NM fe­male del­e­gate a ‘pud­dle of tears’ af­ter roll call

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­line Gutier­rez Krueger

On a Thanks­giv­ing Day in 2005, old friends in Las Cruces gath­ered to­gether and, as their host­ess re­quested, wrote down the 10 things they each still wanted to ac­com­plish.

Among those friends was a woman who had al­ready lived a life­time of ac­com­plish­ments. Rita Triviz, then in her 50s, had been an ele­men­tary school teacher, a col­lege lec­turer and the first woman to serve as a Doña Ana County com­mis­sioner. She was one of four New Mex­i­cans fea­tured in Ms. mag­a­zine’s “80 Women to Watch in the ’80s.” She was a vice chair­woman of the National Women’s Po­lit­i­cal Cau­cus, the 1998 re­cip­i­ent of the New Mex­ico Com­mis­sion on the Sta­tus of Women’s Trail­blazer Award and twice a del­e­gate to the Demo­cratic National Con­ven­tion.

At age 8, she was walk­ing door to door cam­paign­ing for can­di­dates. In high school, she was a mem­ber of the Doña Ana County Demo­cratic Women’s Club and ar­gu­ing in study halls over Gold­wa­ter and LBJ.

Long be­fore that Thanks­giv­ing in 2005, she had been mak­ing lists of things she wanted to ac­com­plish. She was a teenager in 1966 when she was feted as Girl of the Month at an Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Women lun­cheon. It was be­fore that au­di­ence that she proudly shared her top goal: to be­come the first fe­male U.S. sen­a­tor from New Mex­ico. They laughed. “Even though it was 50 years ago, I can still re­mem­ber all the chuck­les,” Triviz re­calls.

Women like her, like me, like many of you, know what that felt like. In 1966 and in the decades be­fore that, our place was not in politics, not in that man’s world. Our voices were silent, and those who dared speak up were of­ten seen as silly or shrill or worse. Women had only won the right to vote less than 50 years be­fore then, had only won the right not to be dis­crim­i­nated against un­der the Civil Rights Act two years be­fore then, though lit­tle changed any­way.

In that Mad Men world Triviz and many of us grew up in, credit cards could not be is­sued un­der a woman’s name. Women could not get bank loans with­out a man to co-sign. They could not earn nearly as much as a man do­ing the same job — and many jobs were un­avail­able to women. Clas­si­fied ads in most news­pa­pers were sep­a­rated by gen­der.

Triviz was not about to wait for that world to change. Even then, she was telling any­body who would lis­ten that a woman’s place was ev­ery place. Al­ready, she was en­vi­sion­ing the day when, as she liked to put it, a woman didn’t have to be twice as good to get half as much as a man.

She never be­came a sen­a­tor. In 1983, she stepped down as county com­mis­sioner af­ter one term and turned down an of­fer by then-Gov. Toney Anaya to be­come trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary. In­stead, she found her pas­sion sup­port­ing nu­mer­ous lo­cal and national can­di­dates.

She urged Pat Schroeder, a U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Colorado, to run as the Demo­cratic can­di­date for pres­i­dent in 1988. But Schroeder de­clined, say­ing she “could not fig­ure out how to run.”

Decades later, Triviz found a woman who could fig­ure it out. And this week in Philadel­phia, Triviz was there to watch Hil­lary Clin­ton break that glass ceil­ing to be­come the first fe­male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of a ma­jor U.S. party.

Triviz was a New Mex­ico del­e­gate to the Demo­cratic National Con­ven­tion, her third time to do so. When my col­league Michael Cole­man tweeted Tues­day from the con­ven­tion that many of the del­e­gates had tears in their eyes as the roll call votes were rolling in, I knew that a pair of those eyes had to be­long to Triviz. I was right. “OMG, Jo­line!!” she mes­saged me hours later. “I was a pud­dle of tears dur­ing the roll call vote. I am so for­tu­nate that I was able to be an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant and wit­ness this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in our coun­try’s his­tory. And to re­al­ize that I stand on the shoul­ders of So­journer Truth, Su­san B. Anthony, Lu­cre­tia Mott, who strug­gled to se­cure women’s right to vote. That I stand on the shoul­ders of women brave enough to run for of­fice — Jeanette Rankin, Bar­bara Jor­dan, Shirley Chisholm, Bar­bara Mikul­ski. To think that a supremely qual­i­fied woman who pro­claimed in Beijing, China, back in 1995 that women’s rights are hu­man rights and hu­man rights are women’s rights was just nom­i­nated by the Demo­cratic Party to be their nom­i­nee for PO­TUS is over­whelm­ing.”

Re­gard­less of your po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, it was. It is.

And that list of goals Triviz and her friends made that Thanks­giv­ing 11 years ago? So far, she’s crossed off a few — take a smooth-jazz cruise, see “The Lion King” mu­si­cal, see the Sis­tine Chapel, thank co­me­dian Jon Stewart, thank writer-ed­u­ca­tor-ac­tivist Jonathan Ko­zol.

This week, she checked off an­other: To wit­ness a woman as­cend to the national stage to ac­cept the nom­i­na­tion for the pres­i­dent of the United States.

Across the coun­try Thurs­day night came the proud tears and cheers from women who had, like Triviz, dreamed that this day would come. It was his­tory. Her story. Our story.

I have a feel­ing Triviz is adding one more en­try to her list.

COUR­TESY OF RAQUEL PLAZA BROWN

Rita Triviz, a New Mex­ico del­e­gate, was of­ten seen in na­tional me­dia cov­er­age of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion this week in Philadel­phia.

COUR­TESY OF RITA TRIVIZ

Rita Triviz, right, served on a panel at the Na­tional Women’s Po­lit­i­cal Cau­cus con­ven­tion held in Albuquerqu­e in 1981 along with her fem­i­nist hero, Glo­ria Steinem, cen­ter. At left is Su­san Lou­bet, a lo­cal mem­ber of the cau­cus.

Among the hun­dreds of pins Rita Triviz has col­lected over the years are many tout­ing the Equal Rights Amend­ment.

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