Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Working for Hillary at State: Empower Women or Be Fired!

Mary Beth Sheridan at the Washington Post has a must-read story for all Hillary fans. Ms. Sheridan looks at the feminist Secretary of State's work to raise the status of women world-wide, as well as Hillary's legendary work on behalf of women during her tenure as First Lady. As someone who knows a fair bit about Hillary Rodham Clinton's accomplishments as a feminist trailblazer, I am continually surprised by all that I do not know. You'll want to read the entire article, but I've pasted a few highlights below.

Clinton is not the first female secretary of state, but neither of her predecessors had her impact abroad as a pop feminist icon. On nearly every foreign trip, she has met with women -- South Korean students, Israeli entrepreneurs, Iraqi war widows, Chinese civic activists. Clinton mentioned "women" or "woman" at least 450 times in public comments in her first five months in the position, twice as often as her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice.

. . . [As First Lady] Clinton began traveling the world, highlighting women's issues. She gradually built a network of female activists, politicians and entrepreneurs, especially through a group she helped found, Vital Voices, that has trained more than 7,000 emerging leaders worldwide. She developed a following among middle-class women in male-dominated countries who devoured her autobiography and eagerly watched her presidential run. . .

Clinton's legacy is evident in such places as the Victoria Mxenge housing development outside Cape Town, South Africa, a dusty sprawl of small, pastel-colored homes she championed as first lady. When her bus rolled into the female-run project during her trip, a joyful commotion broke out. Women in purple and yellow gowns lined the streets, waving wildly. . .

It is striking how much time Clinton dedicates to women's events on her trips, even ones that receive little public attention. In South Africa, a clearly delighted Clinton spent 90 minutes at the housing project, twice as long as she met with South Africa's president. "It feeds my heart," she explained. [ photo]

"We have to integrate women -- or we're going to be fired."

"If African women decided to stop working tomorrow, the whole continent would shut down. People wouldn't eat. Crops wouldn't be planted and harvested."