Friday, January 31, 2014

One of the best things about book discussions/ readings about Feminism in Philadelphia is meeting some of the women featured in the book.

One of the best things about book discussions/ readings about Feminism in Philadelphia: The Glory Years, 1968-1982 is meeting some of the women who were featured in the book. Recently at an event at Watermark Retirement Community, I met Sharon Wallis, a key figure in 1970’s feminist movement in Philadelphia, and at a reading at the Cosmopolitan Club I met Philadelphia NOW’s first treasurer Pat Corboy. Pat said she really regretted not having played a greater role in Philadelphia NOW but that she was struggling to establish her career in finance—-a field with very few women in senior level positions.

Her comment made me realize that being active in the movement was not the only way to advance a feminist agenda. Women like Pat Corboy were trailblazers in fields once closed to women and their success must certainly have inspired other women to pursue non-traditional careers. That’s another book I hope someone will write—-Philadelphia’s trail blazers in non-traditional careers!

Feminism in Philadelphia is now available in a kindle edition.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 was not a good year for supporters of abortion rights, but there are hopeful signs for 2014!

2013 was not a good year for supporters of abortion rights—especially in Pennsylvania. Randy LoBasso documents reduced availability of abortion in PA

A Southeast Pennsylvania abortion clinic closed in late 2013, bringing the grand total of commonwealth closings since 2012 to eight. And at least five of those are directly related to a law passed by the state Legislature in 2011 which put new construction restrictions on clinics and was referred to as a “back-door ban” on abortion services when it was passed.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a bill banning abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges authorized by the federal healthcare reform law.

Apparently despairing of making gains in securing abortion rights in Pennsylvania, feminist advocates in the state have signed onto a Women’s Health Agenda that does not include a strong defense of abortion rights, other than calling for a 15-foot buffer zone around health clinic entrances. Many good bills are proposed and they deserve strong support. I understand the rationale behind this strategy of working on a range of women’s issues separate from the more politically charged issue of abortion rights. But if the list of bills doesn't include bills repealing restrictions on abortion rights and calling for Medicaid funding for abortion, then we shouldn’t call it a Women’s Health Agenda.

However, despite the bad news in 2013, I sense renewed commitment to defending abortion rights. National NOW President Terry O’Neill also believes the forecast for 2014 looks brighter. From O’Neill’s press release:
The tide, however, is turning. Voters rejected the radical Tea Party agenda in the 2012 elections nationwide and again in 2013 in Virginia.
Also, women's health allies in Congress are pushing the Women's Health Protection Act. From Cecile Richards, President Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Your rights shouldn't depend on your zip code — so we're fighting back. Women's health allies in Congress are pushing the Women's Health Protection Act, and it will make a difference in communities where the Roe v. Wade decision is under direct attack.

Please take a minute to tell Congress to support the Women's Health Protection Act

The Women's Health Protection Act is designed to protect the rights promised by Roe v. Wade. It will stop the outrageous laws that are undermining women's health and rights in state after state. Laws that require doctors to perform state-mandated procedures on women seeking abortion. Laws that impose bans on abortion at 20 weeks in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana — and at just 6 weeks in North Dakota. Laws meant to force abortion providers to shut down and deny women the right to make their own medical decisions.

And NARAL’s is mounting a campaign to demonstrate that pro-choice values are shared by the majority of Ameicans. From Ilyse G. Hogue
President, NARAL Pro-Choice America

We put together this graphic because the vast majority of Americans support the principles of Roe, and we need to show these politicians we won’t be silent. Like our graphic on Facebook so we can show them, loud and clear, that we are in the majority; pro-choice values are American values.

Recent national polls data have brought some encouraging news: Seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, according to new data from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, as the landmark Supreme Court abortion-rights ruling turns 41 on Tuesday. According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman's right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.

The poll is not all good news for advocates of abortion rights. There is still majority support for some restrictions on abortion rights. However, the generational trend lines are favorable. We are moving in the right direction and this is not the time for an advocates of abortion rights to retreat from the position that abortion is an integral part of a Women’s Health Agenda.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reinvigorating the Grassroots: NOW/CLUW How to Run for Committteeeperson Workshop

In 1998 and in 2002 Philadelphia NOW organized workshops to encourage women to get involved in grassroots politics by running for committeeperson. For a variety of reasons we did not have much success—we started too late and we didn’t have the broad-based networks to reach significant numbers of women. We did much better in 2002 thanks to Liz Terry who organized the project and trained our members to run workshops. Interestingly the people who actually ran (and won) were our members who were giving the workshops. They were convinced by their own pitch!

It wasn’t until 2013 when we teamed up with the Coalition of Labor Union Women, City Commissioner Stephanie Singer and Deputy City Commissioner Tracey Gordon that we were able to reach a wider community. In January 2013, we held a well-attended workshop, “How to Run for Judge of Elections and Election Inspector.”

On January 14, 2014, thanks to Tracey Gordon’s amazing organizing skills we held a very well-attended workshop on “How to Run for Committeeperson” in the May 2014 primary. Commissioner Stephanie Singer made a powerful case for the critical role played by committeepeople. She cited a body of research demonstrating that the most effective way to encourage people to vote is having a neighbor/friend speak to them directly. Nothing is as powerful as personal contact with someone you know and trust.

The Obama campaign demonstrated the importance of door-to-door, in-person contact with voters and used sophisticated data analysis to target exactly those voters who needed a nudge to get to the polls. According to Jonathan Alter, in The Center Holds, “ Like the ward heelers of old who knew a lot about their neighbors when they rang their doorbells, Obama field organizers, armed with the fruits of Big Data, could bring a presidential campaign to the front porch as never before.”

I recall when I was going door to door in the 2008 presidential election, some of my neighbors told me that the Obama campaign had been in the neighborhood and were knocking on doors. I wondered why they hadn’t stopped at my house. Then the light bulb flashed—they knew they didn’t need to. Their data told them how best to use their volunteers. And from all accounts, the 2012 campaign was an even more sophisticated operation, precisely targeting those voters most likely to be responsive to persuasion.

National campaigns are not a permanent presence in a neighborhood and can’t possibly replace the reliable committeeperson who knows the neighborhood terrain and is out there in every election reminding neighbors to vote and providing the information they need to cast informed votes.

But in so many divisions in Philadelphia there are no functioning committeepeople and this has had an impact on over all turn-out. Many of our voters are presidential year voters and tend to skip non-presidential years. If the 2008 voters had come out in 2010, the Pennsylvania political landscape would be very different.

In off-year elections, like our recent municipal election, there was no barrage of television commercials to remind voters an election was coming up. As one of the voters in my division said, "there hasn’t been much in the media about the election, and if you hadn’t knocked on my door and reminded me, I wouldn’t have known it was Election Day.

Will our efforts to encourage civic-minded folks to run for committeeperson make a difference? There was a lot of enthusiasm at our January 14 workshop, but will this translate into people actually getting the required signatures and running in the primary? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sometimes the good guys win!

On January 10, I attended the robing ceremony for newly elected Judge of Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, Giovanni Campbell. I had worked for his election and was so happy that the candidate I strongly supported actually won. (So often, that’s not the case.)

I have long been opposed to Philly’s deeply flawed method of selecting judges. But sometimes somebody really good manages to get through this awful process.

It was a truly inspirational ceremony with moving testimonials to Judge Campbell from his colleagues. And all my friends in the political world were there celebrating. Although we agree on values and issues, we sometimes have serious disagreements about which candidate can best advance those issues. Giovanni Campbell’s campaign was a real unifier. Everybody in the Philadelphia progressive community supported Giovanni!

We might as well enjoy this brief moment of unity because it looks like we are not going to be unified in the upcoming gubernatorial race. When I asked a good friend whose opinion I really respect who he was supporting, he said, “Well, I’ll tell you who I’m not supporting, who’s at the bottom of my list.” It turned out to be the person I’m leaning towards supporting. The conversation with my good friends made it clear to me that my candidate didn’t have much support in the progressive community--at least not much support among this group of committed progressives. For me, one of the hardest parts of electoral politics is dealing with sharp disagreements about candidates with good friends I work with in progressive/ feminist organizations.

But we were all together celebrating Giovanni Campbell’s victory. There was general agreement that his judicial career would go beyond the Court of Common Pleas. The federal bench? The PA Supreme Court?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My 2014 New Year’s resolution: Campa un giorno e campalo bene. Live for the day and live it well.

I have just one New Year’s resolution this year. No, I haven’t learned Italian. "Campa un giorno e campalo bene" was the recipe for happines--Neapolitan style-- which concluded a New York Times travel article on Naples.

I don’t have one of those sunny personalities which savors the pleasures of the moment. But it’s time to practice a little cognitive therapy on myself and try to live more fully in the present.

I am very happy with my life and love just hanging out with my husband, seeing friends, writing, working for social change. It’s a good life.

But at this stage in our lives, we can’t ignore the fact that some very difficult experiences may be not too far down the road. We’re both in good health now, but unlike the "young invincibles" we can no longer take this for granted.

I tend to think about this too much. But why spoil the present moment worrying about the future? I need to make every day count--"Campa un giorno e campalo bene"