Tomorrow I will join a group of leading New York feminists at the Eleanor Roosevelt statue on the Upper west Side to endorse Christine Quinn in her race to become the first women and first gay mayor of New York City.
I have been recently struck with a sense of deja vu about this race. It was 36 years ago that my mother, Congresswoman Bella Abzug, ran unsuccessfully to become the first woman mayor of New York City. And just as Chris Quinn is being accused of today, Bella was widely criticized for being loud, argumentative, bossy, and outspoken.
Like Bella, Chris Quinn has a great sense of humor--an important quality in a politician. And like Bella, Chris has no intention of shutting up."I'm LOUD," she recently told 200 supporters of the young women's leadership training Institute I founded in 2005, the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI). Chris was a "Bella Fella" honoree this year. Her unrehearsed speech at our awards event grabbed the "bossy woman" bull by its horns and ...well, see for yourself:
Speaker Quinn went on to thank my mother for helping create a climate in which an LGBT woman could be the Speaker of the City Council. For "creating a city" in which, in response to last month's major New York Times profile portraying her as an angry woman, "the letters to the editor are flooded from women who write, 'Good...we should be loud! We should be heard. And sometimes, to be heard, we have to be a little louder than the men in the room, and that's okay."
This is an historic moment for women in politics. Consider that just five months ago Elizabeth Warren entered the Senate, generally known as an exclusive men's club, as a "tell it like it is" populist in the tradition of my mother Bella. Unapologetically strong, Senator Warren is an aggressive female politician who is not afraid to have her voice heard, or to take firmly principled, independent stands on the most critical issues facing all Americans.The recent election also brought Tammy Baldwin, the first gay person to be elected to serve in the United States Senate. Joining outspoken, compassionate leaders like Barbara Mikulski, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, and Patty Murray, their election sets a historic record for the number of women Senators.
Now we have Christine Quinn, the first LGBT candidate running to become the first women Mayor of New York City. In 1977 I was in every neighborhood of New York City campaigning with my mother, "Battlin' Bella," during her precedent setting run to become the first woman Mayor of New York City. In that same tradition, I know that Christine must be strong, caring--and tough. And it's okay that she is fiery. Here in one of the most fabulously challenging cities on earth, New Yorkers love a fighter! I believe that Chris must speak loudly--and proudly, as she stands up for all the people of New York, and gets things done.
BALI is a small, highly effective leadership training Institute for girls and young women, which Chris has helped support as Speaker of the City Council. It teaches leadership skills to young women from widely diverse backgrounds. Many of the dozens of women are selected for our free two-week intensivesummer training and mentoring, program and many of the very talented, motivated 200 high school and middle school girls who participate in our debate program, start out as shy students who rarely think their ideas are worth expressing to others.
Then they become like Olivia Torres, thehigh school senior who had never spoken in public before she became a BALI trainee.See for yourself, as Olivia spoke to 200 people, clear as a bell, though maybe not that loud...yet!
Of course,I like the symbolism of the Eleanor Roosevelt monument that Christine Quinn selected for feminists to announce our support of her campaign. Incredibly, this was the first statue of a woman in history ever commissioned by New York City's 350-year history. It was not built until 1996, so it was not around when Bella ran for Mayor in 1977.
Times have changed. And with the help of loud,strong, experienced, effective, caring women like Chris Quinn, and the young women of today that we see rising in our trainings at BALI, times will continue to change, for the better.