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Gloria Steinem, other leaders headline Simmons College 'How Women Become Political' event

Posted by Your Town  October 8, 2013 11:44 AM

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Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe

It was a "Who's Who" of Massachusetts political women Monday night as Simmons College hosted a panel discussion on "How Women Become Political."

The event also honored feminist and abolitionist Angelina Grimke, who in 1838 became the first American woman to address a legislative body when she spoke before a committee of the Massachusetts legislature. Her great-great grandson was in the audience to hear actor Anne Gottlieb perform the speech.

Also in the audience were "First Women" of Massachusetts: Evelyn Murphy, the first woman elected lieutenant governor; Shannon O'Brien, the first woman elected state treasurer; Jane Swift, the first woman to serve as governor; Therese Murray, the first woman elected Senate president; Martha Coakley, the first woman attorney general; Suzanne Bump, the first woman state auditor. Elizabeth Warren, the first female US senator from Massachusetts, could not come but sent a video thanking the crowd and urging young women to get involved.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem spoke at John Hancock Hall, and said that when she was growing up, politics was "an organic part of our lives," and "something you did every day." She urged young people to participate and to vote, citing key races that hung on a handful of votes.

The panel discussion, moderated by TV and radio commentator Callie Crossley, featured Steinem; Swanee Hunt, former US Ambassador to Austria and founder of Political Parity, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of women in high-level political offices; Kerry Healey, president of Babson College and former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts; and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

The panel spoke of what women bring to politics.

"Women are more collaborative, more practical and more productive," said Hunt.

Steinem spoke of women not being impeded by the male ego, and said that women care more about health, education and welfare. "There's a gender gap on guns and capital punishment," she said.

The group commented on sexism that they had encountered,and also spoke of women's own "internalized oppression," as Steinem put it: a "less than view of ourselves.''

Pressley noted that Boston is "a very difficult tribe to break into," and said that people will ask her: "Why don't you smile more often?"

See a video here.

Several hundred people attended the event, which generated much Twitter traffic. For a sampling, see below:

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