Hillary Clinton’s Nomination: Historic Moment for Women (In the News)

With her one-word tweet, Hillary Clinton captured the significance of the moment on Tuesday night when she became the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Women have run for president dating to 1872, when Victoria Woodhull sought the office as the candidate of the Equal Rights Party. But heading the ticket for one of the two major parties, as opposed to a third party, is different. As First Lady Michelle Obama said in her speech to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia on Monday night: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”

And that is the point. It doesn’t matter what a person’s political affiliation is or whether a person is liberal or conservative. It doesn’t matter whether a voter will cast a ballot for Clinton in November. This is a moment that can be celebrated simply because it shows how far women have come in the United States and how much young girls can aspire to.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote, was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. And 96 years later, Clinton has broken a political glass ceiling.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, when women were entering careers that traditionally had been only for men, many of the pioneers were written about in newspapers and magazines. A common refrain was that women would have made significant gains when their career achievements were not accompanied by media coverage noting “the first” for women.

In this hard-fought election season, Clinton’s gender has been far down the list of issues being covered by the media. So that is another indicator that women have reached another milestone.

More months of tough campaigning lie ahead, and a Hillary Clinton presidency is not a foregone conclusion. But this is a moment in time when Americans of all political persuasions can take pride in knowing that women can run for the highest office and campaign on issues and the record, not gender.

Historic Moment for Women Across the Political Spectrum (In the News)

June 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics

At Women’s Voices for Change, we don’t engage in partisan politics. But for women across the political spectrum, Hillary Clinton’s achievement of becoming the first woman to be the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party is a truly historic moment.

The first female presidential candidate was Victoria Woodhull, who was nominated by the Equal Rights Party. Her vice presidential running mate was Frederick Douglass. Since then dozens of women have been on the ballot, including Shirley Chisholm, Sonia Johnson, Roseanne Barr and Gracie Allen.

Clinton, though, will be the first standard bearer for one of the two dominant parties.

Many people marked the shattering of this glass ceiling on Twitter:

Strange Bedfellows: Political Differences in Marriage

Clinton:TrumpIllustration by C.A. Martin

Editor’s Note: Women’s Voices for Change is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office or lobby on specific issues. However, from time to time certain themes from the political world are worthy of observation and discussion. Nothing in this article is intended as an endorsement of a particular candidate or point of view.  


Dear Dr. Ford,

My husband and I have been married for 20 years. He has always proclaimed that he was a liberal since he went to a famous Ivy League School in the early 1970s. He has never supported a female political candidate, in spite of this liberal label he has given himself. Things have become very tense in our house since he seems to get real satisfaction each time Donald Trump does something outrageous, while saying, “Of course, he won’t ever be elected.” Well, this man has now firebombed the Republican Party and polls show that he has the support of far more men than women.

We bicker every night when we watch CNN and it is casting a pall on our sex life and our otherwise great marriage. I told him last night that he could not discuss politics with me until the election is over. Why am I so angry with him?



Dear Geraldine,

Your question is very timely. The issue you raise is of interest to our readers because one of the candidates, perhaps without wanting to, has made the treatment of women central to this campaign. For example, recent polls indicate that as much as 73 percent of women disapprove of Mr. Trump, and most of his supporters are indeed men. And these polls were taken before the candidate started on his most controversial week yet: attacking Heidi Cruz, refusing to fire his campaign manager who was accused of manhandling a female reporter, culminating with his remarks that women seeking abortions should be punished—a position that even the most conservative pro-life candidates don’t hold. He was forced to walk back his comments concerning the punishment of women and even admit that he was mistaken.

According to The New York Times, even the most die-hard Republican women may rebel. The Times reported: “Republican strategists . . . (are) . . .  saying that should Mr. Trump become the nominee, he would grievously harm the party’s chance of winning the White House and other contests because of his unpopularity among female voters.”

Salon contributor Heather Digby Parton adds, “His problems with women of all political stripes are real and they are getting worse.”

This situation may be confusing to many because, as CNN reporter Gloria Borger puts it, “Trump. . .  just loves women. At least that’s what he tells us.”

RELATED: The Narcissistic Personality in Politics

Perhaps he is representative of a type of heterosexual male who thinks he loves women, but clearly doesn’t like them very much. Your husband, who does not support this candidate politically, seems to be getting some vicarious enjoyment from his comments, and it’s making you furious. It’s not hard to understand why this upsets you. By showing satisfaction about the candidate’s remarks, he is essentially saying he doesn’t disapprove, and not disapproving is akin to tacit approval. Sexist positions and behavior are always damaging to women. You are wondering why this is not offensive, but rather is amusing, to your husband. Is he voicing something that your husband in some way agrees with?

Read More »

Nancy Reagan, a Woman of Civility and Grace

March 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Politics, World

First lady Nancy Reagan's official White House portrait, painted by Aaron Shikler.

First lady Nancy Reagan’s official White House portrait, painted by Aaron Shikler.

This week the nation has been paying tribute to former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at the age of 94. She will be laid to rest today next to her husband and the love of her life, President Ronald Reagan, on the grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

The Reagans were in the White House for most of the 1980s, which was a very different time than we’re living in now. They were both politically savvy, with President Reagan having a singular gift for communicating with the American people and Mrs. Reagan working behind the scenes to protect her husband’s interests and image.

During the Reagan administration, President and Mrs. Reagan were not universally adored. There were tough political battles on such things as the extent of federal welfare programs and the size of the U.S. military. They were criticized by some for bringing Hollywood to Washington, and Mrs. Reagan took a lot of heat for her efforts to redecorate the White House and the purchase of expensive china for state dinners.

Throughout, the Reagans maintained a high level of civility and decorum on the public stage. That contrasts sharply with the current level of political discourse.

Coming in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, Mrs. Reagan’s death serves as a reminder that politics doesn’t have to be coarse and rude. At the Republican debate Thursday night, Mrs. Reagan was honored with a moment of silence. Later in the debate, candidate Donald Trump even remarked that he was surprised by the level of civility in the discussion.

Without being partisan, we can admire Mrs. Reagan for the way she conducted herself as first lady, and afterward as her husband endured the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. We thank her for being an example of civility and grace.

A Selection of Remembrances

Patti Davis: How I Remember My Mother Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan – A Remembrance by Ken Khachigian

Smithsonian Curator Discusses Nancy Reagan’s Legacy

The Bipartisan Appeal of Nancy Reagan: Class, Strength, and, Oh, That Laugh

Nancy Reagan’s Caregiving Legacy

About Martha Coakley

January 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics

Attention, all candidates and wannabees: Learn a valuable lesson from Martha Coakley.

If you want to win, don’t take anything for granted. Fight as if your political life depends on it, because it does.

The electorate is fickle; just because you’re a Dem running in one of the bluest of blue states for the seat Ted Kennedy held for 47 years, doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in. Don’t count on your gender either, if you’re a woman expecting to inherit the seat that Kennedy won with the support of 72 percent of women voters.

Being a woman is not enough. Remember how insulted many women were by the cynical assumption of Republican strategists that women would vote for McCain because of Sarah Palin’s place on the ticket.

I know that as a woman candidate, you’re also constantly watched for signs of “weakness” and are tempted to butch it up as much as possible (e.g., Hillary and those shot glasses). But don’t make Hillary’s mistake: Until that game-changing night in New Hampshire, when her tears exposed her vulnerability, the candidate maintained a supremely confident, rather icy, off-putting distance between herself and the voters.

While women don’t have to be sexy and flirtatious, winking at every interlocutor, they do have to be women. They’re not men and they shouldn’t pretend to be. I think Hillary believed that to compete with men for what had always been a man’s job, she had to act like a stereotypical man: tough and emotionless, to project strength and competence. We saw some of that in Coakley — and in the response to her, when Mike Barnicle described her race with Scott Brown as “the high school football coach vs. the substitute teacher who didn’t pay attention to her students.” It was sexist, and followed by ridiculous chatter — but at bottom was it unfair?

In the 21st century, gender boundaries are much less rigid than they used to be. Today we prize women as women: Studies have shown that women in elected office exercise their knowledge and experience by pushing for education and health care in considerably larger numbers than their male counterparts. Coakley consistently resisted talking about her family during her campaign; she refused to allude to the historic nature of her candidacy — had she won, she would have been the first woman senator of Massachusetts. As Emily Bazelon points out at Slate, she consistently resisted using the F word, feminism.

It’s okay to show emotion: People expect it and suspect something’s missing when they don’t see it. Above all, connect with people. Coakley held very few public events and traveled little. She wasn’t able to mix it up with the voters. The Boston Globe reported that Coakley “bristled” at the suggestion that she wasn’t outgoing enough:

“As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?’’ she fire[d] back, in an apparent reference to a Brown online video of him doing just that.

Politicians will always kiss babies and shake hands, because the public wants to see and touch and have eye contact before it entrusts someone with defending its interests. That human connection is what makes politics feel like what it’s supposed to be: public service. If you have little tolerance for that connection, please move out of the way and let us find someone who’s the best woman for the job: It’s too important.

Congratulations, Justice Sotomayor!

August 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics

Today, Judge Sonia Sotomayor became Justice Sotomayor — the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.  

sotomayorsworninWVFC has been watching these weeks before her confirmation with great interest — with news blogs as President Obama chose her and a sharp commentary by Diane Vacca of the deep sexism in the media’s treatment of the third female Justice in history.

Late last week, the Senate confirmed her by a vote of 68 to 31; Senator Lindsey Graham, who had been a harsh questioner during confirmation hearings, voted in favor, while Senator Sessions and former Presidential candidate John McCain lined up with the rest in opposition. (Watch a video of Al Franken’s announcement here.)

Justice Sotomayor started work today with a very full plate. Bloomberg News outlines some of what’s coming up right away:

Her first test will come Sept. 9, when the justices hear an unusual second round of arguments in a campaign finance case to consider overturning the century-old ban on corporate political giving. The case concerns a documentary film critical of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Later in its 2009-10 term, which formally starts in October, the court will consider the ability of private citizens to sue over religious monuments on public property, determine the constitutionality of a government agency that oversees the accounting industry, and consider whether youths can be sentenced to life in prison for crimes other than murder.

In addition, notes Amy Davidson at The New Yorker, the judge who ended the baseball strike is not quite through with baseball, as Major League Baseball’s exclusive contract with Topps for “approved” baseball cards is up for examination:

Since when are such monopolies legal? As it happens, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case addressing that very question, American Needle v. N.F.L., this fall. It concerns the N.F.L. and hats, but could have big implications—an ESPN.com columnist said it “could easily be the most significant legal turning point in the history of American sports.” Sotomayor has already saved baseball; can she now save baseball cards?

We’re guessing that after 17 years on the bench, facing off with Major League Baseball, and keeping her cool as the Senate Judiciary Committee made her answer the same questions over and over, the hard, essential work of the Court will feel like a breeze. We look forward to hearing about her as we watch the next session of the Court.

A Mother’s Day remembrance : Natalie Wolff McIntyre

patlunch1croppedliliesbelleisleThe lilacs are blooming again at 4121 Pontiac Trail in Orchard Lake, Mich., just as they were one year ago on Mother’s Day. This was the day my mother-in-law died.  Natalie Wolff McIntyre had spent her last day in and out of consciousness; when conscious, she was so very present. I was with her husband, Bruce, and their children when she left us at 12:05 a.m. We were all certain that she chose to leave on Mother’s Day so that we would have this special time each year — to remember what had been her life’s work, the work of the mother. Mother’s Day will always be Natalie’s day to us.

dougnatalieMy husband still weeps at unexpected times. Holidays are hard because there were always special rituals with this family. Easter was especially difficult, since this was an important spiritual day each year in Natalie’s life. The maternal anchor chain has been severed and the McIntyre family has been drifting some since.

Every day for 25 years, Bruce sat in the breakfast nook with Natalie at the house in Orchard Lake. They shared a passion for politics and civic life, a passion for family and friends, and there were always cats and usually a dog wandering around, cats climbing the rafters in the kitchen and being generally entertaining. There were birds to watch at the feeder just outside the window and an unending series of amusing wildlife to encounter morning after morning as coffee and conversation progressed.

Bruce has visited us in New York twice, and his time with us has given us incredible joy. But he can’t stay long. He needs his private time. We understand that he is slowly finding his way. He visits and works with friends from his days in the newspaper world, goes to seminars on espionage, has taken a cruise, sits on the city council, and spends time with his daughters and their families, who live close by.

Bruce has a new routine, one that he never shared with Natalie. He now has breakfast with friends at a local diner every day. He has full days out in the community, but then he does come home. The cats are there and this week the lilacs are blooming. The boat went out onto the lake this weekend as it always does. Bruce loves his home and is making his life work again.

Natalie gave her son the portrait painted of her at 25, when she pregnant with him. The portrait is in an oval frame and is over 50 years old. This portrait is in my consultation room and greets me each day as I begin the work that I am here to do. This week I will fill my office with lilacs, lilacs for memory.

The Next Justice?

May 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics

In all the chat since  Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his retirement Friday, none dispute that President Obama is likely to add to the number of women on the Court. “Even Laura Bush was disappointed that her husband didn’t name a woman to replace Sandra Day O’Connor,” according Harvard Law’s Mark Tushnet. As the New York Times points out, there’s no shortage of stellar jurists, sharp legal experts and deep thinkers for the president to choose from. A few of the most-mentioned candidates are below, all of whom would bring with them the maturity of their years, as well as the “empathy” Obama spoke of on Saturday.

  • sotomayorSonia Sotomayor‘s name has been in the mix so long that Esquire profiled her last fall as Most Likely To Be Named Justice. “Because Sotomayor has a reputation for staying behind the scenes and sits on a federal bench known for its centrism, it’s likely that she would be able to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate,” the magazine pointed out, adding that Sotomayor—appointed to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush and best-known for siding with labor in the Major League Baseball strike of 1999—”has often shown suspicion of bloated government and corporate power” and “has offered a reinterpretation of copyright law, ruled in favor of public access to private information.” The Huffington Post’s Rachel Weiner adds that when appointed in 1992, Judge Sotomayer told the New York Times that her inspiration for a courtoom career came after watching an episode of Perry Mason: “I thought, what a wonderful occupation to have…. And I made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor’s job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be.”
  • dianewoodDiane P. Wood‘s familiarity with the Court began with the best, when she clerked for the great Justice Harry Blackmun. Since joining the nation’s conservative Seventh Circuit 14 years ago, Wood “often finds herself the lonely dissenter on three-judge panels, arguing that atheists should be able to challenge the mostly-Christian prayers Indiana legislators use to open their sessions, that a gay Wisconsin teacher should be able to sue for alleged discrimination, that a Jewish condo dweller should be able to sue for discrimination when the building makes her take down her mezuzah, or that Indiana voters should not have to show ID to vote,” notes the Chicago Tribune.
  • sullivan1Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School, founded  the university’s Constitutional Law Center in 1999, three  years before the government’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11 began to raise a host of unexpected constitutional questions. If appointed, Sullivan (like Sotomayor) would also make history as the first openly gay Justice. Her legal interests range widely in her private practice, where (according to her Stanford biography) Sullivan has represented “a diverse client list, from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell to the City of Honolulu, ABC Television, Hearst Publications, the San Francisco Chronicle in the BALCO case and Siebel Systems.”

We hope you’ll chime in with your own suggestions. (We’ll refrain, ourselves, from suggesting Judith Kaye, Gloria Steinem or Wanda Sykes, though a girl can dream.)

Katherine McNamara: “It’s about moving into the unoccupied spaces”

April 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Poetry, Politics

mcnamaraKatherine McNamara  started crashing people’s  expectations early –  peeling off to Paris in the middle of a Cornell history Ph.D. and learning she was a poet, striking out for Alaska just as the oil boom was ending;  founding one of the first prestigious literary magazines  published entirely on the Internet. And ever since we met last month at WVFC’s “The Time of Your Life” luncheon, she’s been talking to us about literature, politics, publishing, why she doesn’t believe in reinvention and why her next stop might be Antarctica.

narrowrdAll it takes is to read one sentence of your book The Narrow Road to the Deep North – or even your editor’s notes in your magazine, Archipelago – to know you as a poet.

My diction comes from growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, in an area populated by so many immigrants from Ireland, Lithuania, other countries. My valley was a very interesting place, but it was a place you had to get out of.  Still,  there’s something I’d call a a sort of Wyoming Valley accent that I’d never heard till last year,  when I first went to Ireland, heard and heard that from people there. A familiar but half-remembered music.

You really became a poet, you said, in Paris, where you  were pursuing a Ph.D. in  European intellectual history.

When I got the fellowship to go there a friend shook me: “You’re not going to be like other Americans who go to Paris and sing in the metro, are you? You’re  going to be a writer!” But Paris also made me realize that I could be curious, I could go out there. I learned how to be a very young, pretty girl traveling in the world: how to walk, how not to call attention to myself the way we Americans always do.  I learned how to walk through the world!

kathfairbanksI began to feel the call as a poetry in Paris, but I didn’t really get it until I moved to Alaska.

You  stayed there for seven years – supporting yourself as a poet!  You also learned a lot, you said, from visiting poets that came to the Midnight Sun Writers Conference. Those writers included people like Ted Hughes, William Stafford.

One of my first friends in Alaska turned out to be a poet, and a man in a very influential position.  He invited prominent American poets to come to Alaska. And that’s how young poet learns to do poetry: you learn it from your elders!

I really did have a calling as a poet. I lived cheaply – I was young! I always had low overhead, slept on couches, that sort of thing. My last actual job was with the Iditerod school district.

leegoernerkath Along the way I met Lee Goerner, an editor from New York. It wasn’t exactly that we had a romance: I think we recognized something in each other. We married in 1988, and I began writing Narrow Road in New York in 1989.

New York in 1989 —what a culture shock after Alaska!

There’s a historian who said that “1989 was the end of the 20th Century.” That was the year the Exxon Valdez went aground; that spring the Velvet Revolution, that summer the Berlin Wall fell. And before any of that, Iran issued the fatwa against Salman Rushdie — which caused a huge roiling in publishing, struck terror in many hearts.

Lee had left Knopf, where he had been for twenty years, and became editor and publisher at Atheneum;  I was offered a book contract for a book about Alaska. But as Lee  published writers he cared about, he became known as a “literary editor,” at a time when publishing was changing.

With the consolidation and conglomeration of so many companies:  I didn’t know who my editor was at Viking anymore, it looked like Viking might be shut down. Lee had made his life in this; he made sense of it in a different  way — until 1994, when Atheneum was shut down by a new owner. Lee didn’t work from then until the day he died a year and a half later, quite young.

I moved to Charlottesville — I had friends there, it was congenial, it was quiet. I traveled a lot, and tried to figure out what to do.

Which turned out to be — Archipelago?

I was in Los Angeles and had lunch with Sonja Bolle, who was at the time  editor of the LA Times Book Review.  We were talking about trade publishing, the shock to it. Meaning the loss of Lee, but also of what we called the “missing books” — that the books that you’d once call mid-list were just not appearing. So I suggested to her that once a quarter or so, she feature these unpublished books, invite a well-known novelist to review one of two of these works becoming “our shadow lit.”  She laughed and said “I don’t know if we can do it, but it sounds like something you should do.” I said, “Who needs another another literary review on the newsstand?” “No,”she said – and remember, this is 1996! – “you should use the Internet. It’s too democratic. But if you’re there, we’ll know where to look.”

It was an interesting idea. I thought about it: I did have a Mac laptop, the 52 20, and  the Mosaic interface had by then come in… And I had a little money that I wanted to devote in some way to books, to publishing. I corresponded with a number of writers, all of whom said, “we’ve thought about doing something like this, but you should be the one to do it.”

I ruminated and I traveled a lot, came back and hired a graphic designer to do the logo and the whole site. Someone came up with and gave me the name:  Archipelago. It went live in March 1997.

You hadn’t done editing before, but Archipelago was noticed pretty immediately — from the Times Literary Supplement to USA Today. The latter called it “THE place on the Web if you care about serious literature.”

archlogo-bigWhatever I knew about being as an editor, I had absorbed from Lee: it amounted to deep respect for the writer. To make a piece of writing more of itself. I had an eye for poetry, and for people who were willing to help. People were very generous.

That really big notice in the TLS — it was quite a nice note, it got us a surge of traffic. At its height, we were getting  18,000 unique page views a month.

Our final issue was in 2007; I still get queries and submissions, notes that say “we miss you.” It’s all very flattering, but what’s more important: it tells me there are serious readers out there. In the mid-90s, publishers would say there are only 60,000 serious readers, or even 40,000. But if our magazine  could get 18,ooo a quarter, that would gives you ALL the serious readers in the world! It put the lie to those claims.

Along those lines, you did a series of interviews called  “Institutional Memory,” about the conglomerations that were, as you put it, “turning once-respectable trade publishers into grubby media companies.”

Publishing has always been countercyclical to the economy, and it always meant a small return on investment. You made enough to pay the bills, you didn’t make tons of money.  “Institutional Memory” was my way of exploring: what’s happening to publishing? Why was Lee treated the way he was? I called Michael Bessie, who helped found Atheneum, and interviewed him. Then I thought: this could be an interesting series. Talk to some people who started in the heyday of publishing, their sense of what had happened, and the authors they’d published. We started with the second issue, with British publisher Marion Boyars .  The series went on for about five years! It had the energy of a conversation.  it achieved what  we wanted to say.

You also wrote a series of “Endnotes,” as you called them, that got more and more political as time went on.

I did not expect to write about politics. Politics is the work of the polity, the citizenry, in whom sovereignty resides under our Constitution. It is not the work of literature or the arts. It is, however, a subject of informed, carefully considered opinion. It seemed, as the Bush administration took hold, that what I saw, read, and was told gave me a perspective and language not always available to our readers, when the mainstream media were not, with certain exceptions, reporting the story accurately.

It was our early sense that the narrative had changed: that this nation rapidly lost both power and influence in the world, that our moral standing had been brought shockingly low, that the very basis of our governance was being altered without our consent. This was not a matter of mere personality; the changes in our governance since the Reagan-Thatcher years are structural. I was educated in the history of Europe and am haunted by the specter of the “good German” who went along with law and authority while his murderous government made (preventive) war on the world and its own citizens.

You closed the magazine just as the 2008 election was beginning to heat up; so we never heard what you thought about the one prominent Alaskan in the race.

clelandobamaAlaska once had very good governors. The former hunting guide, a Republican, Jay Hammond, who, in the 1970s, worked to advance sustainability of natural resources and the environment, was governor when I first lived there. I was last in Alaska four years ago, when Governor Tony Knowles, a Democrat, ran for Senator (against Lisa Murkowski, I think), and lost by a hair’s-breadth. Is that when Palin won? Here’s a photo of Knowles and Max Cleland campaigning in Fairbanks.

Palin is typical of a great many Alaskans, I suppose, but I hardly knew them, as I lived mostly among Native (and a number of white) people in the bush, and around university people in Fairbanks. Alaskans (rather like Americans) like to think of themselves as exceptional.

Why did you end Archipelago when you did?

I’d begun work on a second book, that took more and more of my attention. I didn’t have the attention the writers deserved. Besides….the Web had changed. We were very old-fashioned as it turned out.

peter_kalifornskyThe book is a series of three memoirs of people who were notable in their parts of the world, and close to me — all linked by literary and autobiographical strands. Two, about whom I’ve written a bit already in Narrow Road to the Deep North, are ‘Malfa Ivanov’ (the name she gave me to use), who was my second mother, and Peter Kalifornsky, the late Dena’ina Athabaskan writer. The third is Lee Goerner, formerly of Knopf, and the last publisher and editor-in-chief of Atheneum.

There’s a very strong literary theme in all this. Malfa, my second mother, had decided that if I was  good learner she would teach me.  Peter Kalifornsky was the writer, and he was the last speaker of his language. I worked with him for several years on translations. He and I talked a lot about what it means to write a language that was only oral, only known by the people you know and their ancestors. That  literary line goes on to my life with Lee in New York, and as an author.

You were a poet when you met him. But you aren’t writing poems now. You told me that New York City made it impossible, at least for a while.

I could feel it when I landed, 20 years ago.  I had this sense in my stomach, my gut:  I’d just landed in the heart of hard capital. For a while it didn’t matter; after all I was working on a book of prose.

kath2007-019aWhich is, as I said, very poetic. Do you see poems in your prose now, and the way you work with?

I don’t want to flaunt myself, but that’s very much my sensibility. There’s also a kind of religious sensibility, an appreciation of quiet. There are many ways in which poetry and religion meet. I think that’s where I stand, in that overlap: I stand in the protection of that space.

After all the changes you’ve been through, you really don’t believe in reinvention?

That meme for reinvention came up maybe in the 1980s — in New York people were always reinventing themselves. But in Alaska, I’d lived for years among people for whom such talk — that was a variety of lying. At the very least, it always has seemed to me a kind of whistling past the graveyard.

When your book is done, are you really going to become a visiting writer in Antarctica? You said you would love to go there with your brother, who’s a professor of astrophysics in Canada.

Last fall, I met a curator from New Zealand – we talked about his experience with Maori people, mine with Athabaskan Indians. He encouraged me to apply to the National Science Foundation. It was intriguing, because I realized: The way I know Alaska is…. because I was taught to see by  native people who were my friends. I learned to see the invisible as well as the visible world, because I was kindly and beautifully taught. But Antarctica has no indigenous people — I’m curious as to that it would be for me.

That’s what I’ve done in my life – move into unoccupied space. Not physically, as if Alaska were unpopulated — it isn’t! But I left academia because it was too restrictive and didn’t let me ask the questions I needed; I went somewhere, Alaska, where the answers weren’t packaged.  And so with Archipelago: there wasn’t much published on the Net, so…You move into some sense the unformed space, the space that’s uncolonized.

My brother says he’s not interested. But I think It would be really interesting for somebody like me and somebody like my brother to look at, to experience the same place.

Newsflash: Kirsten Gillibrand, Friend of WVFC, to be Senator?

January 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics

With today’s news that Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand has been appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Clinton, we were doubly proud that the Congresswoman gave WVFC so much time last year. (Above, see her school the House Ethics Committee.) We’ve reprinted the interview below. What do WVFC readers feel about the idea of a Senator Gillibrand? (And while we’re looking back, check out Dr. Pat’s January checklist of important attributes for a good President. You might want to print the list!) Ed.

U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who represents New York’s 20th district, credits her grandmother, who founded the first women’s Democratic club in the Albany area and was a tireless campaigner for women’s rights, for raising her political consciousness at a very early age.

Today Gillibrand is a role model for many women balancing work and family.

Between committee hearings in Washington and constituent meetings in upstate New York, Gillibrand spoke with Women’s Voices for Change recently about women in politics. And she offered suggestions for women interested in running for office at the local or national level. The interview begins after the jump.

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October 15th, 2008: The Last Presidential Debate

October 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Politics

Pat,Coward, Cathy and Linda, live blogging for the debate


Why Is Your Economic Plan Better Than Your Opponent's Plan? 

Both Senators McCain and Obama urged short term relief for the suffering American taxpayers.  McCain refusing once again to address Obama directly.  Speaking about an Ohio plumber, a small business owner, who will suffer due to Obama's tax increase on small business income;  "Joe the plumber". Obama retorted that McCain and I plan to lower taxes.  Obama said that he would make tax cuts to 95% of Americans and that McCain will focus on lowering the taxes for the rich. 
I want to know from the Senators how we will pay for the bailout and the Tax deficit, how the hell will we pay for this if we cut taxes?  McCain doesn't want to cut taxes he said because he wanted to "spread the wealth around"…is that trickle down economics?  Boys, tell me where the money is coming from?


Won't Some of Your Proposals Hve to Be cut Due to the Soaring Deficitt?  These men are saying the same safe things they have been talking about on the stump and in each debate.  Same old.


Leadership in this campaign:  Both candidates have used negative campaign tactics.   Are you willing to say these negative things to each other's face?  McCain referring now to JFK's untimely death in Dallas?  What is he thinking?  Congressman John Lewis "has indicated that we are associated with a terrible part of American history and Senator Obama never repudiated this".  Obama said we expect that candidates will run tough campaigns, but that Americans want us to talk about the issues.  Obama said "I can put up with 3 more weeks of attacks but the American people want to hear about the issues".  Politics as usual is not getting the job done…At least Mr. McCain looked at Mr. Obama tonight…right in the face.  I am sick of JOE THE PLUMBER, John! 


Senator Obama objected that he had been labeled as a terrorist.  McCain said that the people who came to his rallies were real patriotic Americans.  Where is the moderator?  Solving 2 wars and the worst economic crisis since the great depression, means that we must work together…must not characterize each other as bad people…McCain now red in the face and now bringing up ACORN in this debate point about negative campaigning.  While Mr. Obama speaks, McCain smirks.  The women in this room do not like this.  McCain "facts are facts and records and records". 

9:45pm Why Would Your Running Mate Be Better at Running the Country?  Sen Obama, "Biden shares my core values, experience, his bipartisan support for bills important to Americans across the country.  McCain, "Palin is a role model for women":  The women in this room do not feel that a woman who has fIve children, a special needs child and no one running the home is our role model.  Mr. McCain could have chosen a running mate who was a brilliant Republican, man or woman.  These are just our response to Mr. McCain's choice of a woman who looks good and could actually be president since he is quite old, but she has no experience outside this campaign.

Pre-Debate Buzz: What Can We Actually Learn?

October 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Politics

This pre-debate Newsmix is later than it should be. The news itself felt more sparse — perhaps lost in bytoday's round of hard economic news, perhaps simply waiting till things got started. But here are some gems to soothe the antsy if you don't want to listen to yakking commentators.

  • At the New York Times, Katherine Seelye gives her usual even-handed assessment of what each candidate needs to establish tonight:  that their plan for the economy will get us out of the current recession and the country back on track.
  • MomLogic points out that this is also Hillary Clinton's night: she'll be in the audience at Hofstra.
  • Ann Althouse, who will also be live-blogging at her site, offered some brief advice for both candidates: "Obama only needs to run out the clock, not make mistakes, be boring, etc….Let him be the fusty, phlegmatic professor. It doesn't matter. But McCain may be looking at his last chance to make something happen. Now, I think the danger for him is trying too hard. My advice is: Act the way you would act if you knew for certain that you would lose.
  • "As for me, I'm just glad we don't have to watch anymore debates after tonight," adds Taylor Marsh, from the other side of the aisle. "They've been anything but inspiring." Noting that "the coverage of this race at this point has become tortured, " Marsh shares Althouse's assessment: "[McCain's] only hope is to unmask himself and be totally transparent in a way that challenges the Obama candidacy fundamentally, saying he's not ready and McCain is. Trouble is, with the economy flat lining, along with McCain's poll numbers, it's as close to being too late as it gets."
  • CitizenJanePolitics, a young women's political site run by journalist Patricia Murphy (a former aide to Senator Max Cleland), offers a handy "Compare Your Candidates" page. CJP also promises a side-by-side analysis of the two men's economic plans before the night is out. 
  • Don Frederick at the L.A. Times has a whole list of "Debate Day Reading," including Richard Cohen' list of fairly provocative questions the candidates won't be asked
  • Last but not least, Jan at Happening Here tipped us off to the video below, showing that Campbell Robinson is keeping up her commitment to telling it like it is.

From Oilman’s Daughter to Funding Women’s Power; Checklist for Breast Cancer Prevention After 40; Ruling Rikers Like the Perfect Tough Aunt

“It gets into your blood”: That’s how Swanee Hunt, director of the Women and Policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, describes a family that wasn’t shy about passionate political opinions. She writes at Women’s Enews that she knew that wealth meant that she had power — before she knew what she would use it for:

Dad [H.L. Hunt] was a Texas oilman with far right-wing politics. He relished this work and pulled his children into it when he could. My sister and I sang patriotic ditties to visiting dignitaries, and I sometimes delivered warnings about Castro’s communist threat as a warm-up to his speeches. In 1964 I accompanied him to the Republican convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco; like a young Hillary Rodham, I was a banner-waving Goldwater Girl.

By that time our nation had already plunged into a sequence of social movements that would reshape my politics: civil rights, anti-war, environmental and women’s movements were underway. Dad died when I was 24, and my inheritance allowed me to become a philanthropist.

Five years later, in 1979, I made a reservation for a table in the male-only Main Dining Room of the Dallas Petroleum Club. (With a name like “Swanee,” no one knows. . .) At the door, the stately but flummoxed black maitre d’ had to turn me away or lose his job. He and I had more in common than met the eye: Neither of us were welcome in the hallowed mess hall where deals might be made.

Paste this on the fridge. Then remember to look at it: This week, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month gets started, we can all expect a near-glut of TV spots, celebrity-laden events, and pink buttons. But none of that familiarity should stop us from paying attention to ABC News’ decade-by-decade guide to prevention:

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Essay- I Have Decided to Become Queen

September 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Humor, Musings, Newsmakers

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen, aka Patricia Dianne Yarberry Burgess Allen McIntyre

Patricia_yarberry_allen_2a In a detailed examination of Sara Palin’s personal style of politics in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Sarah Palin’s first run for mayor in 1996, recalled that Ms. Palin told her while running for mayor, “I want to be president”.

Now, I know that I don’t have the experience, or the temperament to be POTUS. And, Lord knows, I don’t want anyone messing around in my skeleton closet.  However, if magical thinking is the new political order, I have decided to become QUEEN of The United States of America.  I have no interest in the Legislative Process.  I will simply issue edicts.  We can continue to have a POTUS, but I will be in charge of creating a new way for Americans to live.

Under the reign of Queen Patricia Dianne Yarberry Burgess Allen McIntyre (warned you about those skeletons didn’t I?), life will be really tough.  American subjects will miss their old ways indeed.
I will be addressing my subjects weekly in a Royal Internet Audience.  In today’s inaugural address, I will focus on the young people of my country.  There is much that must be done and I am determined that we will roll up our collective sleeves and just get to it.

I am pleased to announce the first 10 Royal Decrees of the Reign of Queen Patricia:

1.Every child in America will read for an hour every day.  The book list will be created by HRM Queen Patricia.  Television and emails and twitters and texting will be limited to 30 minutes every day after the completion of serious homework.

2.Retired persons with intellectual , artistic, technical or cultural gifts will be required to tutor small groups of students daily.  Mentoring in important ways will put these important personages in line for a special Order of Social Improvement.

3.Families will be required to participate in mandated dinner conversations about Subjects of Importance to a Civilized Person.  The List of Subjects will be created by HRM Queen Patricia.  There will be no disputes at the dinner table.

4.Exercise and athletic training will be required for all subjects daily.  Competitions will be civilized and behavior will be as important as the athletic skills. Sodas will be outlawed along with transfats and junk food.  Obesity will no longer be an epidemic in the New Age of Patricia. There will be no more soccer or hockey moms. There will be no inappropriate behavior at athletic games and contests since the Coaches and classmates will provide the community of support for these events.  Video tapes of performances will be given to parents at the end of each month.  No parents will be allowed to attend competitions.  After all, parents have lives and duties to the Queen that will require much time.

5.No one will ever be granted an automobile license unless this person has successfully graduated from high school and can pass a formal examination in  American History, The Practice of Being a Citizen in America which will include both the understanding of all levels of government from local to national and a required volunteer effort by each young person working in some level of the government annually in order to receive and keep this driver’s license.

6.Sex education and contraception will be mandatory.  However, young people will no longer be driven to inappropriate behavior by vulgar music and videos that demeans the special nature of an intimate relationship.  There will be NO physical intimacy without real emotional intimacy.  However any intimacy between young persons will be frowned upon until graduation from high school.

7.Persons who promote the use of drugs, tobacco products and alcohol for young men and women will be severely punished.  They will be required to attend theology classes, civics classes, ethics classes and then will be evaluated for a vocation that will be of use to a civilized society.

8.Teachers will be honored but they will be required to know their subjects and will themselves by tested for knowledge of their subjects.  Teachers will work 48 weeks a year.  Students will attend classes 48 weeks a year. Teaching will finally become a real profession, not a job that gives one the summer off.

9. In the third year of high school, students will be evaluated for the next stage of their education.  Based on talent and ability and passion, students will either enter a university track, a music and arts track or a vocational tract.  However, all students will still complete the same core curriculum.

10. When students graduate from high school they must acquire the following skills in addition to their academic, cultural, civics and athletic achievements:
They will know about food safety and preparation.and understand the importance of excellent nutrition.  They will  know how to make meal plans and a grocery list.
They will know how to successfully complete all the tasks necessary to the effective management of the home.
They will be able to repair and maintain all the basic items that make a home and garden function.
After graduation, all young people will be required to give 2 years of service to their country before they go to the next stage of their academic life.  This is not to be confused with the military draft.  I will address the issues of the military in my next Internet Audience with my Beloved Subjects.

Ms Palin may “want to be president”, but I have already become Queen.  I will always place the best interests of my people before any personal gain.  I will be informed about policies that I implement for the good of the country.  I will take no salary.  After all, this is the work that God has called me to do.

Iron Jawed Angels on HBO and in Real Life

September 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Politics, Television

It has been a long while since Women’s Voices for Change has posted any news of ourselves.  Early on, many of you came to rely on us for a kind of open door/open mouth policy wherewith we invited you in for coffee and showed you the new underwear we’d just purchased.  Those were the heady days of our beginning and as time passed we became busy with housekeeping chores and planning for the future and kind of kept to ourselves.

This time of national soul searching has brought us out again..

A friend of ours sent us a mailing about the women who became known as the  “Iron Jawed Angels” and about the HBO film of the same name.  It’s heart wrenching and important and a reminder of the cathedral of the next two months.  These women risked everything in order to gain women the right to vote.  They are our foremothers and we must honor their struggle with our courage.

Politics is at times ugly business.  It seeks through the use of personal attack gain in the public arena.  It works through fear to promise safety.  It reduces us to the most superficial self-defining and calls that democracy.  But the political process is something else again.  It reminds us that each link matters to the chain.  It listens to each of our voices in the form of each of our votes to determine who occupies the office that stands for our national character.  It also gives us a chance to make the difference we want in the outcomes.

Voter registration is key to any election.  Each one of us who works to register voters will be working toward a stronger more involved citizenry.  Information is intention as reality.  Arm yourself with clear facts and sure knowledge of the party platforms.  Be certain you can tell the truth about the candidate you are supporting and that you aren’t telling any falsehoods about the one you are not.

This is basic information for women of a certain age, but what is new for some of us is reckoning with the power we have over others.  Every day we encounter people who don’t feel about voting the way we do.  Standing in line for a cup of coffee or walking the aisle of a grocery store, we should be able to say something that hits the right chord or at least makes someone younger think about the democratic process or this election.  The streets that these candidates are walking will most likely get meaner in the coming days.  Meanness muddles meaning.  It’s up to us to remember what a presidential election means to our nation and to walk as the Iron Jawed Angels walked—with resolution and belief in our role in participating in the living Constitution and its importance on this planet.

Information about the Iron Jawed Angels is below, shared with us in a chain email — one that unlike so many others, is not about tearing a candidate down, but about who we are:


This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

Lucy_Burns_1913 And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of
‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’ They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis (below right) into a dark cell, smashed her
head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate,
Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.
Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging,
beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because–why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of vot ing had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege.
Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought
kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way I use, or don’t use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just
younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum.  I want it shown on Bunco and Bingo night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party – remember to vote.

History is being made.

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