Tammy Duckworth’s maternity leave dilemma exposes the sexism of US politics

US senator Tammy Duckworth gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, yesterday (April 9). Maile Pearl is Duckworth’s second child—she has another daughter named Abigail—and the first-ever child to be birthed by a serving senator.

That’s a striking statistic. Think about the math: There have been 115 congresses in the history of the US, with 1,972 senators representing their states in the past 229 years. But only 51 of those senators have been women; no wonder the Senate hasn’t historically been a place for new moms. (Ten women have given birth while serving as House representatives, including Duckworth herself.)

By itself, this says plenty about the kinds of barriers that women face when attempting to build a political career. Perhaps even more illuminating is the bind that Duckworth now finds herself in.

As the Illinois senator explained in a February interview with…

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