Women Lead Arkansas

WomenLeadAR

Women Lead Arkansas is a non-partisan non-profit whose MISSION is to empower women and girls to engage in politics, policy and leadership. Providing tools and resources for women will increase opportunities for economic development; improve education and healthcare for everyone; and give more women a seat at the table, so they can share the responsibility of shaping public policy in Arkansas.

Star Wars and History Books: Teaching All Kids that Women Matter

My husband and I went holiday shopping for our three young daughters the other day. Our first stop was a popular big box retail store. After taking care of a few other items, I found him in one of the toy aisles with a perplexed look on his face. He was standing in front of the section of Star Wars toys – in particular looking for action figures from the new Star Wars Rebels series. If you don’t know, Star War Rebels was launched earlier this year as an animated show taking place five years before the original Star Wars movie series. For my Star Wars super-fan husband, that was exciting enough. But what pleased both of us is that two of the five main characters are women – and strong, impressive women at that. Sabine Wren and Hera Syndulla are smart, capable, and always in the middle of the action. Our almost 8-year old and almost 6-year old daughters love those characters and the show. They constantly act out being Hera and Sabine. How great is that? We both were thrilled with Lucasfilm for creating these characters our daughters can see themselves in.

Why aren’t the female characters on this shirt?

Back to the holiday gift shopping. Not a single Star Wars Rebels action figure or toy at the store featured these female characters. My husband was looking carefully at the tags where items sold out to see if they were just out of stock. No luck – they just weren’t available to purchase in the first place. Next we headed to the mall to continue with our shopping. We were hopeful we would find some stuff at the Disney store. But no such luck – nothing we saw in the Star Wars Rebels section contained the female characters. In fact, one of the boys’ t-shirts for sale featured all the male characters, but none of the women. What the heck? It’s just as bothersome that the boys’ items leave the women off – boys need to see women as strong leaders too. When I got home, I did some research and found out that Disney and Hasbro had been called out on this issue by several bloggers and the Twitterverse. You can read more here, here, and here. The good news is that the next round of action figures and toys will include Hera and Sabine…but I guess not in time for this holiday season. That’s a real shame and a missed opportunity.

One of the big reasons the Center for American Women and Politics launched Teach a Girl to Lead™ was because we know “you can’t be what you can’t see.” What my husband and I experienced in the shopping aisle is typical in classrooms. American history textbooks continue to emphasize the pivotal roles of men in U.S. history, but gloss over, or skip entirely, the contributions of women. One study found that in one of the most commonly-used second-grade textbooks, less than a quarter of the historical figures mentioned are women, and far fewer pages are devoted to the women than to the men (up to 5 pages of mentions for women leaders, while the men receive up to 22 pages worth of mentions.) It doesn’t get better as the students get older; in a popular high school history book, female historical figures are only 13% of those mentioned, and those women are mentioned, at most, on 6 pages, while some of the men were mentioned on as many as 36 pages. In their book Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls, researchers Myra and David Sadker noted: “When girls do not see themselves in the pages of textbooks…our daughters learn that to be female is to be an absent partner in the development of our nation.”

If girls don’t see women leaders highlighted and showcased right along with men, how will they grow up thinking they can be leaders themselves? And if boys don’t see women showcased, how will they grow up thinking that leaders can look like their mothers, their sisters, and their female friends? What messages are we sending our kids? We can do better than this.

If you are looking for great gifts celebrating women’s leadership for the girls and boys in your life, check our ally A Mighty Girl. Their site is chock-full of terrific ideas and awesome products to cultivate the strong, confident girls in your life (including some Star Wars products!) On our Teach a Girl to Lead™ site, you can also find suggested books and films featuring women public leaders to enjoy with your kids over the winter break. Or get the kids out of the house and visit one of the places celebrating women’s leadership on the Programs & Places Map.

Kids believe what they see, and I’m going to make sure my girls see women leaders as much as they can. At least they can watch the Star Wars Rebels show with these great characters, even if they can’t play with the toys they wanted yet. Every step counts, so onward we go.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. – State of New Jersey

Zeta Phi Beta logo

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated was founded in 1920 on the belief that the social nature of sorority life should not overshadow the real mission for progressive organizations to address societal mores, ills, prejudices, poverty, and health concerns of the day. The international organization’s 125,000+ initiated members, operating in more than 850 chapters, have given millions of voluntary hours to educate the public, provide scholarships, support organized charities, and promote legislation for social and civic change.

The US Association of Former Members of Congress

USAFMCThe United States Association of Former Members of Congress utilizes the unique skill sets of its 600 members to provide pro bono public service programs and initiatives both at home and abroad. Using the expertise of its membership, FMC has created programs to educate about the role of Congress, assist Congress in its international relations, and support emerging democracies abroad, all while providing opportunities for members to stay connected with their colleagues.

Teaching Boys About Women Public Leaders

Following is a guest post from Brigid Avery. Brigid lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is a graduate of Aquinas College and the University of San Diego. She is currently the director of Alumni Engagement at Aquinas College. Brigid contacted us to share her support of Teach a Girl to LeadTM, and we are delighted to share her story. Do you have a great story, too? Tell us how you are educating your kids or your community about women’s public leadership, and we will share with our followers. Thanks, Brigid!

As the mother of two young boys, Emmett (4) and Leo (2), I am usually totally spent by the end of the day. They spend their days fighting bad guys as the moment’s chosen superhero, digging in anything remotely dirty and basically embody the phrase “all boy.” The sigh of relief comes when bath time is complete, their grubby little hands and faces are now sweet and clean, and we settle in for story time, a treasured routine in our home.

One book is surprisingly requested more often than any other book in our extensive library: Grace for President. Grace, a third grader is so upset that there has never been a “girl president” that she decides she would like to be president. The story explains, in a third grade kind of way, the electoral college, campaign promises, gender bias and equality. Not your typical toddler or preschool “boy” book, for sure.
Boys_Grace4President

After reading Grace a bajillion times, I can now recite the story from memory, we’ve had to order a replacement copy due to wear and tear, and I even had a Grace doll made for Emmett when he turned 2. I’ve been in contact with the author a couple of times and hopefully an adapted script of the book will make an appearance on the TAG resources page soon!

In the book, Grace listens to her constituents, makes good on her campaign promises, and works really hard. She is an example to every person, man or woman, what political leaders should be. Raising boys to respect women and believe in equality is all about exposure. If they only read books or watch movies where the President is a man, then how could they be expected to know anything different?

Tonight, I asked Emmett, “So, why should girls be President?” And he said, “Because girls make good leaders.” Be still my heart. I think I done good. Seriously though, how great is that?

I went on to tell him that a pretty sweet gig would be to be married to the President when he grows up…the First Gentleman. “You get to live in the White House, pick a few awesome projects to work on, and visit a lot of places.” He responded by saying he wanted to be the blue Ninja Turtle when he grows up. And handed me a Star Wars book to read next. Progress.

Take a Field Trip through Women's History

It’s hard to believe we’re back into the swing of the school year already. And going back to school means…field trips! This year, how about visiting one of the museums, historic locations, or places of interest that highlight the accomplishments of women civic leaders? Check out our Programs & Places map for ideas (select Field Trip from the dropdown). If your school or youth program is looking for some good ideas, or you’re looking for some weekend fun with your children, go see where women made history and discover courageous leaders who changed the world.

If you live near Skowhegan, Maine, for example, you could visit the Margaret Chase Smith Library, which honors the legacy of the first woman elected to both houses of Congress. Paulsdale in Mount Laurel, NJ, offers tours about the suffragist Alice Paul

Paulsdale in Mount Laurel, NJ
Paulsdale. Source: www.alicepaul.org.

and her life’s work for gender equality. The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center features women such as Lillie Carroll Jackson, a trailblazing activist known as the “mother of the civil rights movement” and the organizer of Baltimore’s first branch of the NAACP. The Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in Marion showcases the contributions women have made to Alabama and the nation. Students can learn about women such as Julia Strudwick Tutwiler, an early advocate of women’s rights who helped the first female students matriculate at the University of Alabama and who was also an activist for humane prison reform, or Idella Jones Childs, who became the first African American woman to serve on the Marion City Council and was a founding member of the Black Heritage Council.

The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame showcases the achievements and history of Michigan women, including Cora Reynolds Anderson, the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and the only Native American woman elected to the Michigan House or Senate. Further west, the Salter House and Museum in Argonia, Kansas, honors Susanna Madora Salter, the first woman elected mayor in the United States. The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, Colorado, shares the life of activist, philanthropist and Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown, including her involvement with the juvenile justice system, her work on women’s suffrage, and her run for Congress. At the Oklahoma Territorial Museum & Historic Carnegie Library in Guthrie, visitors get to hear about Oklahoma’s first female elected official, Kate Barnard, known for being a savvy politician and an excellent public speaker.

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Source: http://www.cowgirl.net.
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Source: http://www.cowgirl.net.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas honors the women whose “courage, resilience, and independence…helped shape the American West,” including Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation and Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female member of the US Supreme Court.

And of course, you can’t miss the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY.

Find more places that celebrate women’s accomplishments on our Programs & Places map and plan your visit. Know of any places of interest we should include? Tell us!

In This Together Media, Inc.

inthistogetherWe believe Every Story Counts. Kids’ interest in reading skyrockets when they can see themselves in a story. There’s an opportunity for more fiction to reflect the lives of real girls — smart, interesting, multidimensional girls of all different backgrounds. We want to feed the minds of those readers who hunger for more than the extremes; our protagonists aren’t superchicks, nor are they just waiting around to be kissed. Offer any young person a diverse array of rich characters, and you open up possibilities in that reader’s world. Learn more about In This Together Media here.

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI) utilizes the signature leadership skills of the late New York Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (1920-1998) to mentor and train high school and college age women and help develop the confidence and skills they need to be effective, dynamic and visionary leaders as well as active and creative participants in civic, political, corporate and community life.

Learn more about BALI here.

Summer Reading: Ruth's Recommendations

Ruth B. Mandel, Founder and former Director of the Eagleton's Center for American Women & PoliticsLooking for your next great read? Why not spend the summer getting inspired by incredible women public leaders? That’s my plan, and I don’t know anyone who has read more books about women in politics than Ruth B. Mandel, founder of the Center for American Women and Politics and currently director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics and Board of Governors Professor of Politics at Rutgers University. Ruth also wrote one of the seminal books on women candidates, In the Running: The New Woman Candidate – so naturally I turned to her for ideas.

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In her own words, here are Ruth’s recommendations for some great summer reads:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Given her recent death, Maya Angelou is on everyone’s mind. This book is worth reading or revisiting if you have already read it. In terms of politics, she influenced so many leaders in her life, from Martin Luther King, Jr., with whom she worked, to President Clinton, who selected her to write and recite a poem for his inauguration (the first African American and first female poet to do so.) I’ll never forget one time when she came and spoke to one of my classes. A student asked her a question and she sang her response. You caught your breath – there was something so beautiful and so powerful about this woman. She had gone through some of life’s most horrible experiences and lost her voice as a result of a trauma. But she rose from that childhood of poverty and extreme challenges to become a voice for everyone.
[Editor’s note – for young kids, check out Maya Angelou: Diversity Makes for a Rich Tapestry and Maya Angelou: Journey of the Heart.]

 

My Beloved WorldMy Beloved World – Sonia Sotomayor
The spirit of the book and the spirit of the person who wrote it are in the book title. It’s a pleasure to read. Justice Sotomayor embraces life, from the most difficult moments and challenges to great experiences. She gives a very personal, open and candid description of growing up in difficult circumstances but with a loving family and a community of beloved friends. She took on every new experience with a determination to do well and with a gusto for life and learning. You admire her when you finish reading the book and are in awe of her achievement of rising to the Supreme Court. But you could also imagine sitting down with her and feeling completely comfortable.
[Editor’s note – young kids can learn about Justice Sotomayor in A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter.]

 

Autobiography of Eleanor RooseveltThe Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt – Eleanor Roosevelt
Here’s the story of someone who comes from a very prominent family, whose childhood was difficult and painful…one disappointment after another. She did not have a life of emotional luxury. It’s a fascinating story of a woman who became a global leader through her role as First Lady and later her own appointment to the United Nations. Her leadership left us with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most important document to light our way through the 21st century. That alone is enough to read her story. Ken Burns also has a new documentary coming out about her. Before that comes out, read her own book.

[Editor’s note – for young kids, check out Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World; Eleanor Roosevelt (First Biographies Series); and Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery.]

 

It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of AmericaIt's My Party Too – Christine Todd Whitman
There is a lot of discussion these days about what’s going on with the Republican party and the future of the party. This book is a good insider look at that debate from a lifelong Republican with a long political career, including serving as the only woman governor of New Jersey and as a presidential appointee. She’s been discussed as a possible vice presidential candidate, and she is now taking a leading role on climate change issues. Her thoughts about her party are definitely worth a read.

 

Living HistoryLiving History and Hard Choices – Hillary Rodham Clinton
I recommend these two books to everyone because they are about the life of the most important political woman of our time – someone who served as a First Lady, a US Senator, and Secretary of State. She was the first woman to be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate in 2008, and now, in the ramp-up to 2016, she is constantly on everyone’s minds. For that reason alone, women – and young women in particular – owe it to themselves to read her story in her own words.

[Editor’s note – for young kids, read Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight.]

 

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There you have it – six books on women public leaders with which to kick off your summer reading. Ruth would love to hear from you about what you think of these suggestions and if you have any suggestions of your own. Please share!