Winning Any Office (or Male-Dominated Environment)

RS: I wasn’t raised in a Jewish home, but I learned about Judaism as a social justice commitment when I was in high school and in college. I learned more about Golda Meier, Hannah Solomon (founder of NCJW and a Chicagoan), Rosa Luxembourg and other Jewish women social justice activists while I was studying for my master’s degree, studying Jane Addams and the other progressive women leaders of that era. I was inspired by them to do what I could along the same lines.

After graduate school, when I was a consultant to the National Women’s Political Caucus during the fight for ERA ratification, a group of us (also including Heather Booth) founded the Midwest Women’s Center (see entry in the book, “Feminists Who Changed America”), and I became its first director. I met a lot of contemporary Jewish women leaders, including Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan. I worked with both of them, doing media relations, arranging speaking engagements, fundraising projects, etc.

DD: For people who haven’t read your new book, what do you reveal in Every Day is Election Day, and which powerful women did you interview?

RS: The book includes famous women such as U.S. Senators Klobuchar, Stabenow and Landrieu, as well as Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, Frances Beinecke president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Melanne Verveer, first US ambassador for global women’s issues.

Jewish women include good friends and longtime colleagues of mine: Bettylu Saltzman, noted political activist and philanthropist; Ilana Rovner, the first woman to serve on the Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals; Ellen Chesler, biographer of Margaret Sanger, and Jan Schakowsky, Member of Congress. (Here is what the New Jersey Jewish paper had to say: Activist, author urges women to lean into politics

As you know, women get involved in running for office, and otherwise engage in public leadership, because they care about issues. Consequently, the book explains how women can achieve their issue goals by becoming politically influential. It’s a step-by-step guide and includes a substantial resource section.     

DD: If someone doesn’t want to run for office, yet wants to make a difference in terms of social justice, what can they do?

RS: It’s for women who want to be public leaders for the public good, in whatever political capacity, e.g., elected, appointed, running an organization or campaign, or as an issue advocate or donor. There is no other inspirational practical guide for such women that is evocative of the lives of women of differing ethnic, racial and class backgrounds, who aren’t already famous–from the Upper East Side to a Delta shack, “from Mississippi to Manhattan,” as I say in my intro.

DD: You’ve talked about your passion for reproductive autonomy and economic security for women. With all the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights and the fight still going on for equal pay, what are some concrete steps people can take on these issues?

RS: I recommend that every woman who cares about women’s reproductive autonomy and economic security join and financially support organizations that promote these goals; become an activist on these issues; support women candidates who support these issues; and make sure to speaks out, e.g. in the local newspaper, online, etc., about the importance of securing these rights.