Today we celebrate the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which recognizes women’s right to vote. Both my grandmothers were born before women had the right to vote, and I think of them often as I run for Massachusetts State Senate. I wear my Grandma Dolan’s perfume, Tabu, on the campaign trail to keep her with me, and it feels wonderful to know how proud both she and Memar would be of their granddaughter. We’ve come a very long way.
Grandma Dolan was a schoolteacher and Memar was a secretary. Memar’s brother, my Great Uncle Elvin, was a judge. That’s what it was like in those days. I was a secretary once, too, but I worked my way through college and law school, with a ton of hard work and determination, but also because I had opportunities my grandmothers did not.
Unfortunately, in many ways, we’re in danger of sliding back.
Women’s pay, health, and families are given short shrift by increasingly extremist Republicans who would deny access to even basic reproductive health services, and outlaw abortion even in cases of rape or incest. But when Congress was debating the Blunt Amendment, which would have given employers the right to deny reproductive health care insurance coverage on “moral grounds”, it was the testimony of a woman, Sandra Fluke, that ended the discussion. Because a woman spoke out on behalf of women, the Blunt Amendment is old news.
I’ll be 50 next month, and I also think about the world I want the grandchildren I hope to have to live in when they’re 50. It is imperative in the movement toward women’s equality that we elect more women. I want all children, girls and boys, to grow up in a world where women’s voices are heard. Where we all know how strong a woman can be, and how much she can achieve.
One of the most moving experiences of my campaign was meeting Anita Hill.
I hadn’t expected to meet her, but I was at Brandeis speaking to a group of young Democrats and someone asked me if I’d like to meet her. Of course I said, "Yes." But I was embarrassed and stunned when, immediately upon meeting her, I burst into tears. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s just that I was a legal secretary during the hearings and I remember what it was like. I felt the culture change, and it was never as bad after that.” And it never was. It was a woman leader speaking out who made the difference for women like me.
Having women leaders has made a huge difference in my life, but we have a very long way to go. Out of 40 state senators in Massachusetts, only 11 are women. Gender balance benefits all organizations, from corporate boards to university faculties to legislatures. I’m running based on my qualifications, and the professional and personal experience I’ll bring make me the best candidate to represent the 3rd Middlesex District, and my endorsements show how many agree.
Only a woman can know what life is like for women. Only a woman leader can be the voice for other women, and be the voice that makes change. Yes, I’m a woman, and so I know how very much it matters.
It matters for all of us.