October 9, 2013
Hundreds of attendees packed the John Hancock Hall in Boston October 7 for a forum discussing women in politics featuring many of Massachusetts’ female politicians along with feminist Gloria Steinem. The event, “How Women Become Political,” was co-hosted by Simmons and the Grimké Event Committee, and celebrated the 175th anniversary of Angelina Grimké’s address to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1838. Grimké, an abolitionist and feminist, was the first woman to ever address a legislative body.
Grimké’s great-great-grandson attended the event, and listened as actress Anne Gottlieb performed Grimké’s speech, which made history 175 years ago. Later, Steinem cited Grimké as a source of personal inspiration.
“In a way, I’ve always been following Angelina Grimké, and all of our leaders who’ve always understood that the caste system of sex and race are always intertwined,” she said.
Steinem was joined on stage for a panel discussion by Boston City Councilor at-large Ayanna Pressley, Babson College President and former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and Chair of Political Parity Ambassador Swanee Hunt. Speaker U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was unable to attend the event but sent a video describing her personal decision to go into politics. Broadcast journalist Callie Crossley moderated the discussion, and Simmons President Helen Drinan provided the welcome.
“I would suggest that the founder of Simmons College, John Simmons, was also a feminist,” she said. “Those of us who have benefitted so enormously from John Simmons’s philanthropy are delighted to be here with all of you to bear witness to the great work of our founder’s contemporary, Angelina Grimké.”
The panelists agreed that it often takes several requests before women decide to run for office and many prefer to remain behind the scenes instead. Pressley, who worked for years as an aide to some of the state’s top politicians, acknowledged feelings of inadequacy that kept her from entering politics at a younger age.
“For many years and for many reasons, I struggled to stand fully in my power. I didn’t feel good enough, smart enough, or ready,” she said. “Our challenge and our charge is to ensure that every girl feels empowered to dare to be themselves, because only then will they truly dare to be political.”
Steinem concurred. “We need to stop embracing a less-than view of ourselves,” she said. “It’s not that women lack confidence, it’s that a lot of effort has been put into making us lack confidence.”
To view a video of the full event, click here.
Pictured above: Panelists Ayanna Pressley, Gloria Steinem, Kerry Healey, and Swannee Hunt.