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