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Today's meet the program, meet the author program features Karenna Gore Schiff, author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America. In her new book Karenna Schiff highlights nine outstanding American women of the 20th century, who fought for social justice and challenged the limits that prevented women from becoming public leaders. She profiles women who recognized injustices, embraced marginalized groups and pushed for reforms that had an enormous impact on the social and political history of the United States. Karenna Schiff is the eldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore. During Al Gore's 2000 campaign for President, Karenna was one of her father's closest advisors and worked as the Youth Outreach Chair. Karenna has worked as journalist and practiced law at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlet in New York. She also recently served as the Director of Community Affairs for Association to Benefit Children. It's a children's advocacy organization in New York. Karenna lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. This is her first book. Please join me in welcoming Karenna Gore Schiff, Thank you. Thank you so much Cindy for that very thoughtful introduction. And I am just delighted to be here in one of my favorite cities, and to meet new people, to see some old friends. I want to acknowledge that Susan Hyatt is here who is, who is a great friend of my parents, and actually is one of the reasons why they'll be spending a lot more time here, in terms of the fact that her husband and my father are partners in Current TV, and very proud that its home is in San Francisco. And Martha Whetstone an old family friend, we've been through many wonderful ups and downs together. And it's just fantastic to be here. So thank you all very much for coming. I wanted to talk a little bit about my reasons for writing the book. The process of writing it, and mention each of the women and something about them. And then I'll read a bit from the introduction and take any questions that you all may have, so first why I wrote the book. There were really three reasons. And the first is that ever since I was a little girl, I remember yearning for more female faces in the history books, for more heroines to choose from. And that feeling of sitting and looking at the chart of the presidents on the wall, and flipping through pages of generals and judges and some, of course, stellar heroines like Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Addams and Rachel Carson, Rosa Parks and I'm happy that I'm able to weave those more well known heroines through these stories as well. But I always thought that there were more women doing interesting consequential things throughout history, and I wanted to discover their stories. The second reason that I wrote it is that I really wanted to work through my feelings about politics. IIit was a bit of self therapy. I grew up around politics, in a very political family. My grandfather served (before I was born) from 1938 to 1970 in the house and then, the Senate, and in those tumultuous years. And then, one of my first memories was being on stage when my father won one of hishis first political race, for the House of Representatives from Tennessee, and---it was actually the primary, but it was an overwhelmingly Democratic district at that time, in middle Tennessee. I'm not sure those, I think those days may be over. But in any event, it was one of my first memories, in part because it was my third birthday, and the crowd sang to me and it was obviously quite a shock. But in any event, II really have grown up with that sort of privileged vantage point on the electoral process. And I have always loved politics. I did after the 2000 election feel slightly disheartened, maybe drawn a bit to disillusionment and the sort of skepticism, even cynicism about politics that I think is so pervasive in our society, especially among younger generations. But I really wanted to fight that. And reconnect to what I had always loved about politics, which is not the, who is ahead in the horse race at the moment, and who is scoring political points, and the spin, and the superficiality. But rather the real nitty gritty of public service, where the rubber meets the road. And looking out for the human needs that need to be filled, and applying savvy, and skill, and ethical grounding to meeting those challenges. So that's the second reason: an effort to reconnect to what I loved about politics. And the third reason is that I wanted to celebrate, and honor dissent in this country. I've always been intrigued by how we look back in history and see--- whether it was civil rights, or equal rights, or public health, environmental protection, that child labor---that it was a lonely minority viewpoint that was correct. And that people raising it were called unpatriotic, and certainly that is the case for all of these stories. Almost all these women were tracked aggressively by the FBI. Several were thrown in prison, and I really wanted to spotlight that. Because I think that it is an important reminder about how we today need to engage in the merits and substance of political arguments. And so this book reflects that. And those are my three reasons. And given those reasons I had several criteria when I selected the women that I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about women who were behind the major movements, political movements, of modern America. Who were not as well known and who were willing to take unpopular stands, and stand against the tide, and there was a fourth criteria which was very important in narrowing it down to nine: and that was who personally resonated with me. Who I felt was colorful and multi-faceted, and I did want to show a full portrait ofof of these women, explaining their flaws, and their weaknesses as well as their strengths. And II hope that I have been successful in doing that. So I cast the net wide at first, and was able to do a lot of background learning in areas that I've always found intriguing in American history. So whether it was Yellow Fever or coal mining, the history of Puerto Rico, eugenics the background of the suffrage movement, and the drafting of New Deal legislation---these were all these were all pockets of history that it was very interesting for me to delve into. And the book does reflect that. So there are footnotes that kind of go off on these tangents, and there is a lot of scene setting, and background information---in order to describe the context that these women were facing. So that was really fun. And heroines jumped out at me all over the place. And these nine came to me in different ways. Some I had heard of but II didn't know their full stories. That's true of Ida B. Wells Barnett, Mother Jones and Frances Perkins mainly. Some II really found through that initial research---and that was done in various places: some institutions like the New York Public Library, the Schlesinger Library, a lot online actually--- and I'm very grateful to institutions that put their resources online. And so the ones that I actually hadn't heard of at all were Alice Hamilton--- that I found that way---Helen Rodriguez-Trias, to some extent Dolores Huerta---I had heard her name, but didn't really know all about her. And some came to me through word of mouth. So that was true ofof actually a couple of my favorite chapters that are back to back. Women that knew each other and were friends: Virginia Durr and Septima Clark. And then the final chapter, which I'll speak about as I go through the women, is someone that I know and am friends with. It's a bit of a departure in the sense that I think the review said that it read more like a Valentine than some of the other, more fuller portraits. But so be it. But in any event, I'll say a bit about each of these women. And then do a brief reading. So Ida B. Wells Barnett, she was born six months before the Emancipation Proclamation, in Mississippi. Her own father, (a slave) her own father had been the son of his master, and she grew up an incredibly intelligent women. Really seeing the, obviously the cruelty of not only slavery, but then in the aftermath of slavery, the racial violence around her, and the lies used to justify it. She wasin 1883 she broughtshe refused to get off a first class train car, for which she bought a ticket. It was going from Memphis to Woodstock, Tennessee. And she was physically removed by the conductor, with a crowd cheering as he removed her. She was furious and humiliated, and brought legal challenge. And she actually was successful at first, and then it was overturned. And the fact that she had this expectation in 1883, to sort of take care of it for once and all. Once and for all is quite stunning. And I think it speaks to one of the themes in the book, which is that relationship between politics and law, between the social mores and the political debate of the time and the legal structure. And she had come of age really during the reconstruction, so there was bit more hope. There actually had been some damages awarded before to black plaintiffs. And she grew up in that milieu, and really fought consistently segregation throughout her life. But what became her main cause, and this was really as a journalist. She was totally committed to truth telling journalism. And she told the most uncomfortable truth of her day in the deep-south, which was to expose lynching, and the lies that justified lynching. And she really, as a single black woman in the deep-south, as one contemporary put it, "shook this country like an earthquake by writing consistently." And she would go to the scene. She would investigate, of course, the routine torture and murder of black men, women, and children--- that was of course so common at the time. And she would also write about the fact that the justification, which was that black men were raping white women and that this had to be done in order to control it, was a total lie. And actually, would talk about some of the actual interracial sexual relationships that were going on. Obviously it created a total uproar. Her newspaper, which she worked at with a couple of her friends, the Free Speech, was burned down. Her life was threatened, and she moved to Chicago and continued on this crusade and spoke internationally. She shared the stage in her day with Susan B. Anthony, (a great friend, a very interesting and complicated friendship) Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Dubois among others. And just a really interesting fascinating character in American history who made a huge difference. So the next woman is Mother Jones. And Mother Jones is an extremely colorful, larger than life character, who I had heard of mainly---of course the magazine has kept her name sort of famous--- but I knew that she was an old lady, rabble rouser in some way, and had some pithy quotes, but I didn't know her full story, which is an amazing one. She came over an Irish immigrant, from County Cork, during the potato famine. And ended up settling in Memphis, and had four children. And her husband was a member of the iron molder's union. And they got the union journal and she was basically theraising raising her four children when a Yellow Fever epidemic hit and she lost all four of her children and her husband to this epidemic, and obviously a searing and devastating loss. She got a permit to nurse the other sufferers and everyone who could leave Memphis or any city--- and this was a plague that would sweep through the south periodically in these days---anyone who could leave, left. And those who remained were mainly blacks and poor whites, and I think that this was an experience that she very much internalized in terms of social justice around her. She then went to Chicago and opened up a dress shop. And believe it or not, was wiped out by the Great Chicago Fire, which burned up her dress shop. And she was out in the water, in the freezing lake with so many others that were devastated by that fire, and gradually sort of rebuilt her life. She she is not a very reliableshe was not a very reliable source of her own personal history, and she actually padded her age consistently. I think the only woman I've heard of, who always claimed to be much older, and just had this incredible flare for drama, when she reinvented herself as Mother Jones. And she didn't become famous until her sixties. And she would always sort of say, "I'm not going to live for much longer, you've got to pay attention to me now." And she said that for about 30 years---and very much knew the part that she was playing. And was thrown into jail well into her eighties, many times, which seemed to sort of delight her. I mean she would write these letters from jail that were just full of, I mean, the melodramatic language like, "The hot tears of orphans are falling on the soil, while the vermin are surrounding me." And her biographer---and she does have an excellent biography---says well actually she was in sort of a nice room. But you know what she was doing andher first cause was really organizing coal miners, and this was at a time whenand obviously mine safety very much an issue still. So this isthere are so many issues that I find come up in the newspapers everyday, that I look back and I think that it's really useful to look at the battles fought before. And how we got where we are, and how wewe In many ways, I think these women were making this country truer to its founding ideals. And that's what, although they can all be described as progressive, I think that what they were doing, is facing these mass forces of industrialization, and urbanization, and the concentration of wealth, that was happening, and trying to make sure that the country also was providing the same kind of opportunity to the more vulnerable citizens. And at the time, when Mother Jones was working, the miners were in company towns. And it's sort of hard to imagine, but it was just absolutely no semblance of democracy or free speech. And the mine guards were basically sort of the local police, and there was no real concept of mine safety. They were paid in scrip. So they could only use their salaries to buy at the company store, and the company would set the prices, actually, fairly high. And they had to buy their own pick axes. And they had to buy their own water, for while they were working. There were accidents all the time. And a lot of the workers were children. It wasn't uncommon for ten year old boys to start a life's work in the mines, and certainly, obviously not going to school. So Mother Jones just marched right into these mines, this elderly, immigrant, poor woman, and would have a glass of whiskey with the miners, and sort of convince them to get together and demand better treatment. So she caused a complete uproar. In her day she was court marshaled, in addition to being thrown into prison many times, and called, allegedly, by a prosecutor, "the most dangerous woman in America." She wasshe was at first, very much ridiculed. The New York Times called her an oppressive succubus---whatever that means. Incubus I think. It was a word thatin any event. They sort of went out of their way to just sort of dismiss her as a rabble rouser, not raising important issues. And she fought back with publicity, with her dramatic flare, and eventually made child labor her focus. So she went into mills and factories as well as mines, and she investigated what was really going on with child labor, and she exposed it. And she did embarrass the people who were profiting from it. And she changed the debate during her day very much. So while at the beginning of her life she was--- well not at the beginning of her life---but at the beginning of her real career she was so ridiculed and ostracized and obviously imprisoned, by the end, she had a lengthy respectful profile in The New York Times. She was a cordial correspondent with John D. Rockefeller Jr. and she was invited on the White House lawn--- in order to score points for Calvin Coolidge, of all people actually. But in any event, she'sshe'sI love her chapter and she's got a hilarious voice, and an interesting story. So the third woman, I have to discipline my self not to go on to long about each one. But the third one is Alice Hamilton, a real star of the book in my opinion in terms of someone who doesn't have a full scale biography. She does have an excellent volume of her letters edited beautifully. And she has a memoir exploring the dangerous trades. But she was somebody who--- well first let me say this she was invited to, she was the first woman invited to the Harvard Faculty in 1919, and they did not want a woman; this was not about a token woman. In fact they made two stipulations: they said that she was never to participate in commencement, and she could not have any football tickets, ever, under any circumstances. Which as you get to know Alice, you'll see how that devastated her. But the reason that they asked her was because she was such a pioneer in her field, which was industrial medicine. She had become a physician in the late 19th century, no small feat in and of itself as a woman. And she made it her mission at a time when there really was no concept of public health and workplace safety, at a time at the height of the Industrial Revolution, when there were all these new chemicals being used, and machines being used, and workers were being poisoned and maimed and killed at a fairly fast clip in some of these factories, and this became even more of an issue when they were manufacturing weapons, for WWI. And Alice made it her mission to go in and sheshe walked theshe explored these factories. She analyzed the effects of these chemicals on the workers. She would, if she wasn't allowed in the factory, then she would go and find them in the saloon after-hours, or go into the neighborhoods where they lived with their families, and she reallyshe made a huge difference in just establishing workplace safety as a concept. And often she had a very gentile collegial personality. Was just a highly intelligent woman, who was not confrontational, but not afraid to be firm in her own views. But she often, actually, convinced leaders of business to make their own rules about workplace safety. But she also said that she felt that if there weren't laws, then there would always be dark spots of neglect. And she often would findshe was early on discovering lead poisoning and mercury poisoning as well as other chemicals that were consistently and terribly poisoning workers, and she ended upher influence culminated in the New Deal. She was a real mentor to Eleanor Roosevelt who very much looked up to her, actually. I should say that she also, when she went to Harvard she made her own stipulation, which was that she wanted to spend half year at Hull House, in Chicago where she had trained and worked with the great Jane Addams, who I came away from this book with all the more awe for. Andso she did that, and she remained very grounded in her work at Hull House and was very much with Jane Adams in her philosophy. So that's Alice Hamilton. Next is Frances Perkins. Probably one of the more famous names in the book, because she was of course the first female Cabinet Secretary, and incidentally the only Cabinet Secretary to serve for FDR's entire term, other than Harold Ikes. Shea turning point in Frances Perkins' life came and she had also actually gone to Hull House and knew Jane Addams. A turning point though in her life came in 1911, and she was in New York City she was doing some charity work, as well as some settlement house work. And she was having tea with a friend, when down the street there was the Triangle Shirt Waste Factory fire. This was an event that shocked the nation and really was very galvanizing, in part because people like Frances Perkins responded to it the way that they did. And Frances, she walked with her friend. It was basically a sweat shop. And hundreds of girls and young women were locked inside, in terrible conditions making clothes there. And when there was a fire, and there was no adequate fire escape they died either inside, or they jumped onto the sidewalk, which is what Frances confronted as she and her friend walked down the street to see what was going on. Frances had actually already been involved in trying to make sure that there were safety measures in sweat shops like this one, and so of course this was absolutely infuriating to those that had been working towards that. And Triangle had actually been one of the companies that would fire anybody who they thought had met with a union leader. And part of the reason why they locked the doors, in addition to keeping workers in there for long hours, was because they did not want anybody to come in and talk to the girls and women there about their rights, or the possibility of some collective bargaining. So Frances then, in thein the New York State Factory Investigating Commission took legislators face to face with sweat shop workers, and she had them crawl through the make shift fire exits, she One of them was Al Smith, the future reform governor, who called the greatest education that he ever had. And went on his administration to prefigure a lot of the New Deal approach. When he was elected governor he named her State Industrial Commissioner--- unprecedented for a woman, and then she served in the same position for Al Smith's successor as governor, FDR. And then of course went to Washington, was behind Social Security as well as other key New Deal legislation. Frances ended up actually being impeached because she was so embattled in a case where she refused to deport a union organizer who was accused of being a communist, and it was one of these cases where it was just a huge political frenzy, and and everybody acknowledged in retrospect that she had acted completely properly, but it was it was a case where those concerned with the polls and the political spin cycles were saying just deport him, don't worry about it, and she ended up being impeached and of course acquitted. Left quite a legacy, Frances Perkins. So the next woman is Virginia Durr. She is one of my favorites just because she is so funny and engaging, and had a great wit. And she was someone who was born in Alabama, to a white woman, to a racist family. Hershe was raised on tales of the gallant confederacy and saw "The Birth of the Nation" and KKK marches and she she, actually her own father was a registrar who bragged that no black person ever got passed him at the polls. So she, herself grew up very racist. Through a series of awakenings and I think her own sort of innate sense of justice, came to be a real firebrand on the vanguard of the civil rights movement. And she fought the poll tax. One of her main accomplishments was actually in eventually sheher work eventually led to the poll tax finally being banned. Of course was used in addition to the questionnaires and the interviews at the polls to keep blacks from voting, incidentally also kept a lot of poor whites from voting. And so that was one of her main causes, and she also worked very much for integration and this was all in the deep south, she worked some in Washington, but allin the deep south in the 1950, so you can imagine it was not easy going. But I think that part of why her voice and her observations are just so engaging is that she saw with the intimacy of an insider, having herself been racist. Andandbut also the clarity of an outsider, and she just had a great sense of irony. And was very effective in her day, so Virginia Durr. And the next woman, Septima Clark, someone who like Virginia Durr, somebody said to me, "Oh you're doing this project, you really should look into Septima Poinsett Clark, and after I did, I was just stunned that I did not know her story beforehand. She, born a black woman in South Carolina, and actually her maiden name Poinsett comes from the fact that her father was born on the plantation of Joel Poinsett who was a botanist and former ambassador to Mexico, who cultivated the flaming red plant and brought it over to the United States and it was named for him. I was very happy to hear that Septima loved poinsettias and later on in her life people always gave them to her, and she kept them around. Butbut obviously a painful family history, andand she became a teacher early on. She was always just a very natural educator. She saw the best in people. She wanted to bring out the best. And she soon turned from, from teaching children to teaching adults. And this led her to literacy, and this led her to voter registration and eventually to forging the citizenship schools that were that came were based at Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, an integrated retreat that trained civic leader, and where people discussed how to work for integration and also went around the south. And historian Taylor Branch calls Septima's citizenship schools and classes the, "payload of the civil rights movement." And he dedicated Parting the Waters to her, actually. She incidentally she, when she was a teacher initially in Charleston, even in black schools, they didn't hire black teachers, and she was behind a campaign to have black teachers hired which was controversial even though they would only be in the black schools and they weren't even being paid as much as the white teachers. She then later was behind a campaign for equal pay for black teachers, working with a young lawyer for the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall. It's just amazing to see her fighting spirit, and actually she was a very also non-confrontational, very much like Alice Hamilton, actually, in terms of her personal style. But her, her just, determination against so many odds to fight those battles is just amazing. One of the civic leaders that Septima Clark inspired was a young, not young, but actually younger a than we think 42, seamstress named Rosa Parks, who came to her workshop at the suggestion of her friend Virginia Durr actually who new her in Montgomery from the work that they had done actually in the NAACP which had been actively searching for a test case forto fight the segregated transportation system. And it'sI was so interested in this back story, because I came away thinking of Rosa Parks as just a very sophisticated political activist who knew exactly what she was doing when sometimes I feel that the story gets, gets a little flatter when it seems that it was all of the sudden by accident that her brave protest changed history. In any event Rosa went to this workshop and had already been thinking a great deal about these issues, but she specifically she, when she got back to Montgomeryit was only a couple of months that she got back that she refused to give up her seat and made history, and she said many times that Septima Clark had been a huge inspiration to her, and that her experience at Highlander had been quite formative, so certainly just that alone has been an incredible legacy for Septima Clark to have left. But she also succeeded in registering many, many black voters, and inspiring many leaders, such as Congressman John Lewis who is now who was a civil rights activist, of course and a hero, and himself beaten and jailed many times. And is now serving I think his 10th term as congressman for Georgia, so that's Septima Clark. The next woman is Dolores Huerta, and there is a lot of California politics and history in her story of course. She was a partner to Cesar Chaves in the United Farm Workers. Organizing farm workers who had actually interestingly been left out of many of the New Deal reforms, they were just carved out as an exception, for things like the ability to have collective bargaining, for...for a lot of the, unemployment insurance, for things that, that were I thinkand Frances Perkins herself had argued for including them. And she was severely criticized for exacerbating the headaches in the administration about the farm problem. But in any event, so I think that I was very intrigued by Dolores' story in part because I feel like she did pick up where Frances Perkins left off, and where Alice Hamilton left off, because part of her story was fighting the abusive, harmful use of pesticides. And Dolores is very much still alive, alive and working still today I should say. But I did focus a bit more on when she was organizing farm workers and was very intrigued to see that she was the real engine behind Cesar Chaves, and it's, it's very interesting for me to see how she publicly deferred all of the credit to him. And I think wisely so, in a way, because he was so charismatic, he did become iconic, he was embraced by the Vatican, and I was fascinated to read these public statements from the Vatican just absolutely effusively praising this labor leader who was obviously stirring up quite a bit of political trouble, but I think for Dolores who was divorced several times, she knew that she was not going to receive that kind of embrace, and she was actually she became very much part of the woman's movement later in life, but she was quite conflicted early years about how guilt that she felt about her, how she was leading her personal life. The fact that she wasn't very comfortable being a homemaker, the fact that she had gotten divorced, all of these things. But she threw herself into the challenge of standing up for these farm workers who again child labor was an issue, actually illegally so, but there was a lot of trouble with law enforcement in all of these stories as well as with bad laws. But in any event she did succeed in winning the right to collective bargaining, in banning the use of harmful pesticides, first within contracts with the UFW, and then later with public laws, and really lefthas already left a great, a great legacy and has a very interesting personal story. So two more, first Helen Rodriguez-Trias and she was a physician who who's main cause was in fighting coerced sterilization. And this was actually social policy which was implemented on people very, people who more powerless and vulnerable and communities of color in the United States, Black Hispanic and Native American particularly women were were...were coerced into being sterilized, eithereven with out their knowledge. The civil rights leader I think Fanny Lou Haimer was a victim of this. She went in for an appendectomy and was then sterilized without her knowledge in Mississippi, and spoke about that; was actually very frustrated that she wasn't able to get that heard as much in what she saw as a sort of very male dominated civil rights movement of her day. Andand she spoke about how shethat was something that was just sort of too embarrassing for them to confront, but for her was obviously a huge personal trauma and it was It did happen to many women, and on Native American reservations, terribly. Helen was from Puerto Rico, her family moved back and forth from New York to Puerto Rico and she was a physician, and she saw this for what it was, and lead a campaign to fight it, exposed it and really succeeded in educating women who were really in more vulnerable positions on their rights, and calling attention to the fact that this was an absolutely cruel and unacceptable political agenda and that it should be a woman's own choice to, whether or not to have a child, which has of course led her to the reproductive rights movement and the woman's movement, and she was very much about building bridges between women of different backgrounds and of different viewpoints, and really making it a matter of health and respect, and one final thing about her was that she was really an early voice about AIDS as a public health scourge that needed to be on the political agenda, and saw this before most politicians did. So I loved one thing that she wrote about how it was terrible that people were speaking about this disease as something that didn't affect the general population, because not only was that cruel and was there also some, some obvious stigma against homosexuality that was being used there, but also that it blinded us to our own collective vulnerability to that disease as she put it. So the final woman, Gretchen Buchenholz, is ais someone who I consider a friend, and someone who I have been privileged to work for on a part time basis at her organization, The Association to Benefit Children. She is a child advocate. She is very close to Marion Wright Edelman and she combines the sort of advocacy that Marion has done in terms of arguing for a prioritization of early childhood education for very poor needy families throughout the United States, obviously still a very huge issue. And she also has been an advocate for such asuchwell first of all asthma has been an epidemic and she led a campaign to make sure that there was more screening and treatment for asthma for inner city children, who can be quite debilitated by this disease actually.