Girl Power by Millie Schmidt

"I've never seen so many people in my life!"

My name is Millie Schmidt and I'm seven years old. I went with my mom and some of our friends to the Women's March in NYC. We live here so we didn't have to travel, too far. There were SO many people there -- my mom had to lift me up a couple times, so I could see everyone! 

We marched because we think girls should have the same rights as everyone else. And right now Donald Trump is trying to make everyone feel like they're not equal, and that's not fair. My mom says everything is going to be okay, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in. 

I like when we chanted "This is what democracy looks like!" People were staring at us and then they started yelling it, too!

My mom says everything is going to be okay, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe in.

My name is Millie and I'm 7 years old. I live in NYC with my parents & little sister, Vivian. My favorite things are reading (I love Harry Potter!), riding my scooter at the park and building forts in my room. I go to a dual language public school in Upper Manhattan and am learning lots of Spanish!

The Women’s March from a Kid’s Perspective

The Women’s March was crowded with tons and tons of people holding up signs for woman rights, not that I could see them clearly though…

  Photo: Mom- Jamina Oomen-Hajagos

Photo: Mom- Jamina Oomen-Hajagos

My name is Cheyenne and I’m ten years old. I attended the Women’s March to show Donald Trump that we will have our rights, whether he likes it or not. In fact, even more people came to the march in New York than to Trump’s inauguration.
 
Even though, I was a little too short to see the signs clearly, I still saw that many more people bigger than me, believe in getting those rights for women!

Since this was my first march, I was really excited to see what a march was like. I’m glad my first march was for a very important cause! Even if I was too small to see some signs and got squished around in the crowd, I was very happy, no matter what because I was supporting a major cause!

 

 

My name is Cheyenne and I’m ten years old and I live in Long Island, New York. I love all animals, but I especially love Narwhals. Many of my hobbies include: art, singing and playing the clarinet. I have one brother, named Eli. I consider myself to be a sensitive, thoughtful and creative person.

 

 

Why Not Me? My story on why I ran to be an Assembly District Delegate in 2017

By: Grìsell Ariana Rodrìguez, SEIU-UHW, Assistant Director

Politics have always been in my DNA. I started young having political conversations at home.  Being a product of parents who escaped a civil war in Nícaragua, I was very self-aware of others’ living conditions.  As an 11 year old girl, living in California, as a first generation immigrant, I remember so clearly how the year 1994 affected me. Why 1994? Because it was the year Proposition 187 ballot initiative was passed. The ballot initiative would bar federal funding or access to social services to any undocumented Latino or anyone that looked "suspiciously illegal.”  It was widely believed that the political motivation behind the proposition was to intimidate the growing Latino population. When it passed, I was scared and fearful for my classmates, my family, friends and anyone who didn't look Caucasian.

Fast forward to 2016- I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the Labor Movement. For the last 8 years, I’ve always worked behind the scenes on every election since 2008: turning out our members, building up volunteers, and organizing Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for the campaigns we worked on.  In 2013, I had the opportunity to lead the first enrollment event in Southern California for the Affordable Care Act. It was 100% volunteer driven and we continued to enroll over 20,000 Californians over the next 2 years.

2016 started out like a regular election year, my job was to build up regional teams of leaders to participate in the primaries and the general election cycle.  My other responsibility, as the Secretary Treasurer for the Latino Caucus, was to get out the vote. During the week, I spent all of October turning out members to phone banks in Los Angeles.  Then I’d hop on a bus to Las Vegas, Nevada, in order to secure the Latino Vote for Hillary Clinton and Catherine Cortez Masto (the 1st Latína US Senator).

The following day after the election, I vowed to do more, not just for me, but for all the children in Los Angeles County

 The election season was exciting and come Election Day, Get Out the Vote (GOTV) day was seamless as ever in Nevada . On the bus back home, reality hit.  As an organizer, I began to do the numbers and it hit me for a second that everything that was at stake might be compromised.  Then I received a call from my 11 year old daughter, panicking and asking if we were going to be deported. In that moment, 1994 was happening all over again, but this time my daughter was the little girl. We all know what happened on November 9th.  To be honest, I felt so sickened, just like the day my ex-husband walked out on me with 3 children.

The following day after the election, I vowed to do more, not just for me, but for all the children in Los Angeles County, who woke up in fear due to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. That’s why, when I became aware of the Assembly District Delegate Elections, I didn’t think twice about running.  I had more than enough experience behind the scenes to be qualified.  I wanted my district to be reflective of its constituents, with more representation by minority women. On January 7th, I was elected as an official delegate of the 36th District in California.

 

Grisell A Rodriguez is a social activist in the labor movement and has the privilege to build leadership teams across California that passionately engage in social justice movements. She is currently seeking a post-graduate degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. She represents constituents of the 36th Assembly District in California, all the while, raising 3 independent, fearless thinkers, who know more about politics, than your average adult.

 

I Never Wanted to be a Princess

By: Sara Boivin, an art historian

I never wanted to a be a princess. I didn’t host imaginary tea parties. I didn’t bottle-feed baby dolls. I didn’t own a Barbie (not one). I never liked pink, never asked for a crown or tiara. I was forced to wear bows and ribbons in my braids. In fact, I was forced to wear braids. You know the kind…hair parted in the middle, mind-numbingly secured at the scalp, and again at the tail with bands bearing large plastic balls that could take out a tooth if you whipped them around too fast? Yeah, that kind. But my long thick, dark brown braids served me one incredible purpose…to have my mother twist them and pin them into “Leia buns.” This was a common request after my first exposure to the Star Wars series, which admittedly was the Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980, as I was only three when Star Wars IV arrived in theaters. I saw it at the end of June in the old movie house in Lake Placid, NY and all the way back to our camp, I shot my imaginary blasters through the back windshield at various Imperial Starfighters, closely resembling old Ford trucks and wood-paneled station wagons.

                 Sporting the Princess Leia braids at age 10 and Leia in Empire Strike Back, Planet Hoth

                Sporting the Princess Leia braids at age 10 and Leia in Empire Strike Back, Planet Hoth

Even at six years old, I knew the Star Wars experience was bigger-than-life because I felt enveloped and invested in that world. I was hooked. Lucas got me young. And so, I fell in love for the first time that day; with the act of movie-going, embracing two hours of escape, the seemingly endless creativity alien life-forms provided which satisfied my wild imagination, and with Leia. At the time, I was too young to know Princess Leia was a role model. That is only a revelation that comes with maturity, but for the first time in my young life I was more interested with what was on screen than which candy I had access to. Leia first appears in A New Hope via hologram, clad in white, projected by a droid while unveiling a mystery with an urgency I didn’t quite comprehend. However, Leia made me believe her message was very, very important and that her role mattered. So Leia, in essence, goes on to carry the entire saga even when she wasn’t on screen. But when she was present the character was complicated; often soft and caring, coupled with a sharp wit and sharper tongue. She could shoot a pistol, sling personal insults at ruthless dictators, and continue to fight for her personal beliefs and the shared principles of many being attacked by a few.

Like I said, I never wanted to be a princess at a tea party, but a princess who fights in a rebellion and becomes a general shaping the future of the cosmos?
Right on.

Now, the fact that Stars Wars IV, V, VI were considered unacclaimed movies with less than stellar acting and character development is not lost on me today but at six, who cares? I reveled in watching a young woman fight alongside men, garner respect amongst her counterparts as she built a galactic alliance to fight evil. She inspired people around her to stand up for what was right and good, and risk everything to shape a better future throughout the universe. And she wore cool-ass braids while doing it!

And as the Lucas, turned Disney formula continues, the franchise is still empowering women and girls to save the universe as seen in The Force Awakens to Rogue One. Rogue One had me on the edge of my seat as I watched yet another Star Wars heroine emerge, although quickly fade from the storyline only to find out actress Carrie Fischer had died while I was in the theatre. My two hours of escape were over and reality slapped me, and all Star Wars lovers in the face. Ms. Fischer’s death is a sad loss for the movie studio, a sad loss for her cadre of fans, and an even sadder loss for her surviving real family. Ms. Fischer had done the seemingly impossible for women in Hollywood by returning after almost 40 years to reprise that same role…well, sort of. Leia’s character, although brief on screen-time in The Force Awakens came back better, more mature, tougher, and even more beautiful in her confidence. What a pleasure it has been to watch Leia grow from a young princess with a purpose, to a general in the Resistance. Frankly I was looking forward to seeing how Ms. Fischer would bring General Organa’s leadership to life and be inspired by a seasoned role model fighting the good fight all over again. Because like I said, I never wanted to be a princess at a tea party, but a princess who fights in a rebellion and becomes a general shaping the future of the cosmos? Right on.

LeiaSara02A.jpg

So tonight, if my hair was long enough, I’d whip up some Leia-style braids and wear them around proudly (in the privacy of my own home). But alas, my hair is too short. So instead, I’ll go outside into the frosty air, look up into the clear night sky, spy the brightest star I can find, and name it “Leia Organa” and wish both the character and the actress who brought her to life, a deep and peaceful sleep in a galaxy, far, far away.

 

Sarabio01.jpg

 

Sara Boivin lives in Saratoga Springs, NY and is the curator of the Yates Gallery at Siena College, where she is currently collaborating and leading the efforts to repatriate ancient artifacts to their country of origin. Committed to the arts, Sara is also a painter working to complete a new body of work for exhibition. In addition, she cares deeply about politics and the future of her community and has been involved in local grass roots movements to effect change where she lives.

Modeling Our Mission- Anita Hill Speaks Out

While interviewing women leaders for Power in Place (PiP), I’ve asked my subjects to identify role models in their lives. Many answers have been deeply personal, like pointing to one’s grandmother; others have looked up to sports figures, like Billy Jean King; or others revered social justice activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King.  As I reflect upon my own journey  two years into my project (feeling myself to be a wiser and more confident woman), I regard Professor Anita Hill as my inspiration since she is an unflinching advocate for all women.  So I was especially honored to attend her keynote presentation at this year’s sold-out Massachusetts Conference for Women.

  Photo- Katrina Hajagos

Photo- Katrina Hajagos

Most of us are passive witnesses and reluctant participants in a greater narrative.  Others are thrust into history, not necessarily by their own designs.  These select few, such as Anita Hill, are presented with great life challenges and because of their strong moral fiber they’re able to meet these obstacles head-on and emerge stronger.  As a result, they become our paragons of leadership.   

 In 1991, Professor Hill was at the center of a very intense, deeply political controversy around the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination.  It wasn’t her intention to be the middle of the debate.  She was simply doing her duty by honestly answering the questions posed by the vetting committee.  Professor Hill clearly recounted the workplace sexual harassment she suffered from her boss, Clarence Thomas.  She testified that Thomas created an unsafe, uncomfortable and demeaning work atmosphere.  Her allegations seriously questioned the fitness of such a man to be a Supreme Court judge.   As she put it during her recent speech to 11,000 women at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, what worried her was “once confirmed Thomas would be sitting in judgment of harassment cases.  The matter (of his sexual predation) was not one of my civil rights, but access to equal justice for all was at stake.”

We must raise our voices, just like we did 25 years ago to say ‘enough is enough’

Unfortunately, Washington DC is extremely partisan, so her truth, as she lived it, wasn’t taken at face value. Instead she was subjected to extraordinary scrutiny by the all-male senate judicial committee.  In the opinion of many, requiring her to repeatedly describe the verbal sexual humiliations she endured turned the Thomas confirmation hearing into an assessment of her character, not the character of the nominee.  As history invariably played out, her testimony was discredited and Thomas was confirmed.   

The aftermath of the hearings saw many fallouts.  For Anita, she was terrorized by bomb and death threats.  Viable packages of harm were delivered to her doorstep.  Amidst these declarations of hate, however, thousands of letters from ordinary Americans expressing support were addressed to her.  Women came forward and shared their own stories of sexual harassment and brutality.  The correspondences were filled with hope, inspiration, and empowerment. 

On a national level, women emerged from the shadows of shame and fear.  Reported cases of sexual assault and intimidation to the EEOC doubled in just two years.   Women took note of the deplorable treatment of Anita in our seat of government.  They felt their voices and values weren’t being represented.  The year 1992 ushered in the “Year of the Woman.”  Record numbers of women ran for political office and won.  That election cycle saw the largest percentage of women entering Congress in history.

  Photo- Katrina Hajagos

Photo- Katrina Hajagos

Even though Anita Hill didn’t necessarily choose this role of being a feminist symbol who holds truth to power, she has inhabited it with boundless energy, grace and long-term dedication.  She knows that harassment is not just about sex, but it’s about control and power and the abuse of it.  She recognizes the deep connection between sexual misconduct and the wider issue of gender equality.  “Harassment is not just some isolated thing.  It typically occurs in combination with other forms of harassment, like pay discrimination, like (workplace) assignment disparities, like bias reviews, and when women are passed over for promotion.”

Today, Professor Hill’s advocacy has given a voice to so many vulnerable women who have been dismissed by the main-stream power structure.  College women are uniting and challenging university policies in regard to how they react to allegations of sexual harassment and assault. However, noting the recent political climate, she challenged us to remember, “Now is the time for us to draw upon our most courageous selves, so when we look upon a 7th grade class, we can tell them, we did everything we could in our power to end sexual harassment, to end sexual assault, and end gender discrimination in their lifetime, so the next generation does not live through what we and our mothers lived through.”  She continued her emphasis: “We must share our stories with daughters and sons.  We must raise our voices in our workplaces and we must make our system work for us.”

Thank you, Anita for being an unwavering advocate for all women.  We owe you a debt of gratitude for your long-term dedication to women’s rights.  Going forward, I will always hold your call to action as a guiding light: “We must raise our voices, just like we did 25 years ago to say ‘enough is enough’” and fight for gender parity during these times of uncertainty.

From Pain and Despondancy, a Call to Action

By: Grace A. Pan, a senior at Yale University

For me, November 8th, 2016 may well be a day that will live in infamy. Like many others, I woke up that morning with a tangible sense of empowerment, heading to the polls with my girlfriends as we cast our votes in our first ever presidential election for the first ever woman President of the United States. And like many others, I stayed up late that night, sobbing with my friends as we realized our votes were not going to elect the first ever woman POTUS.

The deeper pangs hit the next day when I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant speech in which she implored us all to “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” Here was one of the world’s most dedicated, skilled, and passionate women experiencing perhaps the most devastating, high-stakes loss of a lifetime. Yet even in loss, she was able to, with poise and grace, call on her fellow women and Americans to keep fighting. With her resilience, she has renewed a sense of civic duty that many in my generation seem to have given up on.

It is no secret that millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Having grown up long after the suffragettes’ movements or the Civil Rights Movement, it is easy to believe that inequality only exists in the deadened pages of the past. It is easy to believe that as a society, America has progressed far past historical injustices. It is easy to fall complacent.

But in the same way that President Obama’s win hasn’t diffused racial tensions, Secretary Clinton’s potential win wouldn’t have done away with all the barriers we face as women. We live in a nation where less than 20% of the sitting U.S. Congress is female, where Sam Bee is the only woman on late-night, where I am often the only girl in my physics classes. Secretary Clinton’s painful loss holds this structural sexism up to scrutiny, making clear that our nation isn’t a peachy post-historical one, and inspiring in us a greater need to passionately fight and serve just as she has.

On November 12th, I walked with 20,000 other people from Union Square to Trump Tower. Young women and men brought posters and friends; elderly couples came with their adult children; mothers and fathers held up their daughters on their shoulders. These parents, in bringing their young girls, wanted them to see that unity and equality are the still the values that need fighting for. They showed them to not be afraid to stand up for what is right and to make sure their voices are heard.

For many of us, it was also the first time exercising our First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble. We were an eclectic group, but it was incredibly uplifting to see people willing to speak out for the rights of those different from them. (My personal favorite was the back-and-forth between women and men: “My body, my choice!” followed by “Her body, her choice!”) While some may be critical of those only now coming to the defense of others, sometimes it takes a loss for people to recognize each others’ similarities. Surely we all had differences in our political or personal beliefs, but I ultimately felt safe and supported in this community of strangers, most of whom looked nothing like me or even each other. I was truly moved by how empathetic everyone was, coming out of the protest with a rekindled optimism and powerful sense of individual responsibility and impact.

Nationally, the week following the election saw a massive surge in donations to non-profit organizations; for example, Planned Parenthood garnered more than 200,000 new donations, 40 times more than in a typical week. Many of my friends and I set up recurring donations to various non-profits and used social media to encourage others to do the same. These donations give me the hope that collectively we can make a large impact, starting with belief that each individual can make a difference.

And on Inauguration Day weekend, more than 100,000 women and allies will unite to March on Washington to stand for environmental rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights — human rights.

I hope that these displays of civic duty and feelings of empowerment don’t just ride the coattails of this election but continue to manifest in every one of us as we continue our work as parents or professionals or activists or children. I hope that we do not become complacent, that we do not just read think-pieces without taking action, or abstain from political participation altogether. Hillary’s loss has been painful for many of us, as it represents a cracked glass ceiling that didn’t break, or the sense of a promise rejected. But this “what could have been” is not so far in the future if we believe in our ability as individuals to make change, to be the role models our daughters need.

Irrespective of our political leanings, we can all consider Hillary’s challenge to us that she delivers through the frame of scripture: “My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” I am optimistic that out of the confusion and despondency of this loss will rise a greater yearning for equality, a renewed sense of duty, and action.

Pittsburgh with Michelle (15) - Copy.JPG

                                                                       

Grace Pan is a budding physicist who aspires to use her amateur roles as photographer, comedian, and writer to help promote gender equity. She co-organized the American Physical Society's 2015 Conference for Undergrad Women in Physics and is the photographer for all women in physics events at Yale. She's ecstatic to help bring visibility to women in male-dominated domains, be it physics or politics.

"Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful."

THE WEEK AFTER
On January 6th, 1920, the 19th Amendment was signed and women’s right to vote was established.  Nearly 100 years later, we still have not “shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling” of electing a female president.  To the shock and chagrin of so many of us, that glass ceiling, referred to by Hillary Clinton on the achingly painful morning of November 9th, remains.  Yet dignity prevailed in Clinton’s concession speech and a powerful note was struck––women of today and tomorrow must not give up hope, nor cease believing that all opportunities will one day be equally available to them.  The dream must not die.

As I reflect on the nation’s missed opportunity to elect the first female president, I emerge from this election cycle with a redoubled commitment to the mission of gender parity in our political system.  Now more than ever, the relevance of Power in Place is clear.  We have a mandate to nurture and sustain the hope Secretary Clinton so poignantly referred to in her departing speech.

Regardless of one’s party affiliation, we can all agree that the nation is better off for the fact that a woman dared to ascend to the highest of all political offices. Secretary Clinton proved that women can possess the leadership qualities of tenacity, competency, endurance, intelligence and coalition building on par with their male counterparts.

Most importantly, Hillary Clinton has become a vital role model.  Her historic run has brought forth in us a desire to confront gender politics and political parity.  She made us hunger for a nation where women are represented as equals at the seat of power.  She has brought forth in us a need to empower our daughters by allowing them to believe in the acceptability of ambition and confidence in all endeavors under the sun.

The current zeitgeist of female empowerment was very evident on election day.  Facebook was awash with images of moms and dads bringing their children (and especially their girls) to the polls.  They wanted them to be included in an historic moment and let them behold a woman’s name printed on the ballot for President of the United States.  They wanted them to know that their names could be there too, someday. 

Here is a sampling of posts from my dear girlfriends from childhood.  They are women who not only choose to have a family but also continue on as professionals in the workplace—a successful doctor,  a news producer, and an advertising executive.  All very inspirational women and true role models for girls and young women alike!!!

  Willa with her Mom, Alison.

Willa with her Mom, Alison.

  Evelyn with her Dad, Gray.

Evelyn with her Dad, Gray.

"We waited to fill out our ballots (Oregon has all mail-in ballots) until the girls got up the Saturday before the election. Since we felt this was so historic, to vote for the first time ever for a woman for president, we wanted our 5-year-old daughters to be a part of it. Each girl filled in the circle for Hillary Clinton. We told them one day it could be them."
––Alison Conlin, MD MPH Medical Oncologist, Portland, OR

The girls (and women) in these photographs are exactly who Secretary Clinton was reassuring when she dedicated her presidential run "To all the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion...  And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world."

   "I left work early so that I could get home and have both of my daughters Maddie Winn (9) and Parker Elizabeth (7) vote with me.   It felt so exciting and empowering to walk into our local voting location hand in hand with my two amazing girls thinking we could be making history tonight."      -  Victoria Shonkoff, Marketing Executive, Boston, MA

"I left work early so that I could get home and have both of my daughters Maddie Winn (9) and Parker Elizabeth (7) vote with me.   It felt so exciting and empowering to walk into our local voting location hand in hand with my two amazing girls thinking we could be making history tonight."

-Victoria Shonkoff, Marketing Executive, Boston, MA

Images and their attached stories have a transformative effect.  The photographs of Hillary Clinton as the first major party nominee will seep into our collective psyche and challenge us to create a more equitable society.  Images of women in political leadership, especially within our communities, help us envision ourselves in positions of political influence.  The unofficial credo of PiP, "If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” sums up the heart of Power in Place.  Whether we like it or not, the younger generation is increasingly communicating with itself through images.  That’s why it is so important to reach girls through a medium that speaks with immediacy to them, crafted with positive reinforcement, dignity, and aspiration, and existing in contrast to the constant deluge of demeaning and limiting imagery of the commodity culture.

Finally, with a heavy heart but a newly affirmed sense of duty, I roll up my sleeves (along with the PiP team, and hopefully with all of you, our amazing supporters!), and continue the work at Power in Place––Women in American Politics and Settings of Inspiration.

   "What pride I felt to be able to vote for a WOMAN with my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Emery.  God bless America! May Hillary's example continue to inspire the younger generation of strong women."    ––Christine Ritzen, Producer, CBS News, New York, NY

"What pride I felt to be able to vote for a WOMAN with my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Emery.  God bless America! May Hillary's example continue to inspire the younger generation of strong women."

––Christine Ritzen, Producer, CBS News, New York, NY

Art as a Symbol of Power

Nevertheless, She Persisted Series by Jimena Arnal

Women are complicated, or so they say, the thing is that we can manage many more things in our brain than men. This drawing has pieces of the women who founded it, those they esteem, as well as, those they admire for what they will become. It is a symbol of power, that we can do anything if we put our minds to it, and if we get together, no one can truly beat us. 

I was still struggling through my own hardships when asked to do this piece and it ended up being one of the steps needed for me to take to feel better, get back to myself and help many during the process. 

Jimena Arnal is a Marketing Communications Masters candidate from Emerson College. She is the founder of TeachersLibrary in Boston, which aims to be a new Tech Nonprofit that solves the shortage of fluent English teachers in secondary schools in Latin America by providing them resources and mentors. Prior to TeachersLibrary, Jimena founded UnMundo which she’s since turned into an online community for people to find the empowerment necessary to pull themselves out of desperation and exhaustion, by doing three simple good deeds at a time. She has a B.S. in Administrative Sciences from Universidad Metropolitana, in Caracas, Venezuela.

A Story of Strong Women Advocating for the Rights of the Developmentally Disabled

One of the most important aspects of our work is to illustrate how women in positions of political office can directly influence the next generation of female leaders.  This positive role-modeling effect is demonstrated through our PiP Youth nominees program--young women chosen by politicians who are exemplars of unfolding potential.  These young people are remarkable for their drive, talent, passion, intelligence, and conscience.  Below is an excellent example.  

Senator Gelser's nominee, Rachel, is clearly inspired to activism by her mentor's staunch civic-mindedness and community involvement.  Together, they are making an impact in Oregon.  Their story shows how women, separated by age, ethnic background, and life experiences, can work side by side for a better world.  Social values are not born in a vacuum.  These values are taught and demonstrated by those we look up to and love.  This continuum is what PiP will strive to support and promote in the future.  

  Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser with her son at the abandoned Fairview Training Center in Salem, OR

Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser with her son
at the abandoned Fairview Training Center in Salem, OR

IN THEIR OWN WORDS...

  Rachel Simpson- Age 23. Nominated by Senator Sara Gelser at her home in Independence, OR

Rachel Simpson- Age 23. Nominated by Senator Sara Gelser at her home in Independence, OR

Just as women should not be left to count on men to advocate their interests, women with disabilities must be supported to speak for themselves.

Fairview was Oregon’s last large institution for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  For nearly a century, people with disabilities were sent there to languish, separated from their families and society.  When my son was born with a disability in 1994, it was in the midst of the struggle to close the institution and support people to live in the community.  The stories from Fairview significantly impacted me as a young mother and inspired me to advocacy and politics.   

The full inclusion and equality of people with disabilities must extend to political life.  That’s why I’m so inspired by young leaders like Rachel, my PiP youth nominee.  Rachel is a powerful advocate in our state legislature, and regularly challenges the misguided assumptions and low expectations society still holds about people living with disabilities.  Rachel is an outspoken advocate for true equality and full inclusion.  By sharing her own story, she makes it clear that all people must have the authority to decide who they love, where and how they live, what kind of education to pursue, and what type of work and financial goals to pursue.  

As we encourage more women to claim their seats at the leadership table, it’s essential that we build a community that reflects the true diversity of our communities.  Just as women should not be left to count on men to advocate their interests, women with disabilities must be supported to speak for themselves.  Rachel exemplifies this, and I’m so eager to see where her life and political work take her.

--Senator Sara Gelser


I became an activist because I was tired of struggling and watching other people struggle.

I have cerebral palsy and I met Senator Gelser through my advocacy work and job with Oregon State's Developmental Disabilities Services Program.

I became an activist because I was tired of struggling and watching other people struggle.  It wasn’t fair anymore, so I decided to be a voice for them and myself.  Before I came along, I don’t think people listened to other people with special needs very well.  They started to listen to me because of my job with the State of Oregon. I’m coming out of that generation gap where people with disabilities are starting to work and empower themselves.

Yes, I have testified in front of the state senate and I helped save the Fairview Housing Trust (that aids in maintaining community and at home housing opportunities for our developmental disabilities population.)

--Rachel Simpson

Welcome to PIP Youth, the next generation of women on the rise!

It's been a whirlwind summer for us, criss-crossing the nation, meeting and photographing and hearing the stories of America's women in positions of leadership.  The proof is in the portraits, and if you haven't visited our Portraits or Stories pages recently, you will have missed a whole new wave of inspirational PIP women.

Now for some exciting news. We are thrilled to announce the PIP YOUTH project.  This branch of our work is an organic development of our belief that role models play a crucial part in empowering young women, and the interrelationship between older and younger generations is the key to sustaining and growing this empowerment.  To that effect, we are asking our celebrated politicians to nominate young women who show great promise, courage, intelligence, perseverance, and vision.  And happily, our first three PIP Youths are viewable in full here.

I think women tend to listen first and react later. I think they are more compassionate and see people as individuals.
— Isabel Mullin, age 27.
  Isabel Mullin

Isabel Mullin

  Brittany Baxter

Brittany Baxter

  Sharon Kang

Sharon Kang