Why Kirsten Gillibrand’s story didn’t surprise any woman on Capitol Hill

But to anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on Capitol Hill, none of this should seem surprising. Change comes far more slowly there than in just about any other workplace.

When I started covering Congress in the 1980s, it had been nearly 70 years since the first woman had been elected to the institution. Yet, the most sacred bastion of male bonding — the House gym — was still closed to women members. Not until 2011 did the 76 female members of the House actually get their own ladies room off the chamber. (Before that, they had to go halfway across the House side of the Capitol for a members-only lavatory.)

Gillibrand’s book brings to my mind a complicated, curious incident that occurred not long after the much-heralded “Year of the Woman” — the 1992 election that swept 55 women into Congress, amid anger over Anita Hill’s treatment when she lodged sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.