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Forum to honor 175th anniversary of first woman to address legislative body in US

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  September 30, 2013 11:36 AM

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Several prominent women will highlight a sold-out forum in Boston next week to mark the 175th anniversary of the first time a woman addressed a legislative body in the United States.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, “How Women Become Political,” which will be headlined by speakers and panelists including: feminist activist and author Gloria Steinem; U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren; Babson College president and former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey; Harvard University lecturer and former U.S. Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt; and at-large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

The goal is to inspire girls and women to become more involved in politics. The forum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7 at the John Hancock Hall will be co-hosted by Simmons College and the Grimke Event Committee.

The committee is named after the woman the event will honor, Angelina Grimke.

In 1838, she became the first America woman to address a legislative body when she testified before the joint special committee of the Massachusetts state legislature on the subject of slavery, according to the Grimke Event Committee.

“During a packed meeting, Grimke argued for the right of women to address legislators, marking a historic moment in the women's rights movement,” the committee said in statement.

"Our goal is to inspire women of all ages, political beliefs, and diverse backgrounds to engage more deeply with politics," said a statement from Louise W. Knight, committee chair and author of “Citizen” and a forthcoming biography of Angelina and Sarah Grimke.

Simmons College President Helen Drinan said the all-women school is “proud to be a part of this historically significant event."

"Politics is an important way for women to extend their leadership, and Simmons College has a longstanding commitment to women's education, leadership, and success," she said.

A spokeswoman for Simmons said video of the event will also be broadcast live online and organizers hope to extend the forum’s conversation using social media. Tweets about the event will use the hashtag #WomenPoli2013.

Other event sponsors include Political Parity; Ambassador Swanee Hunt; Elizabeth Driehaus from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; the Ms. Foundation; and the Barbara Lee Foundation.

The Grimke Event Committee is also led by: Ann W. Caldwell, president emerita of the MGH Institute of Health Professions and author of the forthcoming biography of Catherine Filene Shouse; Judith Kidd, a longtime philanthropist and community volunteer; Megan Marshall, author of “The Peabody Sisters” and a biography of Margaret Fuller; and Marie A. Turley, executive director, City of Boston Women's Commission.

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Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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