Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman Inspires Leaders Through Poetry

The 2021 Presidential Inauguration was a historic day for many reasons, and a young woman, Amanda Gorman, emerged as its shining star. Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history and her inspirational inaugural poem, The Hill we Climb, was a timely call to action and moment of healing for the nation.

The 22-year-old poet began her road to Inauguration Day in high school, when she was chosen as youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 and continued throughout her college career when she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. Gorman teaches girls to lead by example and creates work that inspires them to do so. She has two forthcoming books that are accessible for young readers: The Hill We Climb: Poems, which includes her historic inaugural poem, and a lyrical picture book, Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, which is illustrated by Loren Long and encourages the next generation of leaders to make a difference in their communities and the world. Both books are featured on CAWP’s Teach a Girl to Lead book list, an excellent source for K-12 books that are focused on women’s political history and public leadership in the US.

While we wait for Gorman’s future run for President of the United States in 2036, we anticipate her continuing to lead through words that galvanize and unite us all.

Fill Those Empty Pedestals with Pioneering American Political Women

This summer, statues and memorials of former presidents and public leaders have toppled or been removed in a reckoning with the nation’s profound legacy of racism. As the country grapples with that legacy, the time is ripe for an examination of whom we choose to memorialize. In particular, we must look for those who have made important contributions to our nation and are often missing from the historical accounting, especially women and people of color.

Last month, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) released our Women Elected Officials Database, a tool with the most complete collection of information anywhere in the world about women officeholders in the United States. It includes women officeholders nationwide, their officeholding history, party identification, and, when available, information about their race and ethnicity. While CAWP has long kept an officeholder database, this is the first time it is available in a searchable, online format for public access. It contains entries for more than eleven thousand women officeholders dating back to 1893 when women first served in statewide elected executive office. Open availability of these data helps all of us understand more thoroughly women’s role in our country’s political history and creates opportunities for new research and programs addressing the lack of parity in women’s representation. It is also a wonderful resource for exploring women who deserve a statue or other memorial in their honor.

When CAWP started counting women officeholders in 1971, there were only 351 women serving in state legislatures nationwide out of over 7,600 seats. To put this into perspective, if these women had met up in New Hampshire’s statehouse, they wouldn’t have filled all the seats of its 400-member House of Representatives, while the men serving would have needed a stadium.  Women held only twelve of the 535 seats in U.S. Congress in 1971. That particular class of women members of Congress would leave a big footprint on the history of women’s public leadership in numerous ways. Representatives Shirley Chisholm and Margaret Chase Smith, formidable as members of Congress, helped add cracks to the “marble ceiling” by running for the presidency during their political careers. Representative Margaret Heckler, the first woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, later became one of the co-founders of the bipartisan Congresswoman’s Caucus (eventually the Congressional Women’s Caucus). And two of these women, Representatives Patsy Mink and Edith Green, would go on to author Title IX, which changed the landscape for generations of women students and athletes.

Some of these names are relatively well-known, but reaching further back, how many have heard the name Eva Kelly Bowring, the first woman to serve in the Senate from Nebraska? Appointed to the Senate in 1954 upon the death of her predecessor, she initially rebuffed the offer from the governor before reversing course, noting that “when a job is offered to you, take it. Men can refuse but women are increasingly important in political life.”[1] (Side fact, people in Nebraska might know her name: Bowring was an avid rancher, and after her death, her ranch was donated to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, becoming Bowring Ranch State Historical Park.) Other women who have played important roles in public life early in our nation’s history include Soledad Chacón, the first woman and first Latina to win statewide elected executive office, becoming New Mexico’s secretary of state in 1930. In her time in office, Chacón served as acting governor while the governor was out of the state, the first woman in the country’s history to assume the responsibilities of that office. Chacón also went on to serve in the New Mexico legislature.

1917 is the year the first woman served in the U.S. Congress — Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana. Out of curiosity, I looked into the database to see how many women were serving in state legislatures at the time. There were twelve, and all were from five Western states — Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Washington. Two of those women were the first women to serve in the Montana House of Representatives, Democrat Margaret Smith Hathaway and Republican Emma S. Ingalls. Both women were ardent suffragists and worked to promote women’s rights and disenfranchised groups. In what was presumably a high compliment for its time, a male legislator said of Hathaway, “She’s the biggest man in the House.”[2] Representative Rosa Jane McKay of Arizona was best known for passing a bill enacting a minimum wage for women (a law that was unfortunately struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1923).[3]

Intrigued by Montana’s early numbers, I looked into the state more deeply and discovered Dolly Cusker Akers, the first Native American to serve in its legislature and the only woman to serve during her term from 1933-34. She won election with almost 100% of the vote in a county where whites outnumbered Native Americans by 10 to 1. Throughout her career, Cusker Akers lobbied extensively on tribal issues and was most proud of her work on behalf of the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act. [4] Other history-makers include Minnie Buckingham Harper, who was appointed to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1928, becoming the first Black woman to serve in a state legislature. Crystal Dreda Bird Fauset, the first Black woman elected to a state legislature, served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1939-40. A long-time civic leader and civil rights activist, Bird Fauset also served as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She gave over 200 lectures about race relations on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, and her words resonate today: “The types of questions asked [me] give clear evidence that white students, both high school and college, think of the American Negro as being not quite human, think of him as being more or less of an alien, associating him with an African rather than American background, and that whatever advantages and privileges he enjoys are due solely to the magnanimity of white people. They do not seem to realize that these advantages and privileges are due him as a native-born American citizen and as a normal human being — at least as normal as the attitude of the white world permits him to be.”[5]

These are just a small handful of examples of the women who have played valuable roles in public life throughout the course of the nation’s history. By providing open, accessible data on women’s representation, it is our hope that researchers will have an easier time conducting research and analyses, that practitioners working towards parity for women will have better context and understanding about the trends in women’s representation in their states and nationwide, and that everyone will be inspired to dig more deeply into the history of women who have served in public office. Let’s start erecting monuments to and naming bridges, highways, and buildings after some of these pioneering women leaders.


[1] “Eva Kelly Bowring,” in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006. Accessed July 9, 2020:

[2] Montana Historical Society Women’s History Matters. ”After Suffrage: Women Politicians at the Montana Capitol.” Accessed July 23, 2020:

[3] State of Arizona Research Library. “Meet Rosa McKay: Champion of Women’s Rights & Minimum Wage.” Accessed July 9, 2020:

[4] Montana Historical Society Women’s History Matters. “’I am a very necessary evil’: The Political Career of Dolly Smith Cusker Akers.” Accessed July 9, 2020:

[5]American Friends Service Committee. “Lifting the Curtain: Crystal Bird Fauset.” Accessed July 23, 2020:

8 Tips for Teaching Your Kids about Women and Political Leadership

As more parents and educators adapt to our new reality of online learning, many are searching for educational topics that will keep the children in their lives engaged, informed, and hopeful about the future. The issue of women and political leadership is timely and can be easily incorporated into various academic subject areas as well as family discussions and playtime. The Center for American Women and Politics’ Teach a Girl to Lead® (TAG) project has insightful and interactive content that will stimulate young people’s interest in the subject of women’s political leadership and keep them attentive and entertained. Here are 8 examples of ways to use TAG content both during class time and play time for K-12 students:

*All of these activities can be adapted for both online learning management systems and a traditional in-class format.

Activity #1 – Apply a gender lens to whatever you are teaching/doing.

No matter what you are teaching or doing, applying a gender lens is a useful way of thinking about the larger picture and beginning a conversation on this topic. It means to view programs and materials with particular attention to gender imbalances or biases in what is being presented. Using a gender lens reveals the ways in which content and approaches are gendered – informed by, shaped by, or biased toward men’s or women’s perspectives or experiences.

A great way to start applying a gender lens is by using characters from books, films, and games that your child already enjoys to think about gender imbalances and leadership. For instance, if your child really enjoys Marvel, have them read books on women leaders like Captain Marvel or Storm of the X-Men and discuss how their leadership legacy compares to that of a woman politician and what gendered obstacles they may share. Or have your kids/students write a campaign slogan or election plan for a young woman leader in the Marvel Universe like Ms. Marvel or Iron Heart and have them discuss the gender-specific perspective they can bring to government. Gender is in everything, challenge yourself and the young people in your life to think about all that they learn and encounter through a gender lens.

Activity #2 – Tune into the TAG Virtual Reading Project

Women state legislators across the country have continued their participation in the Teach a Girl to Lead® Reading Project virtually by hosting online readings and discussions of the book Grace Goes to Washington by Kelly DiPucchio. As part of our annual Reading Project, with generous support from the Hess Foundation, the Honorable Constance Hess Williams, and Comcast NBCUniversal, this past fall we sent copies of Grace Goes to Washington to every woman state legislator, statewide elected official, and member of Congress. We encouraged them to read and discuss this book with kids in their district. Many of them are now hosting virtual story time on their social media pages.

Check your local state legislators’ page to see if they are hosting a story time, if not then encourage them to do so by sending them this link. You can also tune in to a reading hosted by another woman legislator, CAWP’s social media keeps track of when they are happening. So far we have reposted videos of Rep. Ashton Clemmons (NC), Rep. Attica Scott (KY), and Rep. Holly Rehder (MO) participating in this project. This is not only a great way for students to get access to this amazing book that explains how federal government works to elementary school-aged children, but it also is a great way to help your kids virtually meet a woman legislator and learn from them.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama will also be hosting virtual read-along sessions with PBS Kids every Monday at 12 pm ET from April 20 to May 11, 2020.

Activity #3 – Celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage

August 18, 2020 marks 100 years since the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing the right of citizens to vote without any denial or abridgement on the basis of sex. This amendment granted women in the U.S. the right to vote and was the result of a historic movement led by women. In the Teach a Girl to Lead® Teaching Toolbox, we have a Women’s Suffrage in the United States lesson plan that explores the history of the women’s suffrage movement and includes materials, handouts, biographies, readings, and videos to choose from. It also includes discussion questions categorized by age group that connect the history of women’s suffrage to concepts of equal rights and representation. Check out the Center for American Women and Politics website as well for more suffrage centennial data and resources.

This lesson can be followed up with your own suffrage centennial celebration. Participants can dress up as a known suffragist, read from historical speeches and documents, and watch movies about the women who led this movement. In courses related to math, students can use our CAWP fact sheets to examine statistics on women’s voting records since suffrage and analyze them. Whatever you decide to do, help us celebrate this important anniversary!

Activity #4 – Choose a book, film, or web video from our expansive list

Down time can also be a great time to learn through books, films, and web content. We at CAWP have compiled expansive lists of media content focused on women’s political history and women public leaders. The lists can be easily searched and have content for all age groups, reading preferences, learning styles, etc. You can make this content interactive by following up with discussion questions, making art or poetry of the characters you encountered, rethinking plot lines and interview questions you saw, and/or dressing up as characters.

Check out our lists here and find something that might interest you and the young people in your life.

Activity #5 – Dive into the relationship between women and our political institutions

Your students/kids have lived with the potential reality of a woman president, whether through the campaigns of the women who ran for president in the 2020 primaries or through the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Additionally, with the record-breaking number of women who ran, and won, in the 2018 congressional elections, young people are starting to see more attention being paid to the lack of gender parity in their political institutions overall.

The lesson plans in the Teach a Girl to Lead® Teaching Toolbox on Women and the Presidency and Women and Congress delve into the complexity of women’s relationships with these political institutions and can help spark a discussion with your students on what they have observed around women’s roles in these institutions in this current time. Like all lesson plans in our toolbox, these modules are complete with resources and discussion questions for all ages.

Activity #6 – Explore the historical and current impact of women of color in American politics

The subject of the underrepresentation, roles, and impact of women of color in American politics is something that all young people should be aware of. The lesson plan on Women of Color in American Politics in the Teach a Girl to Lead® Teaching Toolbox is a great way of bringing that awareness into your classroom and home. The goal of this module is to provide resources and ideas that will alter young people’s image of politics as a masculine space and political actors as white men and challenge them to move beyond assumptions about “men” and “women” in politics by offering resources that illuminate the diversity within women.

Use our book list to search books by and about women of color in politics and make a reading list for your kids. April is National Poetry Month, so this is also a great time to explore the political poetry of women of color political activists, like Audre Lorde, and bring it into conversation with the current and historical treatment of women of color in the United States.

Activity #7 – Utilize games and puzzles

Games and puzzles are a fun and interactive way to get a child learning, and can turn into an engaging activity for the whole family or classroom. This Teach a Girl to Lead® list features hands-on activities and exercises, including a women’s political history Jeopardy game and an Advocacy Day role-playing exercise. Additionally, there are newer games related to women’s political leadership that are great for educating and engaging young folks.

The award-winning 2121 game is a guided facilitator card game where each player acts as a real woman who is running or has run for office. The game utilizes role-playing and strategic decision-making that highlights the process of running for office for many women and also includes historical information on women and politics. Another example is the Who’s She board game from Playeress, which is like Guess Who? with notable women’s history figures as the playable characters. Additionally, there is The History Channel’s Famous Women in American History card game, the Little Feminist Memory Match game, and the Little People, Big Dreams matching game.

Puzzles are also fun for kids to engage with and spend time away from their screens. Some examples are: Nevertheless She Persisted puzzle, Ridley’s Inspirational Women Feminist Circular Jigsaw puzzle, Little Feminist Family puzzle, Votes for Women puzzle, and Women Who Dared building blocks. To set free the inner artist and do a quiet activity, you can turn to coloring books like the America’s First Ladies Coloring Book, and The Blue Stocking Society Coloring Book, which highlights women of color leaders, and this Huffington Post list of printable coloring sheets of women leaders.

Finally, virtual trivia games on women’s political history are also available on educational sites Scholastic and Brain Pop. You can also check out the National Women’s History Alliance for a list of trivia games created by them.

Activity #8 – Engage with the experts and the community

There is a larger community of folks who are already doing the work to educate young people on women and political leadership, and they want to involve you!

Follow a Women & Politics academic on social media and see what they are doing at home with their families and students. Christina Wolbrecht, Director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University, created a syllabus for watching Mrs. America on FX, a series about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment. Amanda Bittner, Director of the Gender & Politics Laboratory and professor of Political Science at Memorial University, recently shared a #5DaysofGenderPol homeschooling lesson plan for children aged 7+ that is adaptable to all ages. This lesson plan gets kids thinking about gender and political leadership through numerous interactive exercises, readings, and discussion questions.

You can also check out this list of programs and places on the TAG site and see what programs in your area you would like to connect with. Many of them are putting out interactive, engaging, content related to the topic of women and political leadership. The Center for American Women and Politics website has lots of resources such as fact sheets and timelines that can be used for interactive exercises like trivia games, such as our Milestones for Women in American Politics timeline. For more resources on how to use the research, data, and analysis done by the Center for American Women and Politics for online learning please check out this post on our CAWP blog by Research Associate Claire Gothreau.

Invite your larger school community, family, and friends to try any of these ideas with you. It is so important for young folks to learn about women’s political leadership now so that they can change the future for the better.

By Christabel Cruz, Director, NEW Leadership®

Holiday Gift Guide: Celebrating Women Who Lead

Too much to do and too little time this holiday season? To help lighten the load, here’s a handy list of gift ideas honoring women public leaders – perfect for the women (and men!) in your life who appreciate the role that women play in shaping our democracy, as well as the kids who will carry the leadership torch in years to come.

TheCOMPASSProject has designed a collection of special artisan-crafted True North bracelets, and a portion of sales supports CAWP’s Ready to Run® Network of nonpartisan campaign trainings for women.  We wear our bracelets every day as a symbol of hope that one day women in America will have the power to govern as equals. Yes, this is a shameless plug to support our work, but you’ll also help women break some marble ceilings while shopping. See, everyone wins!

Speaking of ceilings, this shattered glass ceiling necklace pays tribute to the accomplishments of empowered women everywhere. Enough said.

Every baby needs this Ruth Bader Ginsburg bib, because it’s never too early to start kids on embodying the spirit of powerful women.

We can’t all be on the Supreme Court, but we can enjoy a cup of coffee with this record-breaking, history-making squad any time we’d like.

These coasters would make a charming and empowering hostess gift. Also, I’m now obsessed with this “brilliant women” spinner.

What friend wouldn’t appreciate having Eleanor Roosevelt’s words of wisdom on their wall?  (And this card.)

Statement t-shirts are fun; why not make them empowering ones? Suffragist Alice Paul said, “There is nothing complicated about ordinary equality,” and we agree. Every woman has a mind of her own. And in case anyone needs reminding about where women belong.

What better way to spend a cold winter’s night than curled up in front of a good show? Equity is about the hard road women face making it in a man’s world.  The binge-worthy drama Borgen covers challenges faced by Denmark’s first female prime minister.

Last, but not least: books that teach kids and adults about women’s public leadership. (Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list of books on women leaders. The biggest challenge is the lack of titles on the subject of women’s political leadership. Take note, publishing houses and authors!  We need more. In the meantime, additional book suggestions are available on our Teach a Girl to Lead™ site.)

Preschool and Elementary: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison; She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger; Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en el Bronx by Jonah Winter; Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio ; If I Were President by Catherine Stier; Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colon.  Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts  and Diane Goode; Mary America: First Girl President of the United States by Carole Marsh; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can by Cynthia Levinson; A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull  and Jane Dyer.

Pre-Teen: Yours Truly, Lucy B. Parker: Vote for Me! by Robin Palmer; With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum; Scholastic Biography: Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I A Woman by Patricia McKissack and Fredrick McKissack; President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston; Margaret Chase Smith: A Woman for President by Lynn Plourde.

Teen: 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A. by Tonya Bolden (editor); Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony by Geoffrey C. Ward and‎ Kenneth Burns; Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women by Marlene Wagman-Geller.

Adult: Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead by Madeleine Kunin; Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick by Peter Collier; Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm; My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor; Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller; Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress by Olympia Snowe; The Autobiography Of Eleanor Roosevelt.

How to talk to kids about this election

call-in-sick-election-fatigue-funny-ecard-ihcThese days, a lot of conversations around the office of the Center for American Women and Politics (and our larger home, the Eagleton Institute of Politics) tend to start or end with someone saying “Wow, what an interesting year to be studying politics, huh?” or “I’ve just never seen anything like it before.”  While presidential election years can be great opportunities to teach kids about democracy and elections, the heated rhetoric and tone from this election cycle have, at times, made it difficult to approach as an educational tool.  I have three young daughters, and they have repeatedly peppered me with questions over the past several months: “Why don’t people want girls to be president?”, “Why is everyone so angry about this election?”, and “Why does the sign on that guy’s house say ‘X for President, X for prison’?”  Whether I like it or not, my kids are learning about this election, and some of what they’re learning is quite disheartening. I’ll admit my instinct has sometimes been to answer quickly and then change the subject. Because, frankly, I’m not sure where to begin.

But it’s important to talk to our kids about this election in particular and about democracy in general. Civic engagement is the cornerstone of our democracy, after all. And in a year when gender plays a dramatic role, it’s more important than ever to address the subject with an eye on the messages girls and boys receive about who can be public leaders. The Washington Post spelled out why this election could have a negative impact on the girls in this country, regardless of the winner.  This line is particularly sobering: “To be sure, electing the first female president would show American girls that women truly can overcome gender bias and win elections at the highest levels. But they will also have witnessed another truth: They will pay a price for trying.”  That shook me out of my election fatigue. If my girls must learn this lesson, I also want boys to hear that girls may pay a steep price just for wanting to lead.

To get inspired, I found some resources to use for engaging young people in discussions about politics, women’s leadership and democracy:

  • IGNITE, an organization dedicated to grooming young women to become the next generation of political leaders, launched the #DeclareYourAmbition campaign earlier this week to help inspire more girls. The campaign video should be required viewing for every elementary school kid in this country.  IGNITE also has “Empower Your Daughter” discussion guides by age group to help you engage girls in election activities and politics. Watch the video below and then tell a girl to run for office!

PS I *love* the Presidential ticket that our partner organization She Should Run has created with Barbie. Snag them before they’re gone!

Grace for President!

The following is a guest post by North Dakota State Representative Gail Mooney.  Elected to the legislature in 2012, Rep. Mooney serves on the Government Services Committee, the Human Services Committee, and the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee. Rep. Mooney participated in our Grace for President Reading Project during Women’s History Month. 

In late March, I had the pleasure of reading Grace for President to the second graders of Hillsboro (ND) Elementary School. Mrs. Liedholm and Mrs. Ferguson were gracious enough to open up their classes for an hour of reading, visiting and LOTS of questions!

Rep. Gail Mooney reading Grace for President at her local elementary school.
Rep. Gail Mooney reading Grace for President at her local elementary school.

When I started, I asked them all….Who wants to be President of the United States??!!  Without hesitation they all raised their hands – boys and girls.  Then I told them that in the really old days, when I was in the second grade, if anyone had asked me if I’d like to be President, it would never have occurred to me to raise my hand.  They laughed and thought that was funny.

We read Grace for President, and they loved it.  They were so engaged with the story, and they all agreed Grace should be President.

Afterwards we talked about dreams.  I shared that when I was a little girl, my dream was to be an artist.  Then they shared their dreams – artists, farmers, teachers – and presidents.  🙂

Then we talked about women in history – they shared a whole litany of GREAT women in history.  I told them how impressed I was that they’d paid so much attention to all these wonderful women. But I also asked them: what about our great moms and great teachers??  Aren’t they historical in their own way??  They LOVED that!

We talked about the state legislature and what my job is all about.  When I told them part of my job is to listen to them – to their parents and friends – they loved that.  Mrs. Ferguson asked about any bills that didn’t pass that were disappointing. One that came to mind involved a requirement for seat belts in school buses.  After discussing it, we decided we’d have a classroom vote on this bill so that I could bring that back with me in the next legislative session.  They voted unanimously for safety and to have seat belts.  I told them I will bring that bill forward in the next session and be sure to share their vote with my fellow legislators!

In the Q&A one little guy asked me if I’d ever found my dream of being an artist.  So sweet that he remembered.  I told them that YES! I had! And that I then discovered another dream of being in public office.

We finished with hugs galore – and a huge THANK you for the book donation.

So – with that – thanks  so much to Teach a Girl to Lead™ for initiating this in honor of Women’s History Month.  It was a hit on every level!

(Editor’s note: Thank YOU, Rep. Mooney, for helping teach the next generation – both girls and boys – about women’s public leadership!)

Costume Ideas for Girls Who Run the World

In recent weeks, several parents have called out big national chain stores for their poor selection of girls’ Halloween costumes, including this one.  Melissa Wardy of the blog Pigtail Pal & Ballcap Buddies wrote a great piece a few years ago summing up the problem. Unfortunately there are too many “sexy” costumes for young girls and never any that help girls exercise their own power.

So how about giving your daughter – or son! – costume ideas based on a real woman public leader? Here’s a round-up of some of our favorite costumes and costume ideas, plus some reading suggestions to help you both learn about these important trailblazers.

1) Supreme Court Justice


This baby blows us away with his Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg costume. Three other women have also served on the nation’s highest court: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan, and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  Any of these women would be fine choice for a girl looking to make her own case.

For inspiration, read: Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World,  For young kids, check out Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx.

2) Madam President

Does your little one have presidential aspirations?  Fortunately there are a number of women to choose from, including current candidates Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina.

Shirley Chisholm  CarolMoseleyBraun

Many other women have run for president in US history, including Carol Moseley Braun and Shirley Chisholm. [We can’t get enough of the Because of Them We Can series featuring girls dressed as famous Black women leaders. Check out their site and get some amazing posters!]

VictoriaWoodhull  EllenJohnsonSirleaf  WilmaMankiller

Victoria Woodhull
was the first woman to run for the US presidency. There are also several women currently serving as presidents in other countries, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. Wilma Mankiller was the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation.

For inspiration, read: Chisholm’s Unbought and Unbossed or Sirleaf’s This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President. For kids, read: A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull; Madam President: Five Women Who Paved the Way; or  Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency.

3) Governor


In this country’s history, 37 women have served as governors in 27 states. Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming was the first woman to serve as governor in the United States when she was elected in 1925.

There are six women currently serving as governors: Mary Fallin (R-OK), Nikki Haley (R-SC), Susana Martinez (R-NM), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kate Brown (D-OR), and Gina Raimondo (D-RI).



For inspiration, read the autobiographies of past women governors, including Up the Capitol Steps: A Woman’s March to the Governorship by former Oregon governor Barbara Roberts and Straight from the Heart: My Life in Politics & Other Places by former Texas governor Ann Richards.

4) Member of Congress

There are plenty of women trailblazers in US Congress to pick from.

PatsyMink_1990orchid  Barbara Jordan

Patsy Mink was the first woman of color and first Asian woman to serve in the US House of Representatives. Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to Congress from the deep South.

For inspiration, read: A Heart in Politics: Jeannette Rankin and Patsy T. Mink and Barbara Jordan: American Hero.

5) Suffragette


The new Suffragette movie reminds us that many women fought for our right to have a voice in our democrazy. Girls and young women can pick specific woman suffragists to emulate or simply be themselves.

For inspiration, read: Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. For kids, read: You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?Marching with Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage.


Happy trick or treating!

11 Ways to Encourage Your Daughter to Pursue Politics

This post was written by Nadia Farjood for Political Parity.  It is reprinted with permission from the author and Political Parity. Although it was written in preparation for Father’s Day, the advice is perfect for any time of the year –  particularly Election Day – and for all adults who want to educate and inspire the girls in their lives!  

DSC_0134_2This Father’s Day, I hope dads and daughters will experience politics together. Research shows that young men are more likely than women to be socialized by their parents to consider politics a viable career path. But that can change. With 2016 around the corner and female presidential candidates running from across the political spectrum, there’s no better time for young women to get involved in our participatory democracy—and make it a father-daughter bonding opportunity! Your daughters are never too young to learn about their role in American government. Ready to plunge into politics? Here are 11 ways you can empower your daughter to amplify her voice and take part in the democratic process.

1. Bring your daughter to the polls. Election Day is also Take Your Daughter to Vote Day. Show her how to fill out a ballot and explain why it’s important to participate in our democracy. Snap a picture of you and your daughter at your polling place and share it on Twitter with #TakeYourDaughtertoVoteDay. Instill in your daughter a sense of civic duty. When John Mayer wrote his famous hit “Daughters,” I think he was really going for these lyrics:

So fathers, go vote with your daughters,
Daughters will vote if you do.
Girls become voters, who turn into civic motors,
So fathers, take your daughters to vote with you.

2. Talk about politics and ask your daughter for her opinion. As you read the Sunday paper (or scroll through headlines on your iPad), ask your daughter about her thoughts on the day’s events. When you pass the potatoes at the dinner table, exchange ideas about domestic and global affairs. What do you think about [insert issue]? How could our community be better? If you were president, what would you do first?

3. Watch political TV shows and films together, especially ones featuring strong female leads. As the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Role models have a powerful influence on people’s sense of possibility. Watch Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina’s videos announcing their presidential campaigns. Use this #MarchtoParity Women in Politics Media Guide as a starting place for your movie marathon. Highlight women in the world making major contributions—they just might ignite your daughter’s political ambitions.

4. Read about women political leaders and women’s history—together. Former presidential candidate and Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder once said that more women would run for office, if they only knew their history. Go to the local library and check out books on women suffragists and abolitionists, veterans and civil rights legends. Teach a Girl to Lead, a project of the Center for American Women in Politics, has a digital library of books you can put on your reading list.

5. Get involved in your community. Sixty percent of women in the 113th Congress were once Girl Scouts. Needless to say, early engagement in local and neighborhood issues catalyzed women’s early political awakenings. Look up programs in your community that will allow your daughter to tap into her civic spirit—and join her if you can! Bonus: Watch Girl Scouts interview members of Congress in their Portraits in Leadership series.

6. Take your daughter canvassing. If you’re going door-knocking, take your daughter with you. At age five, former US Senator Mary Landrieu accompanied her father on the campaign trail for his state legislature race. She recalls learning the ropes of campaigning in her childhood: “My little knuckles used to hurt knocking on the doors, so my father would give me a rock to use. I’d tap on the door and say, ‘Hello, I’m Mary Landrieu, and this is my dad.’” Likewise, when she was 13, Hillary Clinton canvassed for a presidential campaign. These early experiences clearly cultivate women’s interest in and commitment to politics down the line.

7. Write a letter to or arrange a visit with your local representative. We live in a participatory democracy, but we often forget to communicate with our government, other than on Election Day. Encourage your daughter to send a letter to your local representative, or visit him/her in person. As a young woman, Senator Susan Collins met then-Senator Margaret Chase Smith in the US Senate Youth Program in Washington and never forgot the experience. Collins now holds the seat once occupied by Smith.

8. Encourage your daughter to play competitive sports. Politics is a contact sport. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was a college squash player, Senator Kelly Ayotte was a competitive skier, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a martial artist and avid surfer. Research from Professor Jennifer Lawless at American University suggests that women who play competitive sports are more likely to express an interest running for office later in life. Lawless explains that key leadership lessons are taught out on the field, including “the ability to compete and the willingness to lose.”

9. Ask your daughter about student government and debate programs at school. Learn about what civic opportunities are offered by your daughter’s school or locally. Student government and debate experience can pave pathways to public service. After all, Senator Susan Collins was the president of her high school, and Senator Elizabeth Warren was named Oklahoma’s top high school debater. If the school doesn’t offer these programs, explore opportunities with your daughter and community members for creating them.

10. Take a field trip to a historic site for women in politics. The next time you sit down to plan a family vacation, think about going to a place where women made history. Visit Rosa Parks’ statue in DC or one of the women’s history sites identified by the National Register of Historic Places. Teach a Girl to Lead has a database of places you can explore that celebrate women’s history.

11. Throw a president party instead of a princess party. As Political Parity Director Marni Allen notes in “Senator, Not Cinderella”, she’s never heard of anyone throwing a young girl a president party. You could change that! For your daughter’s next birthday, consider having a political-themed party with celebratory slogans, birthday buttons and bumper stickers, and even voting booths, where party attendees can vote for historical female presidential candidates. Wrap gifts in political newspapers, and have a star-spangled time!

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.