in the equally somber meeting room, Foxley starts the discussion, targets it tightly and draws people in.

"We need not too much analysis but a few comments . . . we need to determine who is going to say what . . . it's important for Leo to be there, who else? . . . what are the pros and cons? . . . didn't we make a commitment on this? . . . let's find out - and not just for this particular legislator, because I think this is on the minds of a lot of people."

Foxley's resume shows she has been a consultant on organizational development and management. Her skill is obvious. What is less obvious is whether she is more effective than the average government administrator.

Psychologists Dorothy Cantor and Toni Bernay would say she is. They'd say that because Foxley was the first female in her position, she would have to have had superior skills to get appointed.

The same can be said of the women who have been elected. Cantor and Bernay recently tried to quantify female power. Their book, "Women in Power," came out in 1992. The authors interviewed 25 women who were successful politicians. They found a lot of common threads in their backgrounds: a mother who was active in the community, a father who truly believed his daughter could do anything she wanted to do. Cantor and Bernay came up with a definition of what it means to be a woman in leadership:

First, she does not feel defined by situations or people. Unlike a lot of other women in society, she does not think she has to change to please those around her. The authors point to women who lost their first campaigns. The losses didn't destroy them as people, or threaten their identities. They ran again.

Second, she is not afraid of being aggressive. Creatively aggressive. There is a double standard by which aggression is measured in the world of business, politics, education - in the world in general, actually. Political analyst Celinda Lake finds, "If voters sense ambition in a woman, they won't like it. It is exactly the opposite for a man." The women Cantor and Bernay studied did not seek power for its own sake, but rather to advance a specific agenda. Lake says this type of aggression is acceptable to voters.

`It helps to be able to get by on not much sleep," says Olene Walker of what it takes to be lieutenant governor. She says even if she didn't have all the paperwork, she probably wouldn't go to bed before 2 or 3 anyway. But you'll see her the next morning at a breakfast meeting, striding into the room, full of energy, tossing her purse behind a chair in one easy motion as she heads for the podium.

In 1992 the state's gender balance law took effect. It says, in part, "the appointing or reappointing authority shall strongly consider nominating a qualified individual whose gender is in the minority on that entity." At that time 20 percent of state appointees were female. Now, the number is approaching 39 percent.

Walker credits Governor Mike Leavitt, too. Others give her the most credit. They talk about the time county commissioners sent up 33 male nominees for 11 Central Utah Project appointments. Walker returned their list, saying, "Certainly in all of Salt Lake County there must be some women competent on water issues."

One young woman, an artist, sat next to Walker at a luncheon meeting. Walker asked her about her interests, education and skills, and the next week the woman found herself appointed to a citizens board.

She's worked hard for women and minority appointments. Still, she wishes she could do more. At a conference for women in public administration, she tells the audience she regrets not having more time to mentor young women. She advises the group, Democrats and Republicans, not to let abortion or any other political issue divide them from one another.

"And don't wait until the time is perfect," says Walker. "Jump in and run for office. . . . We may still have some hurdles to overcome. Some decisions. `Do I wait to run until my children are in school? Do I put off having a family?'

"Women still have a tendency not to risk. We have to leave security behind."

Deedee Corradini has excellent posture. She's ridden horses since she was a girl, and she holds herself like that type of athlete. Her perfect alignment and centeredness are in evidence at a Salt Lake City Council meeting. After a 14-hour day, she is sitting rod-straight behind the council table, listening to an irate constituent.

He is protesting a proposed city ordinance. The ordinance contains a five-day waiting period for people under the age of 25 to purchase handguns.

His voice is tight. His fury is barely contained. And even though it is the City Council, not Corradini, that will soon vote on this bill, it is the mayor he is angry with.

"I have four kids and 32 guns in my home," he begins. He explains how he keeps his guns locked up. How he is in control at all times. Then he begins shaking his finger at the mayor.

Her eyes meet his, calmly. Others in the audience are uncomfortable with his threatening tone. They glance toward the end of the room where Police Chief Reuben Ortega is lounging sleepily in his chair, not impressed by this display of machismo.

These past few years Mayor Corradini has felt hostility. It's not the first time in her life she's made people angry, but it's the first time she's wondered if perhaps their anger is greater because she is a woman. "Maybe I'm just imagining it," she says.

If you had told Corradini this before she got elected, she wouldn't have believed you. She never saw sexism. When asked for her advice, she would tell other women to just do a good job. To not align themselves too closely with women's organizations, once they made it. The philosophy worked for her. "I never saw any roadblocks. But my friends say, `They were there. You just didn't see them."'

Olene Walker recalls a college counselor who advised her against graduate school because she was a mother. Jan Graham recalls helping to organize a boycott of the Alta Club when women weren't allowed to join.

But Corradini never felt such frustration, never sought the support of other women in righting some wrong. Her fellow Democrats didn't see Corradini as a feminist. In an interview in Network magazine just before the elections, Francis Farley and Karen Shepherd both advised readers to vote for the candidate with the best record on women's issues. Republican Genevieve Atwood said, "I'm voting for Deedee."

After the election, Corradini began questioning her perceptions. So did other women. They heard a lot of jokes and put-downs about Salt Lake's first female mayor. They didn't laugh.

At a party in December two years after Corradini was elected, several women - Democrats who had supported male mayoral candidates - were chatting. The conversation turned to Corradini. "Did you read about this in the newspaper?" "Did you read about that?" Karen Shepherd, overhearing their conversation, demanded passionately, "Why doesn't anyone ever write about what a good job she is doing?"

In her new book, "Divided Lives," Elsa Walsh tells the stories of three women who got the lives they wanted: a TV journalist who wanted to combine 60 Minutes with motherhood, a doctor being appointed chief of breast surgery at Columbia, and a symphony conductor who also happens to be the first lady of West Virginia. They got the lives they wanted, and then they had to make those lives work. It was amazingly difficult.

Because they are the first, they have no one else to emulate. Walsh sees them as "looking for an internal thread," something they can touch, something to guide them through the choices they must make.

These Utah women of power may have found their internal thread. They are clear about what they want. Corradini makes sure she eats dinner with her husband and keeps her Sundays free. Graham refuses to schedule meetings on nights or weekends.

Still, after her first year in office, Corradini will tell you it was the hardest year of her life. So many demands. So much criticism. In a way it makes life more complicated, having a family, old friends, other interests tugging at your heart. In another way it keeps these women sane, realizing this job is just a job.

Jan Graham would tell you having a son keeps her focused on the importance of all of Utah's children. Fully one-third of her staff works on child protection issues. Graham is like the other women, in that Utah's youngest citizens figure prominently in her conversation.

At a staff meeting in the morning, talking about scheduling a visit to some schools, she says, "We want the children to know someone in government loves them . . ." Later, on another topic, "We have to empower teenage girls . . ."

At noon, she attends a luncheon meeting of a citizen's group to fight child abuse. When it's her turn to comment, Judge Leslie Lewis says that as the reports of abuse keep growing and we find ourselves getting discouraged, "We have to remember how far we've come. Fifteen years ago we didn't have an attorney general like Jan Graham who is so committed to fighting child abuse . . ."

The source of her power, Graham says, is that she assumes that people, for the most part, share her values, are good people and are willing to listen. "It's been true. I haven't had many bad experiences."

The source of her happiness is her family. She still has the talisman she carried with her the day she argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. It's her son's baby pacifier. "My lucky binkie."

People in Washington are into labels, Joe Waldholtz will tell you. They want to know who is going to be the "primary caretaker" of this baby the congresswoman is carrying. Her husband tells them the Waldholtzes work as a team. They always have, from their early days as Young Republicans.

Vince Shepherd was the first Utah congressional husband to travel back and forth with his wife and be her "unofficial" chief adviser. Joe Waldholtz might have avoided all the notoriety of being first - were it not for this baby. He sighs when he says people want to know all the specifics. "Exactly what is it that she can do for the baby that you can't do?" he has been asked. He replies, "Think about it."

Throughout her pregnancy, Enid Waldholtz has worked 16 hours a day. It's August and Waldholtz is in Utah and nine months pregnant. The baby has dropped, Waldholtz says, which makes it easier to breathe but harder to walk. Her doctor says she should stop working. She says there are still a few things she has to accomplish before Congress reconvenes on Sept. 5.

The issues haven't changed much since 1992, they've just become more urgent. Karen Shepherd used to carry a pie chart and talk about how difficult it would be to balance the budget when such a huge portion was already committed to entitlements.

It was a hard message. Waldholtz can't make it much easier. She comes back to Utah this month to talk to a town meeting about the fact that Medicare will soon be bankrupt. "It is not the fault of the people who are using Medicare," she will tell the audience. At the time it was set up, there were 16 workers for every Social Security recipient. Soon there will be just over two.

Meanwhile, members of various environmental groups, angry over the Utah congressional delegation's proposed wilderness bill, have vowed to make her answer questions on wilderness. A handful of people wearing badges that read 5.7 (as in millions of acres of wilderness, please) have gathered outside. Another handful is inside. Her staff is worried that the meeting will turn acrimonious.

Waldholtz seems unperturbed, though she does reach for her husband's hand as they walk down the hall towards the meeting room. He slips his arm around her and she leans on him, for a brief second, as they approach two police officers at the door. She says to the officers, "Thank you for coming, I'm sorry we had to ask you."

Then she's off to the podium, walking as quickly as she can manage to walk. Walholdtz is ready to ask her audience to tell her what they can live with, to look to the future. Occasionally, as she speaks, she will lean back from the podium and rest her hand lightly on the baby moving within her body.