Governor Kunin Speaks at the Oregon Historical Society

Governor Kunin and Governor Roberts, Oregon Historical Society

Governor Kunin and Governor Roberts

Governor Kunin was in Portland this past week to speak about her most recent book, The New Feminist Agenda.  Looking back, she said, the women’s movement made some progress but not as much she expected.  Women still earn less than men, only 17 percent of the Congressional seats are held by women (putting the US in 68th place in the world in terms of the percentage of women in the national legislature), and only 3 percent of CEOs are women.  And, she added, it has not gotten any easier for women (and men) to balance family and career; high quality affordable child care is not as readily available as it should be. We lag behind other developed countries in terms of paid family leave. While some companies offer employees flexibility in their work schedules, most do not; this flexibility is essential for working parents to manage their multiple responsibilities. She also spoke about the rising percentage of children living in poverty in this country–again, much higher than many other developed nations and emphasized the need for policies that make investment in children, especially in programs targeted at early childhood.

To make change, people need to get active. Asking us to imagine a powerpoint with three boxes, she described the three things that enable people to become active.

One is anger about something. The second is a combination of imagination (the ability to see the world working differently) coupled with empathy (of understanding the feelings of others being affected by things that are not working).  The third is optimism (the conviction that things can change coupled with the belief that the risk is worth it because it can make a difference). These three things are what enable people to become activists.

At this point in her life, she said that is time to push for the changes envisioned when the 1960s saw the emergence of the second wave of the women’s movement.

The first wave began in the 1848–women’s suffrage. Here in Oregon we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, which finally passed in 1912 after a long campaign.

Governor Barbara Roberts introduced Governor Kunin. They are among  the first generation of women governors–the nine women elected between 1974 and 1994.

Governor Madeleine Kunin: Speaking in Portland, OR October 7th

Book Talk and Signing with Former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin at the Oregon Historical Society

Sunday, October 7, 2 PM

Free Admission
Oregon Historical Society Website: Click Here

The New Feminist Agenda

Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

by Madeleine M. Kunin

Feminists opened up thousands of doors in the 1960s and 1970s, but decades later, are U.S. women where they thought they”d be?  The answer, it turns out, is a resounding no. Surely there have been gains. Women now comprise nearly 60 percent of college undergraduates and half of all medical and law students. They have entered the workforce in record numbers, making the two-wage-earner family the norm. But combining a career and family turned out to be more complicated than expected. While women changed, social structures surrounding work and family remained static. Affordable and high-quality child care, paid family leave, and equal pay for equal work remain elusive for the vast majority of working women.  In fact, the nation has fallen far behind other parts of the world on the gender-equity front.  We lag behind more than seventy countries when it comes to the percentage of women holding elected federal offices. Only 17 percent of corporate boards include women members. And just 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women.

It’s time, says Madeleine M. Kunin, to change all that. Looking back over five decades of advocacy, she analyzes where progress stalled, looks at the successes of other countries, and charts the course for the next feminist revolution—one that mobilizes women, and men, to call for the kind of government and workplace policies that can improve the lives of women and strengthen their families.

Published by Chelsea Green. Available: click here:The New Feminist Agenda


Governor Barbara Roberts–To Be Honored, October 4th at Women’s Leadership Event

*Lifetime Achievement Honoree *
Gov. Barbara Roberts, Former Legislator, Oregon Secretary of State and First woman Governor of Oregon.

In this centennial year of Oregon women”s suffrage, we have been asking ourselves, what will Oregon be like in the next 100 Years?

What steps forward will our state have taken toward inclusion and prosperity? What will our legacy be to the generation that looks back 100 years from today?

Help cement your legacy for the next 100 years of women”s leadership by sponsoring or attending our women”s leadership luncheon.


Thursday, October 4, 2012 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Portland Art Museum.

purchase tickets

Center for Women, Politics & Policy


Christine Todd Whitman

“The enthusiasm for politics I saw at home was contagious and it was easy for a child who adored sports, as I did, to become engaged in the keen competition of the process. That early sense of excitement about practical politics has never left me.”

Christine Todd Whitman served as New Jersey’s governor from 1994 to 2001.

Despite being born into a wealthy family with deep connections to the Republican Party, she, like the other trailblazers, had to find her own way. Her tax cuts made her a star of the Republican Party, but her moderate social views collided with its growing right wing. It did not take long before right-wing pundits branded her an elitist country club liberal, and she narrowly won reelection in 1997. Continue reading »

Barbara Hughey Roberts

“I just think of it as having been willing to test myself against the challenges. I think it is like anything…the only way we know we can’t do something is that if we tried it and failed.”

Barbara Hughey Roberts served as Oregon’s governor from 1991 to 1995.

Divorced with two children, she was working full-time when she began her political journey as a citizen lobbyist working to persuade the legislature to provide education for children with disabilities. Her success reinforced her belief that one person can make a difference. Warm and optimistic, she was a liberal Democrat who spoke her mind. Continue reading »

Madeleine May Kunin

“There is nothing like having a strong belief about something, being able to articulate it, and then see it reflected in policy decisions. It makes you feel connected with the world. And that is possible through politics. One of the best kept secrets about politics is that it is fun, it is engaging, it is interesting. You have better conversations in political circles than you do in most other circles. You don’t get bored.” 

Madeleine May Kunin served as Vermont’s governor from 1985 to 1991.

She arrived in New York when she was six years old with her widowed mother and elder brother to escape Hitler’s march through Europe. Active in the community, she began her political journey in 1972 as a state legislator. She lost her first race for governor but was successful the next time around. As a Jew, feminist, and progressive Democrat, she thought she was perhaps too different too succeed in politics, but those factors shaped her values. Continue reading »

Martha Layne Collins

“Leaders are people with heart and passion, and the courage to strike out and speak out. The heart to say this is wrong or this needs to change. Be the one to speak up, to advocate for what you believe in. Set the goals that stretch you and the people in your workplace and in your communities. Sometimes we need to be the voice for the people who can’t speak for themselves. That’s very important.”

Martha Layne Collins served as Kentucky’s governor from 1983 to 1987.

A former teacher and active Democratic Party volunteer, she was first elected to office in 1975 as clerk of the Kentucky  Court of Appeals. She was elected lieutenant governor in 1979. When she was elected governor, the press wondered whether this former beauty queen was bright enough to lead and tough enough to  succeed in politics. She was. Continue reading »

Dixy Lee Ray

“The governor, as a single individual, stands out and is therefore held responsible for everything—even things that don’t come under your jurisdiction at all. You’re dealing with problems on a daily basis that are very intractable. Many of them don’t really have solutions and yet you have to do everything you can and some progress can be made.”

Dixy Lee Ray served as Washington’s governor from 1977 to 1981.

With a Ph.D. in biology from  Stanford University, she taught at the University of Washington before becoming  the first woman to head the Atomic Energy Commission in 1973. A nominal Democrat with no prior political experience, “The extraordinary lady from Fox Island,” as her campaign literature called her, won the governorship with a low-budget campaign that emphasized her populist roots, quick wit, and outsider status. Continue reading »

Ella T. Grasso

“Pioneering in any area is always exciting and I recommend it. There are new worlds to conquer. The challenge of governing is immense. The privilege of serving people is to my thinking a high calling that imposes awesome responsibility and demands rapid growth—the adding of an extra dimension to our lives. I greet each day with enthusiasm—nearly always.”

In 1974, Ella Tambussi Grasso was the first woman in the U.S. to be elected state governor in her own right.  She served as Connecticut’s governor from 1975 to 1980. Ella, daughter of immigrants, attended Mount Holyoke College on a scholarship. Married with two small children, she began her political career in 1952 as a state legislator. She went on to serve three terms as Connecticut’s secretary of the state and two terms as a U.S. representative to congress before running for governor. Continue reading »