Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Mikulski’

When I was only 3 years old, my parents strapped my first set of ice hockey skates on me — a Minnesotan rite of passage. Before long, ice hockey became my passion. However, upon entering high school, I learned that there wasn’t a girls’ team. At that moment, I experienced a rude awakening: Gender inequality was the status quo in my community.

Armed with my strong convictions and leveraging Title IX’s mandate, I led my peers and community members to lobby the school board to create a girls’ ice hockey team. Testifying against sexist opposition just like the pioneers of Title IX once did, we successfully convinced the school board to establish a girls’ team, an experience that has forever shaped my perception of what one passionate and goal-oriented individual can accomplish.

This early experience not only led to higher education and athletic opportunities that I might not otherwise have had but also guided my personal and professional pursuits. I was fortunate to attend Amherst College, graduate with honors in psychology, and serve as a captain of the women’s ice hockey team. The skills I obtained and the confidence I built as an athlete and as a member of a team were invaluable, leading me to ultimately become an attorney and an advocate for equal opportunities for all people. Along the way, I have advanced important social causes, served in leadership roles traditionally held by men (including as editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Law Review), and empowered the next generation of women as a mentor and role model.

Recently, by winning a Good Maker challenge, I received funding from the National Women’s Hall of Fame to pursue a sports and leadership project for girls. The premise of the project is to host a sports and leadership clinic not only to inspire, motivate, and empower young girls but also to enable older female athletes to give back to their communities and help instill in the next generation the passion, drive, and commitment that is necessary to maintain and expand equal opportunities.

Ensuring the protection of these opportunities was unquestionably the key message of the National Women’s Hall of Fame 40th anniversary Title IX celebration in Washington, D.C., last week. I was fortunate to have been recognized as a new generation leader at this event alongside the true pioneers and leaders of the women’s rights movement (my role models). Many of the distinguished speakers and panelists voiced the concern that the next generation may fail to understand the significance of Title IX and simply take those opportunities for granted. There is much more work to be done, and that work is now in the hands of the next generation.

This point resonated with me because of the similarities between the obstacles that the Title IX pioneers faced and those that modern-day female athletes still encounter. Bernice Sandler, known as the “godmother of Title IX” because of her role in the development and passage of the law, spoke about having to coordinate bake sales and other fundraisers to buy equipment. This story reminded me of some of the hand-me-down equipment that my college ice hockey team received from the men’s team. Did the Amherst women’s ice hockey team have to win a national championship to prove its worthiness and finally receive its own new jerseys and equipment?

I was also reminded of my own experience when Neena Chaudhry from the National Women’s Law Center explained the rationale behind the current challenges to Title IX — that girls are not as “interested” in sports as boys. That premise is precisely the one I encountered and believed I overcame in high school, more than 15 years ago. I’d say this attitude is clear evidence that we still have work to do!

Linda Hallman, executive director of AAUW, concluded the panel with a strong and passionate call to action: “Get out the vote!” I could not agree more. What a simple yet effective means to protect Title IX and to ensure its commitment to providing equal opportunities for all.

Each of the other panelists provided their own amazing tales and calls to action. Other speakers included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Finally, I’d be remiss to conclude without mentioning the ever humble, eloquent, and passionate women’s rights advocate Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), the “father of Title IX.” What I appreciated the most about him was that despite his integral involvement in the creation and passage of Title IX, he was happy to take a backseat to demonstrate his admiration for all the amazing and accomplished women in the room.

From the Olympian sitting next to me to the executive sitting across from me, the women at this conference were awe-inspiring. I only hope that through my life’s work I can continue to advance their fight to provide equal opportunities for women and that I will find and create opportunities to share my passion with and instill the same ideals in the next generation of women!

This blog post was written by National Women’s Hall of Fame grantee Heidi S. Alexander, Esq.

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A Facebook friend of mine who lives in Rwanda recently commented on an Internet meme posted on his wall. The picture showed some of the politicians who are leading the war on contraception. “I don’t even know how to express the amount of frustration I have listening to everything that’s happening back home,” he wrote.

This friend and I have only met once or twice, but I couldn’t resist a response: “Just wait for the elections. We’ll show ’em! Women are ready.”

My sentiments were echoed at the Feminist Majority’s Women, Money, Power Forum on March 29. If you missed the opportunity to attend the event, which was co-sponsored by AAUW, you can watch it online through the C-SPAN video library. (The forum was in no way related to the Time March cover article.)

At the event, the speakers tied their presentations — which covered topics ranging from birth control and abortion to religion and ballot measures — back to the importance of the upcoming elections for women on all fronts. Their message was clear: The change that women need will happen only if we vote for women-friendly leaders and against anti-woman ballot measures.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (far left) was honored as a 2012 Fearless Trailblazer at the Feminist Majority’s 25th anniversary luncheon. Feminist Majority Foundation Board Member Mavis Leno (right) presented the award.

Feminist Majority Executive Vice President Kathy Spillar addressed amplifying women’s voices during a panel discussion about mobilizing the vote. She talked about the anger that comes from watching how women are still treated in the workplace, from the new rules that states are passing to make it harder for people to vote, and from the assault on contraception. And we need to harness the anger over the poor judgment of some of our country’s leaders on so many policy initiatives that are important to women — like the Equal Rights Amendment, the Violence against Women Act, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Title IX — to rally the women’s vote, she said.

But it wasn’t all bad news. The forum raised a rallying flag for turning anger into action. E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, put it best during the closing panel. “We have to start acting like the majority,” she said.

To that end, the AAUW Action Fund has launched a new voter education and turnout campaign, It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard. There will be plenty of ways to get involved in the campaign in the coming months, but you can also take action right now.

Take a moment to call or e-mail three young women. Let them know that you value their opinions and that you want our country’s leaders to do the same. Ask these women to register to vote, and send them this link to register online. Share with them the AAUW Action Fund’s Congressional Voting Record, which they can use to look up how their senators and representatives have voted on important women’s issues. Or simply share the message on Twitter using the hashtag #MyVote, and follow @ItsMyVote for updates on the campaign.

By taking these steps, you are helping me fulfill my promise to my friend and fellow activist who feels so helpless in Rwanda. But more importantly, you are helping women win this fight.

This post was written by AAUW Marketing and Communications Intern Marie Lindberg.

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“No botox, no detox. My name is Loretta Ford, and I approve this message.”

So ended the speech of 91-year-old Ford as she accepted her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame along with 10 others last weekend in Seneca Falls, New York.

The tone of her remarks was unexpected, yet they captured the essence of the ceremony — the spirit, excitement, and passion of women who have changed the world and aren’t done yet.

Sitting in a room with these women who have shaped — indeed, are shaping — major areas of our lives was enthralling, and AAUW was proud to be there to celebrate the role four of them have played in our mission.

First, there was Helen Murray Free, a national member of AAUW who was honored for her contributions to medicine. Echoing many of the honorees’ sentiments, Free said she hadn’t set out to change people’s lives — it was a serendipitous accident.

“In September 1941, I was going to the College of Wooster to be a Latin and English teacher. Then Pearl Harbor happened in December, and the fellas all left to join the Navy and the Air Force,” Free said. “One night, the house mother came in and said, ‘Helen, you’re taking chemistry and getting good grades … why don’t you switch?’ And I just said OK. I fell in love with chemistry, and it was wonderful.”

Fast forward six years later, and Free had a degree chemistry, a job at Miles Laboratories, and a husband who would become her partner in changing lives. The Frees soon became a powerhouse in medical diagnostics — their research led to the first dip-and-read diagnostic test strips.

And that was just one inspiring AAUW story.

Donna Shalala, who under President Bill Clinton became the longest-serving U.S. secretary of health and human services, was also inducted. Early in her career, AAUW gave her a young scholar award.

“It was critical money and a critical award and a critical trajectory,” Shalala remembered. “I loved the fact that they intervened in my career, and it made a real difference. AAUW helped me network. I met amazing people as a result.”

Thrillingly, Lilly Ledbetter was also among the inductees. A close friend to AAUW and a newly published author, Ledbetter has been a crucial figure in the fair pay campaign, from her Supreme Court case to the bill named in her honor to the lingering Paycheck Fairness Act.

“When I set out in my career in 1979, it wasn’t part of my grand plan to someday have my name in the Supreme Court or on an act of Congress. I simply wanted to work hard and support my family. The rest, I believed, would take care of itself,” she said during her acceptance speech.

Fellow inductee Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a critical ally to Ledbetter and AAUW in the fair pay struggle, spoke to me before the ceremony about change-making women.

“It’s a great honor to be picked and join [more than] 240 other women who made a difference in science, politics, civil rights, medicine,” she said. “Every one lived in their time and seized the power that is now. When Rosa Parks sat down, the whole world stood up. It’s carpe diem.”

Mikulski believes AAUW plays an important role in making that happen. “Young people need someone to believe in them,” she said. “Some people have family that will believe in them. Not everyone has that supportive adult that tells you, ‘You can do it, and I can help you.’ It makes a difference to do that in young people’s lives. AAUW today is making that difference.”

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Ninety-two women hold seats in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives this Congress, a number down from the previous session — the first time that number has declined in 30 years. Women make up just over 17 percent of the Congress, which means the United States ranks 72nd in the world for women’s representation in national parliaments — well below nations like the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Angola, and most of Europe. This is at a time when the most powerful politicians in nations like Germany, Australia, and Brazil are women.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

But the news isn’t all bad for American women political leaders. In November, Maryland voters re-elected Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who last Wednesday became the longest-serving woman senator in history. Mikulski is also the second longest-serving member of Congress, having served five terms in the House of Representatives before her time in the Senate. She was also the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right (rather than being appointed).

Mikulski isn’t just an inspiration to women and girls considering a career in politics. She is also a fierce advocate for gender equity and has authored and co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation aimed at ensuring equity for women and girls in health care, education, and employment. Among her most recent victories was the Mikulski amendment to the health care reform bill. This amendment, which was included in the final package, expanded coverage of women’s preventive care and, in most cases, ended the premiums women were forced to pay just for being women. It’s just one of many successes the senator has achieved through her hard work and dedication to women’s issues.

Last year, the Senate found itself unable to complete many critical tasks, including passing strong pay equity legislation or immigration reform. However, with more leaders like Mikulski, I’m confident that we can make progress on these issues.

Want to learn how your daughters, your friends, and even you yourself can get involved in elected office? Check out AAUW’s Elect Her initiative!

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