Introducing Hillary Clinton to 2300 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, defying the perceived wisdom that little would come of her. What was so divisive about all the common sense she was making –how dare she have plans for health care, Disney asked. 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 her, Clinton was 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 and in the combination of making larger points about women helping women effect change and the intimate personal stories of struggle that marked the speeches, Clinton talked about the lessons learned from her mother who died last November.
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 creating 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, 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.