“Are we aliens because we are women?” How women become political


By Taylor Rapalyea
Staff Writer

Women and men alike piled into John Hancock Hall on Oct. 7 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the first speech by a woman to a legislative body. One hundred seventy-five years ago, Angelina Grimke gave three speeches over the course of three days to the joint committee of the Massachusetts state legislature and the throngs of people who gathered to hear her.
The event featured speeches from Simmons College President Helen Drinan, women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem, and Boston City Councilor at-Large Ayanna Pressley. Actress Anne Gottlieb performed the only remaining parts of Grimke’s speech, and the speakers were superceded by a panel of women in politics, moderated by TV and radio commentator Callie Crossley.
Despite the encouraged use of the designated hashtag, #WomenPoli2013, all eyes faced front for the introductory remarks by President Drinan, followed by a speech from feminist advocate Gloria Steinem. Steinem described her involvement in democracy as “just something you do every day,” which was something her mother, another women’s rights advocate, told her growing up.
Steinem went on to say that after working on Shirley Chisholm’s campaign she was immediately hooked to the campaigning process. “[It’s an] organic part of our lives that [we] need to live,” Steinem commented.
The next speaker, Pressley, was equally riveting. She spoke on the importance of women taking hold of their own power to enable themselves to run for office.
“Broken girls grow up to become broken women,” stated Pressley. She went on to note that women – black women in particular – need to dare to be themselves before they can begin to dare to be political.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was scheduled to speak, but due to the impending government shutdown was unable to make the event. Instead, Warren sent a video telecast, taped prior to the actual shutdown, expressing her strong faith in hard work and making a difference. She noted that she had never planned to get into politics, but ran after being convinced by a plethora of supporters.
The speeches were followed by a panel discussion with the speakers, Babson College President and former Massachusetts Lieutenant Government Kerry Healy and Ambassador Swanee Hunt. Healy and Hunt chair Political Parity, an organization that seeks to increase the number of women in office. As is evident by the co-chairs (Healy is Republican and Hunt is a Democrat), the platform reaches across party lines to empower potential women politicians, regardless of political designation.
The discussion was begun with statistics provided by Political Parity regarding women in politics, the most interesting of which was perhaps the fact that women need to be asked four times to run before they will even consider doing so. The panelists joked that male politicians only needed one person to convince them to run: themselves.
Questions from the audience followed the panel, the askers of which each expressed the honor they felt to be before the panelists. One audience member came out as bisexual for the first time during her question, which was regarding the stereotype of women as being indecisive.
The event was closed with remarks from Therese Murray, Senate president of the Massachusetts General Court. Those who were unable to attend the event in person had the opportunity to view the speakers and panel via simulcast in the Linda J. Paresky Center. The link will remain live on the event website until February 2014. To access it, visit www.womenbecomepolitical.org.