Weekend Reading on Women's Representation November 26, 2021

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on November 26, 2021

Dear fans of women's representation, 
I suspect many readers in the United States are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family this weekend so I will keep this missive short & sweet!
In August my daughters and I drove to North Carolina to visit RepresentWomen's artist in residence, Melanie Humble. As we drove south, we listened to Braiding Sweetgraass by Robin Wall Kimmerer -- a member of Potawatomi Nation. Through the author's rich storytelling we learned about the Thanksgiving Prayer, recited by the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) at the opening and closing of meetings:

The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms- waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish
We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs
Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals
We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees
We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

Frances Perkins, secretary of Labor during the Roosevelt administration & Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a column called My Day six days per week from 1932 to 1962, some are filled with references to her work at the United Nations or travels overseas but I thought I would share this one from 80 years ago - written just 10 days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor - that provides a tiny window into her life:

We had a very pleasant dinner party last night, consisting of my husband and myself! He ate milk toast and I ate one poached egg, which was good for our figures and permitted much conversation, since neither of us had to pay attention to our food.

I spent the evening wrapping Christmas presents and was joined by one of my friends, who arrived from the train. She remarked that she had not found me in such a carefree mood for a long time. There was no mail in sight and no interviews scheduled, just a deluge of Christmas wrapping, paper, ribbons and cards.

Today is colder but really lovely. I reached the office this morning before anyone else was in sight and came up in the elevator with Miss Wilma Shields, head of the Volunteer Bureau Section, who seems to be another early bird. We had a very full staff meeting, followed by a meeting with Mrs. Stanley Resor, who has kindly come down to give us some advice and is lunching with me today.

I returned to the White House in time for my press conference at 11:00 o'clock. At noon, I met a very charming young woman who, with her sister, has taken over her late husband's business, the making of wire screening. Priorities affect this industry, especially where they use copper. It is not a very large industry and the amount of materials needed in it are not very great, but Mrs. John Ralston is here not only in the interests of her own plant or the industry, but because of the danger she feels a shortage in screen wire will mean to the health of the nation.

She points out that screens are of vital importance in our camps, and in all our defense industry buildings. Without them, we lay ourselves open to epidemics of all kinds which are spread by flies and mosquitoes.

Talking of health, a most interesting health cooperative came to my attention the other day. It is called the New York Volunteer Health Cooperative. You have a certain freedom in the choice of doctors. You pay $18.00 a year without hospitalization. You cannot belong if you earn more than $2,000 a year while single, or $3,000 a year when married. There are already over one thousand members.

There is much I should like to find out about this organization. For instance, just what are the services rendered if hospitalization is not included? I suppose if there is only a limited choice of doctors, there will be the same complaint about the doctor-patient relationship. People in this salary range do need more access to good and inexpensive medical care.

The day after Eleanor wrote the column above her husband, the president, signed into law a bill that established the 4th Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving Day holiday.

NYC Council member-elect Crystal Hudson
 
Women now hold 53% of council seats in all jurisdictions with ranked choice voting -- which is well above the norm. I had a piece in Salon that discusses why women are winning more seats in RCV races:

The proof is in the results. A city with an embarrassing history on gender equity has made stunning strides in one election.

Now there will be 31 women on the council — that's more than double the 14 who currently serve. Twenty-six of them will be women of color.

Seven of the new council members are New Yorkers who were born in another nation — up from four right now. Asian representation will triple, from two members to six. Latino representation will go from 11 members to 15.

Women have long been told to wait our turn. Our turn is now.

Women have long been told that they will split the vote and have been cast against one another. Now split votes are a thing of the past.

Election reformers can tinker around the edges and hope for the best. Or they can learn the lessons from New York: Change the rules, and you change the results.

MP Stella Creasey in the House of Commons
 
The BBC reported that that there was a kerfuffle in the House of Commons this week over whether a woman member of the British parliament could bring her infant into the chamber with her:

An MP has said it "has to be possible for politics and parenting to mix" after being told she cannot sit in the Commons with her three-month-old son.

Labour's Stella Creasy was informed it was against the rules to bring a child to a debate at Westminster Hall after doing so on Tuesday.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has asked a committee of MPs to review the rules.

Ms Creasy said she was "pleased to hear this" - as rules meant she could not be in the chamber for his statement.

But Conservative MP Scott Benton criticised her stance on Twitter, saying: "Parents who get paid a fraction of what you do pay for childcare and juggle responsibilities so they can go to work. What makes you so special?"

Addressing the Commons, Sir Lindsay said it was "extremely important" for parents to be able to participate fully in the work of the House, which has a nursery.

Barbara Rodriguez wrote an interesting piece for 19th News about research on compensation for state lawmakers which aligns with RepresentWomen's research on the barriers women face when serving in office and the solutions needed to address those hurdles:
Amber Joiner was just a few years into a political career as a lawmaker in Nevada when she announced she would not seek reelection.

Joiner, a Democrat, simply could not afford to serve in the legislature. Her take-home pay while she was in office between 2014 and 2018 was roughly $11,000 annually after taxes. She estimates she was actually losing about $2,000 a year as an elected official because her health insurance premiums, which included coverage for her two children, cost more than her paychecks.

Though Nevada is unique in that women outnumber men in its part-time legislature, data shows that America’s statehouses are still predominantly made up of White men. When Joiner struggled to find an employer who would accommodate her unpredictable hours at the Capitol, she realized that the work of policymaking had been designed for people who are retired, independently wealthy or without kids.
Venezuelan opposition candidates Andres Schloeter, Tomás Guanipa and José Manuel Olivares campaign on Wednesday across the neighborhood of El Guarataro in Caracas. (Courtesy of Pa Los Panas Producciones)
 
Finally, there was a very interesting story this week in The Washington Post on prospects for women candidates in Venezuela:
Opposition candidates here are preparing to compete in their first elections in three years, after boycotting votes conducted by the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro that were widely viewed as fraudulent. They’re hoping to energize their supporters and revive the floundering pro-democracy movement.

But as the parties built their lists of gubernatorial and mayoral candidates for Sunday’s elections, women were largely left out.

Of the 182 candidates running in gubernatorial or mayoral races in capital cities, only 30 are women, according to an analysis of preliminary candidate lists of four of the top political parties in Venezuela by independent Venezuelan news site Efecto Cocuyo. Of those women, 10 are pro-government, 11 identify with Venezuela’s Communist Party and the rest identify as opposition to the government.
The prayer above was written by my parents, we recited it before each meal. I am grateful for their commitment to a more just and giving world.
Happy Thanksgiving,
Cynthia
 
P.S. RepresentWomen has ambitious plans to advance women's representation and leadership in 2022 - if you'd like to invest in this transformative work please donate on Facebook or on the RW website....many thanks in advance.