The Sunday before Election Day, I bought a book “Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors and Trailblazers Who Changed History” for a very special, intelligent, and curious 9-year-old girl. I planned to give it to her for Christmas so she could see that Hillary Clinton was part of a long line of achieving women and that she could do anything she wanted. My heart sank in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9, as I witnessed the unraveling of a dream that I had since I was a little girl to see our first female president, and the election of a man who has the potential to unwind progress that predated my birth.
I thought about making a list of 25 women who changed my personal history. I begin here with five. I plan to share this, and the book, with my 9-year-old friend on Thanksgiving. I want to thank her for carrying forward the work of these five amazing women.
1. Alice Paul. A key player in the movement to obtain women the right to vote, I had a strong connection to her as she went to the same school I went to and lived in my town. Thanks to her and the work of her fellow suffragettes, I could vote for Hillary. I had the privilege of interviewing her in 1977 from her nursing home for my school newspaper. She famously asked, “How long must women wait for liberty?”
2. Joan Rivers. On our black and white TV in the early ’60s, my mother and I used to watch her on “The Mike Douglas Show.” Her irreverent style made it OK for women to buck the traditional housewife role and to make fun of their husbands. I had the privilege of meeting Joan at the now historically significant White House Correspondent’s dinner in 2011 at which President Barack Obama and Seth Meyers made fun of Donald Trump. She was so warm and welcoming when I told her how my mother and I bonded over her comedy.
3. Gloria Steinem. In what was my first act of being a “Nasty Woman,” I told my seventh-grade teacher that he was being a male chauvinist pig. And I had a sign in my room that said “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Thank you, Gloria, for helping me find my voice and giving me some good words to use with it.
4. Katherine Graham. I spent the summer of 1974 watching the Watergate hearings (on a color TV), and I count “All the President’s Men” as one of my favorite movies. But it wasn’t until I read her autobiography that I understood the risks that she and The Washington Post took to expose corruption. I was at the beginning of my career in the newspaper industry when I read her story, and she was an inspiration to me.
5. Hillary Clinton. I am also a proud Seven Sisters college graduate (Bryn Mawr, not Wellesley) and have faced the nasty comments from the Steve Bannons of the world. Her perseverance despite constant criticism, her unwavering dedication to the causes she is passionate about, and her impeccable preparation are attributes I aspire to. Thank you for living through many of the same disappointments I have felt, with grace, generosity and humor. I can’t wait to see what your next chapter brings to the world.
One more thing: Before I give the book to my 9-year-old friend, I will read it myself. And I will continue to thank those women who came before, those here now, and those whose work is yet to come.