For Mary Lang Sollinger, the decision to support political candidates not just with her time but with her money came after her own unsuccessful bid for Madison mayor in 1997.
"Being a candidate opened up a whole new perspective on politics and how tough it is," she says. "I decided that when I found candidates I liked, I really wanted to back them."
Sollinger and her husband, Hans, regularly host political fund-raisers in their Tenney Park home. And Sollinger herself has given plenty of campaign donations, including $1,500 to Kathleen Falk's race for attorney general. (Overall, just under half of Falk's contributions from individuals come from women.)
Nationally, only about one-third of the money raised for federal elections comes from women, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
"Sometimes you think, women have gone so far," says Sollinger. "But in the political arena, we haven't gone quite as far as we think we have."
Sollinger wonders if women don't give more to candidates because they're practical about how their money is used. "It's dicey when you give money to candidates," she says. "Elections are very unpredictable."
And, historically, women have not been encouraged to be political.
"Politics was saved for the husband," says Kristen Rogers, head of Women's Choice in Milwaukee. "I think that's opening up, because women are finally demanding to be at the table."
Women's Choice was created by a small group of women in 2000. It's a conduit, meaning it collects money from many individuals - 85% of whom are women - and passes it along to pro-choice female candidates for state office. So far in 2006, the conduit has given more than $7,000. Rogers declines to reveal how much the group has raised overall, other than to say, "This year, we're on track to double what we raised in 2005."
Rogers says the increase is because women finally realize what's at stake in elections. "Women are the ones taking care of the kids and their aging parents," she says. "So they're getting more politically involved."