Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh call to mind those made by law professor Anita Hill, who testified in 1991 that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together. One of the key effects of Hill’s testimony was felt in the election cycle that followed her appearance. By setting a record for women elected to Congress, 1992 earned the nickname “the Year of the Woman” — and in fact, one of those women was Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was the one to escalate Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh.
Many of the women who ran for office at the time said they found the courage to run after seeing Hill speak to the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, and feeling that Hill did not receive the treatment she deserved.
“It was so stark, watching these men grill this woman in these big chairs and looking down at her,” Sen. Murray told former TIME correspondent Jay Newton Small for her book, Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works. Someone had to defend Hill and press Thomas further, she thought, and that meant women had to run for office.
Four women were elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992. California became the first state with two female Senators, between Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, also a Democrat. Washington elected Democrat Patty Murray; Illinois elected Carol Moseley Braun, the first female African-American Senator; and Maryland re-elected Democrat Barbara Mikulski, boosting the number of female senators from three to seven, as TIME reported back then. Meanwhile, a record 24 women won U.S. House seats that year, increasing representation to 48, up from 30. Down the ballot, women ran for and secured seats in their state legislatures, school boards and county commissions. (And in 1993, Texas sent Kay Bailey Hutchison to the Senate in a special election.)