Suffrage100MA Executive Director Fredie Kay speaks with the Women Leading Government and Women Elected Municipal Officials groups on June 25 about the 19th Amendment.

On June 25, Women Leading Government and Women Elected Municipal Officials jointly celebrated the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

(The centennial of the amendment was marked on June 25 last year during the pandemic.)

The webinar featured a presentation from Suffrage100MA Executive Director Fredie Kay and a viewing of the 30-minute film put together by the organization to mark the anniversary: “The Fight for Women’s Suffrage: Looking Back, Marching Forward.”

“When working on this film, we knew we wanted to send a message about stories that are not told, stories about the suffrage movement that people just don’t know,” said Randolph Town Councillor and Suffrage100MA Vice President Katrina Huff-Larmond.

Following the film viewing, Winchester Town Manager and former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong discussed how racism, sexism and discrimination still impact American politics. Wong, the daughter of Chinese immigrants and the first Asian-American female mayor in Massachusetts, spoke about her experiences with racism and sexism, particularly during the pandemic, and her struggles speaking publicly about them. She said her public-facing positions in local government pushed her to acknowledge the issues more openly within her family, and that the support she felt within the communities she served was empowering.

“My path forward is working with women and men, like you, who realize that there is more work to be done,” Wong said.

Huff-Larmond led a discussion at the end of the meeting, giving attendees the opportunity to share stories, thoughts and experiences, while reflecting on why they first decided to run for public office or seek a career in local government. Attendees discussed leadership qualities they learned from a female coach or mentor, and who the first woman was that they voted for. A number of attendees said they decided to get involved in local government because someone pulled them aside and suggested it would be a good path for them, or because there was something in the community that they wanted to change.

“You recognize the importance of being at the table,” Huff-Larmond said of her decision to run as the first woman of color to serve as a councillor in Randolph, “and of representation — me as a black female as well — and what did that mean.”

Attendees discussed dealing with internalized fears of not knowing enough to do the job, which can hold women back from running for office, and the responsibility to encourage and support women to get involved.

“I think it is critical from those of us who have jumped in and found a way to be successful and grow our comfort and experience and ability, it’s critical to reach out to people and support each other,” said Hopkinton Select Board Member Muriel Kramer. “That’s the structure that doesn’t yet exist for women and people who identify as other than cisgendered men.”

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