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Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead

Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

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Pearls, Politics, and Power is a call to action for new political engagement and leadership from the women of America. Informed by conversations with elected women leaders from all levels, former three-term Vermont Governor and Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine M. Kunin asks: What difference do women make? What is the worst part of politics, and what


Pearls, Politics, and Power is a call to action for new political engagement and leadership from the women of America. Informed by conversations with elected women leaders from all levels, former three-term Vermont Governor and Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine M. Kunin asks: What difference do women make? What is the worst part of politics, and what is the best part? What inspired these women to run, and how did they prepare themselves for public life? How did they raise money, protect their families' privacy, deal with criticism and attack ads, and work with the good old boys?

Kunin's core message is that America needs an infusion of new leadership to better address the major problems of our time. To see how women can achieve that goal, she combines her personal experience in politics; the lessons of past women's movements; the stories of young women today who have new ideas about their role in society; and interviews with a wide range of women in positions of power, looking for clues to their leadership, as well as the effects of gender stereotyping. She interviews Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, analyzes her campaign, and addresses the question: "Is the country ready?" Other interviewees include U.S. Representatives Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez, Deborah Pryce, and Tammy Baldwin, and U.S. Senators Susan Collins, Amy Klobuchar, and Carol Moseley Braun, and Governors Kathleen Sibelius and Janet Napolitano.

The next generation of women will be inspired to lead by seeing women like Nancy Pelosi wielding the gavel, and seeing themselves reflected in the portraits in statehouses, courthouses, corporate and university boardrooms, and the White House. Pearls, Politics, and Power will help ensure that this inspiration is not soured or deflected, but channeled into successful candidacies by America's leaders of tomorrow. What will it take for women to assume their rightful places in the political corridors of power?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Women who have lived politics tell it best. They are the exemplars who can attract new generations of young women to public leadership. Herself a pioneer in the modern history of women's political leadership, Madeleine Kunin knows of what she speaks. She brings direct experience, knowledge, and wisdom to a subject close to her heart—the challenges and satisfactions for women who take the plunge into political life. It's one matter to tell people about the challenges facing women in politics. It's another to write the story so that people will want to read it. With her vast personal experience as a political leader and her considerable gifts as a writer, Madeleine Kunin offers a new generation both pearls of wisdom and practical lessons in the real-life, nuts and bolts of politics. Her book is jam packed with information and examples to illustrate the lessons she offers. She draws on her own fascinating life throughout the book as well as on the experiences of a great variety of interesting political women of many ages serving in many kinds of positions. There is also history, current facts, and solid advice—something for everyone but especially young women and girls interested in a readable book about what life is like for women in politics and why they, too, should answer the call. The book is personal as well as political and, above all, pedagogical, in the best sense: it aims to educate through a mix of information and inspiration."—Ruth B. Mandel, Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

"Here's the book we've been waiting for—an insider's view of the role of women in politics by one of America's most distinguished public servants. Governor, federal executive, ambassador, Madeleine Kunin has seen it all. And her keen eye and deep understanding of the challenge of gender in wielding power has produced a wonderfully insightful book that should be read by every woman—and man—who wants to lead."—Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

"Madeleine Kunin makes an impassioned and informed plea for women, especially younger women, to enter politics. There is no doubt in my mind that our country and the world would be a far better place if the 'feminine values' of compassion and nurturing were to achieve their rightful place in our nation's governance. As she says, it's a wonderful thing to donate $10 to fight breast cancer, but it's a far more powerful thing to shift millions of dollars of government money to finding a cure."—Ben Cohen, co-founder, Ben & Jerry's

"Women have always provided leadership in their families, their community, and their country. Pearls, Politics, and Power takes this influence to a different leadership level. A great read for an understanding of the need for continued involvement."—Senator Nancy Kassebaum

"Every page is indelibly stamped with one word: impact. Governor Kunin clearly and compellingly captures the deep and lasting impact women have had and can have on American politics."—Ilana Goldman, President, Women's Campaign Forum

"Kunin gives us thoughtful advice on how women can lead change. A wonderful, insightful book."—Donna E. Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

"Once again, Madeleine Kunin gives us a thoughtful examination of women's roles in American politics. In an effort to engage more women in the political process, Kunin uses not just her story, but the stories of elected women from both parties and all levels of office. She skillfully weaves these together to illustrate the challenges women face in running for and holding office as well as the tremendous rewards that come from public service. These stories illustrate the concerns women have about running for office in the first place, the realities they face as officeholders and the difference they make by being there. What a useful tool this book will be in the classroom to teach about the experiences of women in politics and to educate the next generation of women for public leadership."—Debbie Walsh, Director, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University

"Madeleine Kunin has written a fabulous 'how to' book for women who want to make a difference in their communities, states or the nation. Drawing on her own experience and a rich trove of interviews with women in political positions at all levels, she gives practical advice on how to get started, survive the stresses of public life, and make change happen. This slim, lively book is a must read whether you want to be more effective in your community or aspire to change the world."—Alice Rivlin, former Director, Office of Management and Budget

"We women who have devoted our time and resources to taking on political leadership roles must also motivate, inspire, and mentor other women to surge into the ranks of politics. Governor Kunin's book is an excellent resource—and a must read. It lays out the chutzpah for tackling politics. She says, 'The worried mother syndrome is an effective catalyst for social change.' We worried mothers must act."—Swanee Hunt, former Ambassador to Austria and Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government

"Part memoir, part manual, leavened with poignant interviews, testimonies, practical truths and (best of all) the passion of a wise and temperate activist, Kunin's work manifests two rarities in the modern world: scholarly politicians and readable scholarship. This book should become part of the women's studies curriculum in every college and university in America and is perfectly appropriate for senior level courses in public affairs in high schools throughout the land. Fair, honest, and civil—a magnificent achievement by a remarkable woman." —Frank Bryan, John G. McCullough Professor of Political Science, University of Vermont

"In Pearls, Politics, and Power, Governor Kunin lays out the what, why, and wisdom of women's political involvement not only in the US but throughout the world. It is especially relevant today in light of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign and the forces impacting it because she is a woman. Interesting and informative, it is a must read for every woman who cares about having government make a difference for her children and grandchildren and is looking for a way to make that happen."—Geraldine A. Ferraro, former Member of Congress and 1984 Democratic Nominee for Vice President

"Madeleine Kunin's story is instructive and inspiring—a must read for those who dare to seek elective office. It is a powerful book, based on real experience."—Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Freres

"This book provides a rare insight of what it is like to run for office and win. Kunin listens to the voices of women who have been there—at the local, state, and national levels. She is inspirational, informative, and timely, calling for women to jump into the fray and make a difference for our country."—Ellen Malcolm, President, EMILY's List

"A natural storyteller, Kunin combines her personal journey in politics with the stories of dozens of female politicians. Writing with wisdom, intelligence and warmth, she provides a guide for women at all levels who might seek to enter public life while at the same time shedding light on the challenges facing Hillary Clinton as she strives to become the first female president. The timing of this excellent book could not be better."

—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer

"Madeline Kunin had to imagine herself as a woman leader when those two words rarely came together. Now she teaches us from her experience, and helps us imagine the next leap into the future."—Gloria Steinem

Publishers Weekly
Having risen from the Vermont State House to the Lieutenant Governorship to become the first woman elected governor of Vermont (1985-1991), Kunin (Living a Political Life) is part of the new wave of women in the top ranks of government, and she's recruiting: "Women will not have all the answers, but they are sure to inject new talent, ideas, and optimism into a political system desperately in need of all three." Detailing her own experiences in the corridors of power-including her time as Ambassador to Switzerland under President Clinton-Kunin also calls on a long list of women in politics to discuss the problems they've overcome, the issues that have driven them and the reasons that gender does make a difference. As a guide, Kunin proves practical and candid, offering chapters on becoming a politician, "being the leader" and "working with the jerks," but she also disseminates with chapters on women presidents around the world and female leaders in a number of settings (business, military, education). If one gets the feeling of being set up, there's reason: the ninth chapter, "A Woman President of the United States?" indulges Kunin's enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton for president. Otherwise, Kunin's book will help any woman looking to take a leadership role, with a list of issues and resources to explore.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This likable book, while not offering much new, is both practical and inspiring. Advocating for more women in politics, Kunin (former governor of Vermont) has been in touch with many of today's pioneers to add their take to her own on this subject. Throughout, she intersperses profiles (e.g., of Abigail Adams and Gloria Steinem) with discussions of the barriers women still face in politics. The results: motivation for upending the status quo in an accessible book for high school and public libraries.

—Donna L. Davey, Margaret Heilbrun

Product Details

Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

PEARLS POLITICS & POWER How Women Can Win and Lead
By Madeleine M. Kunin
CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING COMPANY Copyright © 2008 Madeleine M. Kunin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60358-010-6

Introduction It is time for a call to action, for new political leadership to emerge from the women of America. The stories of the women in this book and thousands of others like them who hold elective and appointive offices all over America are making a difference. Others work for change in their communities as volunteers, as activists. The problem is that they are too few.

We need their voices as grandmothers and mothers, wives and widows, daughters and sisters to be heard in the political debate about the future of our country. The debate may be raucous, the process complex, and the rewards not assured, but we cannot stay out of it. Each woman's experience changes the nature and content of the conversation. Politics, as Hillary Clinton said, is not for the faint of heart. But politics is where the decisions are made that determine whether our children will go to war, whether our parents will live in security, and whether Earth itself will continue as we know it.

We have been bystanders to history for too long. We have no more excuses; we are educated, we care, and we are ready to enter the arena. Times have changed since I was first elected governor of Vermont in 1985. When I walked into the Executive Office the morning after the election, I scanned the row of somber male governors' portraits with names like Ebenezer and Erastus. They stared down at me, as if to say, "What are you doing here?" When nine-year-old Melissa Campbell visited the Vermont State House in 2006 and came upon my portrait, she exclaimed, "Finally, a woman, it's about time!"

It is about time. We have seen two women serve as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice; one woman as U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno; and two female justices in the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. For the first time in our history, we have a serious, qualified woman candidate for president-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. On January 23, 2007, we saw the portrait of political leadership change in the Congress with the election of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. During the State of the Union Speech, when the camera focused on the triumvirate of the president, the vice president and the speaker, it was as if someone had torn down the scrawled sign nailed to the tree fort that read "Girls Keep Out," and replaced it with "Women Are Welcome."

We see more strands of pearls, flower-printed scarves, and red jackets in the Congress and in corporate boardrooms, but the lineups remain predominantly muted in black and gray. We can no longer wait for incremental change; it has been too slow. Parity will not be achieved by patience. To arrive at equal representation, we must mobilize both our anger and our optimism: anger at what is wrong in America and optimism that it can be changed for the better.

And we have to take risks-risks that we don't have all the answers and risks that we may be rejected. The risk that we can no longer afford to take is the risk of continuing to accept things as they are-a country divided, governed by people who do not reflect the face of America. Bella Abzug made the case for women's participation in public life in 1977: "We can no longer accept a condition in which men rule the Nation and the world, excluding half the human race from effective economic and political power. Not when the world is in such bad shape."

It is time for women to change both the content and style of leadership. Children, families, education, health care, the environment, and diplomacy must be brought to the top of the agenda, not relegated to an asterisk. Women do not vote in unison any more than men do, but there are differences, and these differences will change the outcome on many issues that now divide us.

The long debate about whether women lead differently is not over, but we know that many women are more inclusive, collaborative, consensus builders, and are more likely to work across party lines. Therese Murray, the senate president in Massachusetts, contrasted her leadership style with the man who had the job before and ruled with an iron hand, "We have a different style. They're not afraid of me. I communicate and am more inclined to share power."

Women bring something else. "In male dominated Michigan politics, we bring a level of truth that would be missing if we weren't there," said State Representative Shanelle Jackson, a Democrat. "Representing the bottom 99 percent of us," was the heart of the campaign that elected Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

Women are active in their communities: They volunteer, they contribute, and they support social causes. That is where the seeds of political activism lie. More women need to make the transition from helping people one-on-one in the nonprofit sector-vital as that is-to creating change on a grand scale in the public sector. Making a donation for breast cancer research is good, but obtaining funding of millions of dollars for research in the federal budget is so much better. "It's just a different venue with a greater impact," said New Hampshire House Speaker Terie Norelli, who had worked to reduce sexual violence in her community.

It is time to say that politics does not have to be a lifetime occupation. Just as there are different life stages, there are different political stages from volunteering to getting elected. Public office is not for everyone; but being an informed citizen, ready to speak out for what she believes, is for everyone.

Those of us who have achieved a rank in the political realm have a challenge before us-to convince young people not only that the tools of social change are available but that they have to be utilized by more women if we are to change the policies that frustrate them.

I openly wonder why we aren't reaching young women and getting them more involved in elective politics. What is wrong with the political system that participation does not seem worth the effort? And what is wrong with contemporary feminism? If younger women knew more about women's suffrage-a movement in which women labored for 100 years to exercise the right to vote-would they cherish it, rather than dismiss it?

The younger generation's concern about social justice shows that they want to create change just as much as my generation did. We have to do a better job of telling them how and why they can keep their idealism alive and create change in their time, in their way. One way is for women to tell them why it is worthwhile to enter the fray; to be the one wielding power, rather than reacting to it. "The fact that you can wake up every morning and think that you can change the world. There is no better job," said Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

"If you are young and you are thinking about it and you have a track record and you are passionate about the community, do it now. I believe if change is going to happen, a woman needs to do it. We are in a critical time in states and around the country. I can think of no better time for women in office than now. So don't wait," urged 28-year-old State Representative Alicia Thomas Morgan (D-GA). Making a difference is easier than most people think. "If you have a complaint, or something does not make sense, or something frustrates you, the solution is out there. The truth is out there. You as an individual probably can figure it out by believing you can, by making phone calls, by asking questions. The tools of social change are pretty tedious but they are actually available to all of us," said Amy Richards, a thirty-seven-year-old writer and social activist. What we need is a healthy dose of political optimism. "Some people get the dream sucked out of them," said Michigan Representative Shanelle Jackson. "I'm not going to let them take it from me."

We also need to change politics. It is time to take strong steps, as women, as a country, to reverse the trends at work today. Imagine a Congress, a Supreme Court, and state legislatures composed of women and people of color-not as exceptions but as commonplace as they are in the American population.

To achieve that, we must do the following:

Make public office a civic virtue.

Inaugurate a bipartisan national campaign to elect and appoint more women.

Ask women to run for office.

Embrace community involvement.

Educate girls to exercise power.

Teach citizenship.

Link community service to politics.

Implement campaign finance reform.

Establish a mentoring bank.

Teach negotiating skills.

Change the political culture.

There is one recurring number: 16 percent. Women make up 16 percent of the Congress, 16 percent of top corporate positions, and 16 percent of the lower houses of Parliaments worldwide. These are record numbers for the United States, but they are low compared to many other countries. The United States ranks sixty-ninth in a list of 187 countries in the percentage of women in lower houses of Parliament. Every female head of state knows she is gaining membership in a club whose rules were designed by and for men. Some were given membership through family names, others by their own determination. Many who succeeded were able to play by the rules while continuing to maintain their female personae and introduce a gender-influenced agenda. Whether they acknowledged or denied gender differences, their very presence at the helm showed that women could be in command in countries that had never before elected women leaders.

The question that follows is: If these countries, historically and culturally far more patriarchal than the United States, elected women heads of state, why do so many Americans still question whether a woman can be elected president of this country?

What are the barriers that make it harder for women and girls to think of themselves as future politicians? Or future presidents? Raising money, facing critics, losing privacy, balancing family responsibilities are all barriers, but these elected women have dealt with them courageously.

It's time to change our picture of what political leadership looks like. This book is addressed to seventeen-year-old Jessica Riegel (and her mother) who wrote, "I could not picture myself at a mahogany desk with stars and stripes behind gleaming white teeth and stiff bobbed hair. I could not picture myself knocking on strangers' doors, or making fundraising calls, or forming a quick, coherent answer to reporters' jabs." She asked, "Why can't politicians look and act like normal people?" At the end of a political training session, she concluded, "Well, they can." We have to change the face of political leadership so that "the woman who looks like their next-door neighbor, who jogs in the morning, who loves horror movies, spills coffee, organizes clothing drives, schleps her kids to soccer practice and orders takeout, is responsible and driven enough to represent them [the voters]," she said.

It is time for the women of America to claim their full citizenship. In 1920, we won the right to vote. Now we must use that right to change what is wrong in our country.

If we need courage, we need look no farther than the political women of Rwanda who survived genocide. Women comprise almost half of their Parliament. "We had to do this," Senator Odette Nyiramilimo said, "for the survival of our children."


Excerpted from PEARLS POLITICS & POWER by Madeleine M. Kunin Copyright © 2008 by Madeleine M. Kunin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Madeleine M. Kunin was the first woman governor of Vermont, and served as the Deputy Secretary of education and Ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton. She is the author of Living a Political Life (1995) Pearls, Politics, and Power (2008)and The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family (2012). She is currently a Marsh Scholar Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont where she lectures on history and women's studies. She also serves as president of the board of the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), a nongovernmental organization that she founded in 1991. She lives in Burlington, Vermont.

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