Weekend Reading: Celebrating Jacinda Ardern’s Poise and Harriet Tubman’s Legacy

Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!

As readers may remember, jurisdictions with ranked choice voting are electing more women to office for both executive and legislative offices than the norm in non-RCV cities.

There have been some very successful uses of ranked choice voting this year by both major parties for primaries and party elections but the biggest news is that Massachusetts is well on its way to becoming the 2nd state to adopt RCV.

If you care about democracy, read this good piece in The Fulcrum about the effort (and if you live in Massachusetts please sign the petition!):

Voter Choice for Massachusetts 2020 announced Wednesday that it has smashed the signature requirement to get ranked-choice voting on the November ballot. Campaign workers say they are on pace to collect the most signatures for a ballot initiative in Massachusetts history.

In an email to supporters, the campaign said it has collected 17,084 raw signatures, and is averaging over 800 new signatures per day. It needs 13,347 verified signatures by June 17 to go before state voters in the general election.

If approved, Massachusetts in 2022 would become the second state, after nearby Maine, to adopt the system for electing all state executive officials, legislators and members of Congress.

“Thanks to our amazing volunteers, we’re right on track to meet and exceed our campaign goal of 25,000” the campaign said.

According to the campaign, the signature validity rate is around 73 percent. This means it appears likely that the campaign has already cleared the necessary bar it needs to get to November, and should have more than enough cushion by the deadline.

There was more praise for Jacinda Ardern this week when she exuded calm whilst speaking on camera during an earthquake, according to a piece by Damien Cave.

Cave also wrote a very thoughtful piece in The New York Times about Ardern’s leadership style and the mixed member proportional system—akin to ranked choice voting—that is used in New Zealand:

In 1965, New Zealand was the world’s sixth-wealthiest country per capita, but by 1980, when Ms. Ardern was born, it had slipped to 19th. And that was before free-market reforms led to major job losses in manufacturing, public service and farming.

Ms. Ardern, the daughter of a police officer and a cafeteria worker who were Mormon, has often recalled seeing forestry jobs disappear in the small town where she grew up, leaving behind suicides, poverty and illness — including a case of hepatitis for her babysitter.

Alongside the country’s economic frustration, the electoral system seemed to have broken down. Several elections produced results widely seen as unfair, with the popular vote going to one party and the majority of legislative seats to the other.It all reached a breaking point in 1992, when unemployment peaked at 10.7 percent and a national referendum asked New Zealanders if they wanted to remake how the country conducted elections. They responded with a resounding yes. 

New Zealand adopted a German-style system that lets people cast two ballots: one for a local member of Parliament and one for a party. Ms. Ardern was in high school when the first election under the new system produced what would become a trend: gains for smaller parties, and a coalition government.

Whether it is the world’s best-designed democracy, as some government geeks claim, Kiwis have been clear about what they want. No single party has won a majority since 1996, encouraging a culture of cooperation, moderation and openness.

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Just months after we were married, in 1993, my husband Rob Richie and I were invited to represent the U.S. “movement” for proportional representation to help persuade Kiwis that voting “yes” on the electoral reform measure was a sensible step toward a stronger democracy. While it would be a stretch to conclude that our visit led to the adoption of the proportional voting system in New Zealand, I do like to think that we may have helped to sway a few votes.

In a piece from In These Times from 1993 I wrote:

New Zealand’s vote for MMP sends a message to the few remaining winner-take-all democracies in the world that we simply can’t afford voting systems that deprive so many citizens of an effective voice in politics. We can’t afford underrepresentation of women, racial and ethnice minorities, and smaller parties who add important perspectives on governance. We can’t afford voting systems that force leaders to be all things to all people.

Twenty-seven years later, Rob and I are still prime movers behind the “movement” for proportional representation in the United States though I am very happy to report that there is an actual movement for electoral reform in 2020 that brings together advocates for women’s representation, an end to gerrymandering, partisan fairness, racial equity, and a less polarized politics.

(I do so like that I am referred to as an “American suffragist” in the article below!)

Barcelona alleyway. (Stefan Tärnell via Creative Commons

There was of course other news about women’s representation this week including this very interesting article by Abbey Seitz on streets mn about feminist urban planning in Barcelona led by its woman mayor that makes me want to go straight to Spain when the conditions are right:

“Gender sensitive” urban design projects have been few in number, with little time for long-term analysis. These efforts, however, provide useful insights to what future egalitarian cities may include in order to prioritize the needs of both men and women.

The ongoing transformation of Barcelona into a so-called “feminist city” illuminates the importance of having women at the forefront of the planning process.

Feminization of Politics

In 2015, Ada Colau was sworn in as Barcelona’s first woman mayor. On that day, all members of Colau’s newly appointed government declared themselves feminists. From the beginning of her term, Colau ignited a “feminization of politics,” which the Barcelona Council website describes as “incorporat[ing] the gender perspective in every area of politics and society.” For all decisions regarding the city budget, urban planning and public services, implications for both women and men must be considered. 

The city in many ways has come to embody its leader. Under Colau’s guidance, Barcelona has passed landmark legislation and implemented progressive urban design initiatives to improve women’s urban experiences.

Pedestrian Super Blocks

Although over 80 percent of trips in Barcelona are made by foot or public transit, over 60 percent of Barcelona’s public space is dedicated to cars (source: Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches). Since women are  more apt to walk than men, women are disproportionately impacted by the city’s lack of pedestrian space.

Dr. Jo Jorgensen, presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party.

The Libertarian party of the United States nominated its first woman to run for the presidency according to this article on the Texas Free Press:

Final: Dr. Jo Jorgensen defeats Jacob Hornberger and Vermin Supreme on the 4th Ballot of the first online Presidential Nominating Convention with 51% of the vote.

In the 3rd Ballot: tabulated at 9 pm Austin time, still no majority candidate, but Jorgensen’s lead over Jacob Hornberger neared 50% in vote count as approximately 80% of Judge Gray’s votes moved to D.r Jorgensen. Performance artist Vermin Supreme locked in at least 3rd place by edging party insider John Monds, who endorsed Jorgensen and threw his hat into the ring for the VP nomination expected tomorrow. 

On the second ballot: all candidates failed to get a majority, requiring a 3rd ballot, with Dr. Jorgensesn’s lead growing to 33% vs 25% for Author Jacob Hornberger as approximately two thirds of Adam Kokesh’s delegates and the Other votes, as well as about 1/3rd of Judge Gray’s support, shifted to Jorgensen, with the remainder split between Monds and Hornberger. 

As a result of the first ballot, Mr. Adam Kokesh was dropped, and the delegates will move to round 2 of balloting. The majority of the other delegates were for Congressman Justin Amash, who had declined the nomination.  A number of delegates cast votes for Amash, who was the likely nominee had he been willing to brave the rigors of a 3rd Party campaign, and had launched an exploratory committee. Former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee had also previously dropped out of the race after failing to consolidate support in a crowded race that had as many as dozen potentially viable winners.

Zarema Shaukenova.

According to an op-ed by Zarema Shaukenova in The Astana Times the president of Kazakhstan has signed a new bill into law that mandates 30 percent gender quotas for women in politics which is a fascinating development:

Recognition of the principle of gender balance in decision-making and its role in nations’ commitment to empower women are reflected in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted by UN member states at the IV World Conference on Women (Beijing, China, 1995). The platform decided that the problems that society as a whole faced are solvable if only at least 30 percent of all the genders participate in their solution.

In accordance with the accepted UN obligations, the planners in Kazakhstan set a specific task for the government – to give at least 30 percent of decision-making high-level positions to women. This is in keeping with the guidelines set by the Beijing Platform for Action, including in the government, the Parliament, akimats (mayoral offices), maslikhats (local representative bodies) and the judiciary.

Today, thanks to all the efforts made to clear positions for women in politics, women in leadership positions are no longer an exception. Among the latest governmental appointments, Gulshara Abdykalikova as Akim (Mayor) of the Kyzylorda Region, Aida Balaeva as Minister for Information and Public Development, Tamara Duysenova as Assistant to the President, Head of the Department for Monitoring the Consideration of Appeals to the Presidential Administration, Nurgul Mauberlinova as Head of the Internal Policy Department of the Presidential Administration and Aliya Rakisheva as Head of the Senate Office of the Kazakh Parliament all received their positions because of the new policy.

There will be two women running against each for secretary of state in Oregon after State Senator Shemia Fagan won the democratic nomination this week, according to this story on OPB:

As results continued to trickle in, Fagan’s lead grew, but both candidates have still been reticent to declare victory or call it quits. 

The latest results from Thursday showed Fagan leading by 3,212 votes with 564,976 votes cast. 

Political scientist Jim Moore, with the Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement, said he also would have called the race in Hass’ favor Tuesday night.

“He was ahead in Washington County, where he lives; he won it clearly,” Moore said of the initial results. “Fagan, who should have been doing well in the Portland area, was losing to him and in Democratic primaries that means pretty much you’re gonna lose statewide.”

But late election results surged in Fagan’s favor.

Maura Reilly wrote another great blog for our series in the Seneca Falls Revisited Countdown—this week’s features Michele Jones Galvin, a descendant of Harriet Tubman and a speaker at this year’s virtual conference:

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman became a symbol for freedom and a fearless leader in the abolition movement. The famed abolitionist is perhaps best known and remembered for her incomparable work on the Underground Railroad. After escaping from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Tubman went on to make a total of 19 trips between 1850 and 1860, leading more than three hundred slaves to freedom.

Following the end of the Civil War, Tubman continued her social activism working with the women’s suffrage movement and with lauded suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Tubman used her notoriety and oratory abilities travelling the North-east and delivering speeches in favor of women winning the vote.

In 2015, the Treasury Department under former President Obama, announced Harriet Tubman would become the first woman to be depicted on American currency, solidifying Tubman as a symbol of abolition and suffrage. While the textbook understanding of Tubman and her lifetime of fighting for social justice is well-known, there remains more below our surface-level understanding of Harriet Tubman, the figure of fighting for freedom. Kimberly Szewczyk a Park Ranger for the Harriet Tubman Home emphasizes the importance of learning about Tubman from her family members and descendents; saying, “each one has a very unique and difference relationship with Harriet Tubman, so by relatives telling their stories we get a richer, more broad view of Harriet Tubman and who she was.”

Michele Jones Galvin, Harriet Tubman’s great-great grandniece, co-authored the book Beyond the Underground: Aunt Harriet Moses of Her People with her mother, Joyce E. Jones. The book marries family stories and historical reconstruction with Harriet Tubman’s biography, showing the world the rich tapestry of Tubman’s life. In addition to her work bringing Tubman’s biography to life, Galvin has had a long career in public service and community activism and works closely with the Seneca Falls Revisited Conference, hosted by Civically Re-Engaged Women (CREW).

Finally, don’t forget to visit RepresentWomen’s social media pages on Twitter and Instagram to find reading suggestions and other great posts about women’s representation and the suffrage centennial!


Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen and a founding board member of the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations. Terrell is an outspoken advocate for innovative rules and systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote—a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation, voting system reform and democracy in the United States and abroad.