Trumpcare 2.0: Death by a Thousand Cuts

A vote on the American Health Care Act is expected today. Call your Representative and urge their no vote on this bill. Find them here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

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(Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters) via Common Dreams

By Molly Toth, Advocacy & Special Projects Coordinator

It was the summer of 2015, Fourth of July weekend. I had been away on a camping trip, deep in central Ohio with no cell service to speak of. I was grateful for the opportunity to be disconnected coming off the heels of a big budget fight that had me glued to a screen for months.

I was blissfully unaware of the chaos unfolding two hours away. It wasn’t until I drove out of the campsite to an area with cell reception that I felt my phone buzz and buzz and buzz with dozens of missed calls and text messages, all from my parents. Something was wrong.

With my hands trembling, I called my mother from the parking lot of a roadside attraction. She answered on the first ring. It was my brother. When I called my mother, she told me the news. My then 22-year old brother had had an aortic aneurysm.

He arrived at the hospital just as the area’s top heart surgeon had scrubbed in for his shift. There were no waiting lines in the ER waiting room. Within 20 minutes, they had my brother on the operating table in a series of surgeries that lasted well into the night.

The 2 hour drive home felt like the longest drive of my life. I didn’t listen to the radio. I drove slowly and deliberately in complete silence.

Let me tell you what it is like to nearly lose a 22 year old to a freak genetic anomaly that normally kills someone three times his age. It is beyond devastating—it is all-consuming. Medical students were paraded into the room — how does this happen to someone so young? What went wrong? How did they save him? His case study is now documented in text books.

And your worry extends beyond “will my brother live?” to this most trivial thought: “how will we pay for this?” The moment that thought crossed my mind my worry grew and it felt so selfish, to be thinking of dollar signs when my brother had 18 tubes coming out of his young body. Who thinks of dollar signs at such a time? The answer in America: Everyone.

My brother was uninsured. Our parents, both retired, were not eligible to keep my brother and me on their plans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, he walked out of the hospital after 17 days with no medical debt. His bill was upwards of a million dollars. Hospital staff signed him up for Medicaid, which our Governor expanded in 2013. The hospital waived the remaining balance.

Without the ACA, my brother’s life would be much different. He would likely not have finished his degree, because he would have had to go to work as soon as he was reasonably able to begin paying down his medical debt. His credit would likely have been ruined. He would likely be saddled with debt until the day he dies. My parents would likely have had to go back to work. I know I would have devoted every extra penny from my own paychecks to help him.

This is what the ACA, however imperfect, does for families. This is what the Medicaid expansion was meant to do: save us from financial disaster.

Today, Congress will take a vote to strip families of that saving grace. The vote on the American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, which was deemed so bad in its first iteration that it wasn’t even brought to the floor for a vote, will ruin families, destroy futures, and kill people who can’t afford care.

Trumpcare 2.0 is by all accounts quite similar to the version introduced several weeks ago: it includes cuts to Medicaid—the program that saved my brother’s life—and replaced subsidies that make insurance affordable, replacing them with meager tax credits.

Trumpcare allows insurance companies to charge people more for pre-existing conditions. Under this bill, pre-existing conditions can include everything from diabetes to cancer to asthma. Other pre-existing conditions that can exempt you from affordable coverage include: having had a C-section, having been a victim of sexual assault, having suffered postpartum depression, and having been a victim of domestic violence. Considering one in three births are delivered by C-section, every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted, and there are 10 million domestic violence victims annually, this amounts to wholesale gender discrimination.

The bill is being moved forward in darkness. It was not posted publicly early enough for the public to read it, or for the Congressional Budget Office to score it. The CBO determines how much the bill will cost the nation, how many people would gain or lose insurance, and how high costs could go for patients, hospitals, and insurance companies. The older version would have resulted in at least 24 million fewer people having health insurance, and premiums increasing by thousands of dollars for some.

That is why I am urging you to call your Representatives and ask them to oppose this bill. Too many families like my own—like yours—could suffer huge financial losses, and even worse, lose loved ones under this bill. Find your Representative’s contact information here. Call them today. Tell them to vote against the American Health Care Act.

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On Budgeting: How CDBG & ARC Help YWCA

6._alphabet_soup_19otk2t-19otk59When looking at the federal budget, it can start to look like alphabet soup. CDBG, ARC, SNAP, TANF… But this alphabet soup has a big impact on how organizations like YWCA Warren operate and how many people we can help.

We wrote to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator Rob Portman, and U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan to ask for their support of two programs that have been critical to our success: the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

You can read our letter by clicking here or see below. For more information on the budget process in Ohio and at the federal level, be sure to check out our updated Amplify Your Voice advocacy toolkit on our website. In addition to the budget, our training materials provide a refresher course in government structure, how bills become laws, how SCOTUS nominations work, how executive orders function, and how to contact your elected officials at every step of the legislative process.


March 28, 2017

RE: Prioritization of Funding for CDBG and Appalachian Regional Commission

For more than one hundred years, YWCA Warren has been working to empower the women and children of Trumbull County, Ohio. Our association serves the most vulnerable populations: low- and no-income women and children, many of whom are people of color. We believe that in order to thrive, we must invest in our community’s women, and YWCA Warren has for decades been a grateful recipient of public federal dollars that have been put to work in our mission to eliminate racism and empower women.

Full and robust funding for programs that directly impact and improve the lives of economically disadvantaged women and children is a top priority for YWCA Warren. As such, we write with great concern regarding cuts to Community Development Block Grant funds and the Appalachian Regional Commission in the FY 2018 budget.

In 2016, we celebrated the opening of our Technology Empowerment Lab, which was made possible in part through a generous grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission. This lab, which comes equipped with state of the art computers, printers, and conference calling technology, is helping the economically disadvantaged women and girls we serve by offering them the chance to learn valuable computer skills. Many of them have been out of the workforce and lack the computer skills necessary to compete in today’s job market. Use of the lab allows them to update resumes, apply for jobs, and learn skills that are universally needed in the workforce today.

YWCA Warren has also been the recipient of Community Development Block Grant funds, which we have used to develop our permanent supportive housing in collaboration with other area agencies. Through the use of CDBG funds, we were able to transform a wing of our building to accommodate 12 women and their children who have been homeless or chronically at-risk of homelessness, and who have a documented disability, including being victims of domestic violence. Since opening our permanent supportive housing program in 2014, we have helped dozens of women successfully regain their financial stability, find gainful employment, enroll their children in school, access medical and mental health services, and in several cases, move on to renting their own homes.

The need for these funds is great, and meeting the needs of our community remains an immense challenge. For example, the waitlist for our permanent supportive housing continues to grow—at any given time we have between 75 and one-hundred women and their children actively awaiting housing, who are homeless or near-homeless while they wait.

It is our hope that future budget proposals will fully fund programs like the Community Development Block Grants and the Appalachian Regional Commission. These programs allow organizations like YWCA Warren to be good stewards of public funds as we utilize them to best meet the unique needs of the communities we serve.

Thank you for your leadership and critical support of these programs.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kenya A. Roberts-Howard        

YWCA Warren Executive Director    

Laura V. Altieri

YWCA Warren Board of Trustees President

Molly Toth

YWCA Warren Advocacy Coordinator

 

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Imagining a Moral Budget for Women, Girls, and People of Color

In both the State of Ohio and in the federal government, the governor and president, respectively, have released their budgets. They’re not the final budgets—in fact, it’s expected that they’ll be negotiated, gone over with a fine-toothed comb, reconfigured. The original budget proposals very rarely resembles what results from months of intense budget hearings during which budget bills get amended, line items get struck, and a brand new document emerges in mid-April.

The way budgeting works now is kind of like slicing up a pie: It helps to think about budgets as a pie: there’s only so much of it, and a lot of people need slices. Our current system makes it so that rather than bake a bigger pie to accommodate more people at the table, we simply divvy up smaller slices.

But budgets do more than determine who gets a slice of the pie, and how big (or small) their slice will be. Budgets are used as vehicles to advance a vision—the vision of the party that’s in the driver’s seat.

More recently, we’ve come to think of budgets as moral documents: the things we fund, or don’t fund, are a reflection of where we place our values. This idea was made popular in 2012 by the Nuns on the Bus, who traveled the country speaking with legislators and the public about a moral budget that would support the sick, the poor, the elderly, and children. Their message—that a budget that fails to take care of our most vulnerable is an indictment on the moral character of our nation—rings true today.

So, what would a moral budget for women, children, and people of color look like? We have some ideas…

  • Fully fund public schools, afterschool programs, and Head Start: When we all have the ability to learn in safe environments, we all have a chance to thrive. Past state budgets put the squeeze on our public schools that we still feel today, and the federal budget threatens to do away with funding for critical afterschool programs that keep kids safe and keep them engaged and learning. Expanding the Childcare and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) will make sure working families have affordable child care.
  • Expand public healthcare options: The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) was the single biggest healthcare victory for women and working people in our history. We want to see an expansion of the Medicaid program, which provides lower income childless adults with healthcare. Nationwide, more than 19 million women have enrolled in Medicaid and now have access to maternity care, newborn care, well-woman exams, birth control, mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment, and more. Expanding the Medicaid eligibility threshold would cover even more Ohioans, and provide quality care for more women.
  • Increase access to affordable housing: YWCA Warren has been the grateful beneficiary of funds from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which was a major supporter of our work to build 12 units of permanent supportive housing. The need for affordable housing is great and growing. Federally, the Community Development Block Grant funding program help states meet these needs. These programs should be expanded, not cut.
  • Expand programs to end hunger: Programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the National School Lunch Program make up a small slice of the budget pie but have a big impact. 1 in 5 children goes to bed hungry in America, and making sure these programs are fully funded means we are working to end child hunger.
  • Increase opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty: Hardworking people and parents benefit greatly from the Earned Income and Child tax credits, which are great tools for lifting up people from poverty. Expanding the eligibility threshold for EITC and the Child Tax Credit would help those people who are just above the income requirements but still struggle financially. Expanding Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps low-income people who face economic insecurity by providing income assistance, child care, job training, and transportation. These small measures go a long way in helping people become self-sufficient and re-enter the workforce.
  • Ensure safety for survivors of domestic violence: A fully funded Violence Against Women Act is critical for ALL survivors of gender-based violence. It funds emergency and transitional housing, legal services for survivors, children’s services, and helps coordinate law enforcement efforts to end domestic violence. Fully funding the Victims of Crime Act also works to support shelters and services for children.

Of course, there is no limit to the work that can be done to ensure a more just and equitable world for the most vulnerable people in our country. Much more can and should be done by both our state and federal governments to improve conditions for women, children, and people of color.

The state budgeting process is already underway. The state budget bill, HB 49, is being worked on in committees, and is expected to be ready for a vote by the whole Ohio House of Representatives by mid-April. Ohio law requires that we have a signed budget in place by July 1.

The federal budgeting process is slower to start. President Trump has released his own budget, which will set the backdrop for the budget that eventually emerges from the House of Representatives.

As citizens, we have ample opportunities to make our voices heard and to push for a moral budget that takes into account the wellbeing of all. Learn more about contacting your elected officials using our Amplify Your Voice toolkit!

 

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We Need to Talk About Trayvon

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Trayvon Martin. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Five years ago, news reports broke bearing the words that have now become rote and familiar: a young, unarmed, black male was killed.

For many people, the killing of Travyon Martin was a wake-up call, a first realization that something was frighteningly wrong. How could a young man be gunned down in his own neighborhood? For others, Trayvon Martin’s death was another in a long line of deaths, each arriving with their own acute pain, but all bearing the same familiar marks: a young black person, unarmed, was killed.

What followed Trayvon Martin’s killing was the emergence of a national conversation about race, racism, vigilantism, police brutality, whiteness, and violence that veered wildly in directions both noble and troubling. Trayvon Martin’s death gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement, which became a site of resistance, hope, and struggle for black people. Black Lives Matter became a rallying cry, a succinct message that was at once confrontational and hopeful. How could you counter a statement like “Black lives matter”?

We learned that you could, and people did. Trayvon Martin’s death became a rhetorical battleground, where the very humanity and worthiness of every young black person was called into question, where victims of violence—armed and unarmed—had their lives interrogated and scrutinized while perpetrators of violence routinely walked free. In response to the insistent message that Black Lives Matter, white America responded with a rallying cry of its own: All Lives Matter.

The rise of Black Lives Matter exposed the ugly truth that we are not done debating racial justice in America. While many thought the issue of racial equity had been put to rest with the election of Barack Obama, the backlash to Black Lives Matter and our current political climate shows that quite the opposite is true: the need to talk about racial justice and to work for racial healing in our country is great, and urgent. The killing of young black people didn’t end with Trayvon Martin. The hurt, confusion, and anger of people of any race has not gone away. The old wounds of racial resentment were never truly healed.

Five years later, we insist on building movements that include everybody, that center those who are most vulnerable, because we know that we can’t move forward unless we all move forward.

Five years later, we continue to talk about Trayvon because he wasn’t the last young black person to be killed, which means we still have work to do to upset the order that made his death permissible, excusable, and justified in the eyes of some.

Five years later, we need to continue to talk about Trayvon and insist that his life mattered, as all black lives do. Trayvon Martin wanted to be a pilot. Trayvon Martin was an honors English student, but he preferred math. Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when he was killed. How many more Trayvons are there?

Today, five years later, we continue to insist that Black Lives Matter, and that honoring black life doesn’t come at the expense of anyone else’s. We call for dialogue to heal, and action to protect the marginalized and vulnerable in our country.

Today, and every day, continue to talk about Trayvon.

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Getting Involved in the World of Advocacy

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Attendees at our Feb. 15 Advocacy Training at YWCA Warren discuss what messages they’ll send to their elected officials.

Advocacy. It’s a broad term. To advocate for something is to take action—any action—on behalf of a cause. Sounds simple, right?

Well, yes and no.

For people sympathetic to the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women and to our advocacy priorities, there has been no shortage of issues to take action on since the start of the new administration.

If you’re anything like me, you wake up and the first thing you do is pick up your phone and start reading the news through bleary eyes. In your half-awake, groggy state, you scroll through story after story that all seem to send the same message: the world is falling apart. Depending on the day, this might send you diving back under the covers, or it might give you a jolt of energy, a renewed feeling of possibility, a sense that somebody has to do something, and it might as well be me.

If you need an extra hour under the covers to regroup, I don’t blame you. Try again tomorrow. But if you’re spurred on to action, good!

YWCA Warren has been hard at work creating an advocacy training that we can take out into the community with the goal of helping people be better, more effective advocates. We are marrying the principles of the Women’s March—the idea that anybody can and should get involved, and that we’re all in this together—to YWCA’s core mission that centers our advocacy work on issues relating to racial justice, empowerment for women and girls, economic advancement for workers, and civil rights for all.

Our first training was planned in a hurry with limited advertising and we were shocked to have 30 people walk through the door. Our next training, garnered 50 attendees. And the next? Who knows? The message has been clear: people want to learn to engage more effectively with their elected officials, and they want to make a difference—together.

Folks who attend our trainings get a crash course in government (yes, that stuff you learned about the three branches of government all the way back in third grade is still useful!); how to identify where a bill is in the legislative process so they can call the right people to voice concerns; how to identify good news sources and advocacy groups; and they get a little “inside baseball” talk from a former legislative staffer about what to say when you call or write and how to say it.

The thing that makes advocacy especially powerful is when a lot of people take action together. We see these trainings as a vehicle for people to make connections with likeminded folks, strategize on issues, and develop action plans.

We’re excited to offer more trainings in the future, and would love to partner with organizations, churches, and nonprofits to share some tips for upping your advocacy game. But in the meantime, we’re offering our Advocacy Training Manual for the Mahoning Valley on our website.

If you are interested in scheduling a training, please contact me at the YWCA at (330) 373-1010 x 41 or molly.toth@ywcaofwarren.org. I’d be delighted to talk with you!

Published by Molly Toth, YWCA Warren Advocacy and Special Projects Coordinator

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We Stand with Bresha Meadows

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Bresha Meadows. Photo via Cleveland.com, courtesy of Lena Cooper.

On July 29, we could hear the kids in our building talking in hushed tones about Bresha Meadows and what she had done. Bresha is somebody’s cousin, a neighbor, a little sister’s friend. They knew what went on at home. One of them said, “I don’t blame her. She put up with that for so long.”

On July 28, Bresha shot her father as he slept. Months before, she’d run away from home out of fear that her father, who allegedly beat their mother for years, would snap and kill them all. Her mother was interviewed on the local news, saying through tears, “She is my hero. I wasn’t strong enough to get out, and she helped us all.”

Now Bresha waits to learn if she will be tried as an adult, guaranteeing a harsher sentence for her, and making her the youngest person in our state’s prison system. The odds are not in her favor.

In America, youth of color face harsher sentences than their white peers found guilty of committing the same crime.[i] African American youth make up 62% of the youth prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, and are nine times more likely to receive an adult sentence than a white youth being prosecuted for the same crime.[ii] African American girls make up the fastest-growing segment of the youth prison population.[iii] Bresha will be counted among statistics, and it didn’t have to be this way.

Bresha Meadows is an African American girl failed by every system meant to nurture her and keep her safe. We don’t know if she ever asked for help, or who knew what went on at home, but somewhere, one of us failed her. A kid who knows Bresha said over lunch the day after it happened, “I knew something was gonna happen. I’m surprised something didn’t happen sooner.”

Her family failed to keep her safe. Her school failed to keep her safe. Her city’s police department failed to keep her safe. Her county’s social services failed to keep her safe. We failed to keep her safe. The violence she was experiencing at home was too great, and our collective response too tepid, to have kept this child safe.

Instead of starting school last month, she is sitting in a detention center. Instead of enjoying summer vacation, she feared for her life and the lives of her family members. She spent her fifteenth birthday in jail.

We are an organization with a one hundred year-long commitment to the empowerment of women and to the elimination of racism. We are also an organization that speaks out against violence.

So, what do we say about Bresha Meadows and the millions of other girls and women who have for centuries found release from the prison of abuse through an act of violence?

We implore people to look within their hearts and find compassion there. We implore people to see Bresha as a young girl—not an adult—who experienced unspeakable violence. We implore people to see Bresha as a young girl who acted using the behavior that had been modeled for her, time and time again, by an abusive authority figure who made violence his solution. We implore people to see Bresha as somebody who loves animals and music, loves learning and her friends, is smart and talented. Bresha Meadows is somebody.

Bresha Meadows’s story reminds us that the unthinkable can happen in our own neighborhood, that we never know what goes on behind closed doors. She reminds us that all too often our response to violence at home is to look the other way.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Bresha and with her family during this unimaginably difficult time. It is our hope that as a community we will respond to violence more effectively, take the concerns of victims seriously, and be better to and for each other.

We urge members of our community to stand with Bresha in advance of her hearing on October 6. Join us for a community meeting on Thursday, September 22 at 6 p.m. at the YWCA Warren offices; at a prayer vigil on Wednesday, October 5 at 6 p.m. at Courthouse Square; or at a rally at the Juvenile Justice Center at 220 Main Street on Thursday, October 6 at 8:30 a.m. to show your support.

 

[i] http://campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/AfricanAmericanBrief.pdf

[ii] http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/KeyYouthCrimeFacts.pdf

[iii] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/girls-make-ever-growing-proportion-kids-juvenile-justice-system

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You Can’t Be What You Can’t See…

By Molly Toth, Advocacy and Special Projects Coordinator

I was driving with my 11-year-old Little Sister [shout out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mahoning Valley!], Olivia, in the car with me, heading to the mall for an afternoon of window shopping and food court grazing. Even with the election more than three months away, the political signs are plentiful and hard to ignore, dotting the neatly manicured lawns.

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Image via TellWut

I was lost in thought when suddenly, Olivia piped up. “I got to be alive to see the first Black President,” she said. “And either way, I get to be alive to see someone who is a woman or someone who is Jewish nominated to be President. That’s pretty cool.”

This was last week, just a few nights before Hillary Clinton was formally nominated to be the Democratic candidate for President. Until that moment, I truthfully hadn’t given too much thought to the historic nature of this election. I have had the good fortune of growing up in a world that benefited from the Women’s Rights Movement of my mother’s generation—there has never been a doubt in my mind that women could do anything. The question has never been can she do it, only a matter of when.

As I listened to Olivia recount all of her research on the Presidential candidates (incredibly thorough and thoughtful, rivaling that of many adults I know), I thought back to the first time I voted in a Presidential Election.

I voted for President for the first time in 2008. I remember watching the results come in and the news channels all calling the election for Barack Obama. I recalled the enormity of that moment, the overwhelming feeling that this, what I was watching right then and there, this was history being made right before my eyes.

This week I watched the nomination process at the Democratic National Convention with tears in my eyes, as state after state put forward their support for a woman candidate. I watched later as a video played, showing the slow progression of 43 white, male Presidents until coming to a stop at our 44th president, an African American man. Then, without warning, the glass ceiling on the screen shattered, revealing the first woman officially nominated by a major party to serve as a candidate for President of the United States.

In an interview with the Arizona Republic, 102-year-old Geraldine “Jerry” Emmett shares her memories of the first election after women had won the right to vote. “All the little old ladies, with their gloves and everything, were so excited. Most of the men were, too – a lot of the women would tell their husbands how to vote. This way was just … right.”

And now, nearly a century later, this woman who can recall a time when women stayed home on Election Day, is set to cast her vote in an election where for the first time in history, a woman’s name will appear under “Candidate for President of the United States of America.” To quote my little sister, that’s pretty cool.

At YWCA Warren, we don’t endorse candidates or wade too far into politics. We do, however, wholeheartedly encourage more women to run for office across the political spectrum, at all levels of government, and advocate for policies that benefit women and families, things like paid parental leave, paid sick days, and increasing access to health insurance. We know that when we have a diversity of voices contributing to the conversation, the conversation is richer, solutions to problems are more comprehensive, and everyone benefits.

While Olivia rattled off her observations on the election from the passenger seat, my mind drifted back to the third grade, when one day at recess I stated in no uncertain terms that I wanted to be President, and a little boy told me, “Girls can’t be presidents!” I remember how crushed I felt, my hands balled up into little fists, desperate to prove him wrong but unable to point to a single example of a girl President. At that point, he was right.

Representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see.

I thought about what it would mean for Olivia and all of the girls in our Girls’ Leadership program to see a woman running for President. To maybe even see a woman President. All of my hope for a just and good future is contained in the girl who rides shotgun with me to the mall on weekends, who chatters on about her family and her friends, who tells me what she wants to be when she grows up (an engineer!), who is smart and capable and could even be President… someday. I think about how incredible it is that she, only a few years older than Jerry Emmett was when women gained the right to vote, will grow up in a world where a woman running for President will be the norm.

Jerry Emmett remembers a different world in her interview with the Republic:

“Oh, I never thought I’d see a woman in a presidential election. When I was growing up, women could be teachers, secretaries or nurses — and my mother was snubbed at our church for working at all. That a woman would have this role in the political process …” she trails off and shakes her head.

That certainly isn’t the case today. Now that’s pretty cool!

 

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