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.

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!

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.


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.]


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!

Unveiling Teach a Girl to Lead

On behalf of the Center for American Women and Politics, I am proud to unveil the web site for our newest initiative, Teach a Girl to Lead™ (TAG).  TAG is our national campaign to make women’s public leadership visible to the next generation. We want to re-envision what public leaders look like, inspire girls and young women to follow in their footsteps, and make women’s political leadership visible to America’s youth.  When young people – both girls AND boys – learn from an early age that public leaders can look like their mothers, aunts and grandmothers, they grow up with a broader and more inclusionary view of leaders and leadership, and that’s good for all of us.

The TAG site is full of useful resources to help all of us teach the young people in our lives and communities about women’s leadership and civic engagement. You can find lesson plans on women in politics.  There are also games and activities to help young people better understand the workings of their government and the roles that women play in the process, and exercises to enhance the capacity of girls and young women for public leadership. You can point young people toward our women and politics book list or encourage them to watch a film! Our Programs & Places Resource Map features girls’ leadership programs, including those with a focus public leadership, as well as coed civic leadership programs; historic sites where women leaders made history; and field trip ideas to show girls and boys about women’s political history.  But don’t just take our word for it – you can invite a woman public leader to speak to your class or youth program and let her tell you herself the difference women make in public office.  The Leaders Lineup can get you started with a searchable map of women leaders, along with sample invite letters and discussion questions. (Are you a woman public official? Please consider adding your name to the cadre of women leaders who have taken this pledge!)

One of the best and most heartening things about this project has been finding many excellent organizations and programs around the country already teaching children about civic and girls’ leadership and about women’s history and contributions to public life.  We have an incredible group of allied organizations dedicated to this work.  Many of their programs are on the Programs & Places map as mentioned above, and we look forward to featuring their programs and work as a part of this campaign. Sign up for our email newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get our regular recommendations, as well as updates and highlights from the TAG site and from our allied organization’s work.

None of this would be possible without the support of our sponsors – a special thanks to Connie Williams and the Hess Foundation, and the Embrey Family Foundation for their major program support, and to all our early donors for believing in this mission.

Thanks for joining us on this campaign.  Send us suggestions and follow us for ongoing updates!