Introducing Hillary Clinton to 2,300 women -- and a sprinkling of men -- gathered in a ballroom at the Marriot Marquis for breakfast celebrating the New York Women's Foundation's 25th year this morning, Abigail Disney recounted where this filmmaker and activist was in her own life at each stage of Clinton's political career. From First Lady to Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton defied the perceived wisdom that little would come of her. Disney recalled how Clinton's stances, many of which now seem like common sense, were once divisive: "How dare she have plans for health care?", Disney asked. She continued:
Do you know what history does to women? You know the fabulous bookcase you see at IKEA? You know how when you buy it, you pick it up in a flat box? History casts women in two dimensions.
For Disney, Clinton represented a woman who would take no prisoners -- unless, of course, they were political prisoners on her plane, she quipped, referring to recent events and Clinton's trip to China. The Secretary of State gamely took the stage, combining larger points about women helping women to effect change with intimate, personal stories of struggle. Clinton also talked about the lessons learned from her mother, who died last November.
"Where did her commitment and resilience come from?," Clinton asked, referencing her mother's difficult early life, when she went to live with her paternal grandparents at age 10 with her little sister before being forced to make it on her own. "At critical points in my life, somebody showed me kindness," said Clinton. "People need each other more than ever. Change takes time and love makes all the difference."
It was that kind of a morning. Two other impressive women were honored at the breakfast, where leaders hoped to raise $500,000 that would be matched to make $1 million: Ai-jen Poo, who has championed the rights of immigrant women workers in New York since 1996 and created the created a domestic workers' Bill of Rights; and Merble Reagon, Executive Director of the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement in NYC.
Each woman was given a walking stick encrusted with beads and festooned with feathers, the kind of thing a shaman might carry. Hillary Clinton accepted her award on behalf of her mother, Dorothy. I will put this to good use, she added, walking with it or wielding it.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.