This article is part of a series on the Democratic National Convention.
Hundreds of women took over the upper terrace of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on the second day of the Democratic National Convention here yesterday for the meeting of the Women’s Caucus. With an opening music playlist filled with well known women empowerment songs such as “ROAR” by singer Katy Perry and “Just a Girl” by Gwen Stefani, and an initial rallying call to action by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the caucus was well under way. The theme was unity to elect Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to the White House in November.
In addition to Madeleine Albright guest speakers for the July 26th caucus meeting included Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, Dona Brazile, newly placed interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Judy May Chu, D, Calif., (the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress), actor Eva Longoria, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union.
Albright’s opening speech set the tone for the caucus as the former Secretary of State noted that we are living in an era where there is an increasing number of women heading nations and running governments across the globe. “Women have more experience running government than many people think,” Albright stated. The former Secretary of State highlighted the fact that if Clinton was to win the White House she would do so on the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, which was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibited any citizen from being denied the right to vote based on sex. Albright finished by proclaiming to the crowd of mainly women participants, “We can make this [Hillary Clinton’s presidency] happen. You can make it happen. We will do it together.”
The first woman elected international president of SEIU, Mary Kay Henry, took to the stage highlighting the Fight for $15 and what Clinton’s presidency could mean for working women in the nation. Henry said that it was a moment “to realize the fullness of our humanity.” She highlighted the struggle of airport workers at the Philadelphia International Airport who have been fighting for a wage increase of $15 an hour, improved scheduling, clarity on sick pay and the ability to join a union. A victory by the workers was reached shortly before the DNC convened that resulted in the cancellation of the planned strike, but Henry noted there was much further to go.
The SEIU president noted the fact that there is an increasing number of women of color, particularly Black women and immigrant women, working service jobs and other jobs often associated with low income. Henry explained that “because of structural racism there has been work, such as childcare and other jobs associated with women workers, that has not been included in the middle class.” She stated that Hillary Clinton pledged to change this. She finished her speech by engaging with the crowd to chant, “I believe that we will win.”
Interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, gave a lively speeech saying women leaders of the past have left marks that impact the present and will be felt in the future too. Brazile used a famous quote by the second First Lady of the United States, Abigail Adams, to highlight what she thought was a theme of this election. “Don’t forget the ladies,” Brazile remarked, repeating Adams’ words to her husband, then-President John Adams. “Abigail, we heard you,” Brazile went on, “and we’ll never forget your words.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the stage addressing the need for equal pay, paid sick leave, affordable childcare, and a need for an increase in valuing women’s contribution to the nation. “When women succeed America succeeds,” Pelosi remarked. “A woman being elected to office is not just about that woman’s achievement but what it means in the lives of the women in the nation,” the House Minority leader said. Pelosi also stated that there is a need to decrease the role of money in elections and to increase civility, and a need to overturn Citizens United.
There was a short panel discussion addressing the glass ceiling when it comes to women succeeding in politics and entertainment. Moderated by actress Amber Tamblyn, the panel included Boston Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley, Colorado House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran and iconic African American actress Lynn Whitfield. “Stand in your truth,” Pressley proclaimed to the crowd. “If not you, then who? Government is only effective with diversity of perspective, opinion and thought,” the councilwoman finished to loud applause.
Actor Eva Longoria was one of the final speakers. She stated that women need to stop being treated like a special interest group given that they are “half of the population.” Longoria said that there was nothing wrong with wanting to vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. “Why is it that when white men vote for Trump or Bernie it’s a called a movement, but when women vote for Hillary Clinton it’s reduced to identity politics?” She went on to state that the U.S. is currently ranked 28th in the world on gender equality and that this was something that needed to change.
The caucus came to a close with chants and pledges to take to the streets to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton as Beyonce’s “Who Run the World (Girls)” played in the background.
Photo: Group of young women from Feminist Majority petitioning at DNC. | Chauncey K. Robinson/PW