Politics & Social Justice Archive


Two Chelsea Green Authors Made AlterNet’s Top Ten Most Popular List!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

In a world of rampant, shallow consumerism, and short-term thinking that affects everything from the food we are sold to the news we are offered, it’s great to have friends. Friends, for an independent publisher like Chelsea Green, are many things, but especially media outlets that share a mission similar to ours. Media outlets that seek the truth, that are informed by a genuine concern for the wellbeing of individuals and communities, and do their best to avoid the smirch of corporate and political money.

AlterNet is one of those media outlets, providing provocative and compelling news and essays for the progressively minded — or really anyone who’s paying attention.

AlterNet publishes articles by thousands of authors each year, on almost every topic and news item under the sun. Some of their more frequent contributors, including in-house writers and many of their best known authors, routinely gain audiences in the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands, and re-spread by blog links, Facebook, reposting and beyond.

We love the work AlterNet does, and that’s why we were thrilled to see that two of our very own authors made their list of the Top Ten Most Popular articles from the past year!

Weighing in at number three is Paul Armentano, co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So Why are we Driving People to Drink? (a book that had, a few years ago, more Facebook fans than the Bible — but not quite as many as Harry Potter). Paul’s recent article, Five Scientific Conclusions About Cannabis That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To Know, made waves on the blogosphere.

As Paul and NORML, the group he heads, fight for decriminalization of marijuana, they’ve seen over and over again how the government and mainstream media like to push studies touting the purported dangers of marijuana, while ignoring scientific evidence that demonstrates the opposite.

Also on AlterNet’s Top Ten is Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, and The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor. Les writes often about the systemic inequalities built into our economy.

His recent article, What If the Greedy Rich Paid Their Share? 8 Things to Know About Wealth and Poverty in the US, shows that we’re far from poor — we just have a wildly lopsided distribution of wealth that makes us seem poor.

AlterNet is funded by people, not corporations. If you love independent media, please consider donating to AlterNet to keep their work alive and well. You can make a secure, tax-deductible donation here.

Make Your Vote Count!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Elections are one month away, and without touching the Presidential race with a forty foot pole, we’d like to share some of the campaigns and initiatives we’re interested in. Take a gander, investigate the issues, and make your vote count!

If you live in California, you’ve probably heard about Proposition 37. This bill is big. It is the first serious movement to insist that foods containing genetically-modified organisms be clearly labeled so that we consumers can choose whether we want to eat them. The reason this bill is such an important step is owing largely to the size of the California market — the state is the world’s eighth largest economy. Labeling in California will lead to efforts elsewhere, including Vermont, where a GMO Labeling measure was accepted earlier this year. Vermont’s law will only go into effect if California’s passes.

For more information, you can follow the CA Right to Know organization, here. You can also follow the Organic Consumers Association. Author Jeffrey Smith has been writing on the GMO issue for years, and his books are still some of the best authorities on the subject. Take a look at Genetic Roulette, and Seeds of Deception. New this coming spring, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth will be another great resource for the movement. Author Stephen Druker is offering the first eight chapters of the book as an ebook sample, available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

It may surprise you to find out that, for the past several years the perennial number one page on ChelseaGreen.com in terms of traffic is this: an excerpt from The Revolution will not be Microwaved on how to extract cannabis into oil or butter! And our book Marijuana is Safer was the “#1 Most Read Book of 2010” on Scribd. Chelsea Green fans care deeply about having the right to care for their health and choose the foods they want. Campaigns to decriminalize the use of marijuana have been ramping up across the nation. Is there one in your state? Take a look at the various campaigns listed by NORML, here.

Another topic of heated debate in this election cycle are various issues of women’s rights. It seems like a heck of a throwback to be discussing women’s rights to abortion and birth control in 2012, but with the coming advent of the Affordable Care Act conservatives have been up in arms about women’s reproductive rights. There’s a quick rundown of some candidate’s positions on women’s rights here.

Once the election season is past, one would hope we could move past these fundamental levels of discourse, and onward to issues of family care. Madeleine M. Kunin’s recent book, The New Feminist Agenda is the perfect jumping-off place for this kind of discussion.

Governor Kunin has been hitting the road this year, talking about the issues in her book, and women’s issues at large. She is speaking at the Goldman School of Public Policy in Berkeley tonight, and at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon on October 6 at 4pm. To stay abreast of all Ms. Kunin’s upcoming events, check here.

It’s easy to feel manipulated and cynical as a voter in the USA, but there are ample opportunities to make a difference — especially if you think local.

Take some time this month to get educated about the issues important to you, and rock the vote!

Killing the Cranes Now Available in Paperback

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Few reporters have covered Afghanistan as intrepidly and humanely as Edward Girardet. In his latest book, Killing the Cranes, Girardet delivers a story of that nation’s resistance fighters, foreign invaders, mercenaries, spies, aid workers, Islamic extremists, and others who have defined Afghanistan’s last thirty years of war, chaos, and strife.

Released last year in hardcover, Killing the Cranes was nominated for the Helen Bernstein award for outstanding journalism, was praised by the New York Review of Books, and was a finalist for ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year award in History.

Since the release of Killing the Cranes, the United States made concrete plans to end its combat mission in Afghanistan. This is a step in the right direction toward an autonomous nation that can fend for itself and keep corruption and terrorist organizations at bay — but what will be the lasting effects of our occupation?

One could look for clues in Girardet’s book, now available in paperback for the first time. Killing the Cranes traces the past thirty years of Afghan history, the forces that have shaped it, and some of the important players that have influenced it.

The paperback edition includes a new epilogue by Girardet. To celebrate its arrival we’re putting it on sale for 25% off until September 18.

In this video from PBS NewsHour, Girardet shares his perspective on the current state of affairs in the long-misunderstood middle eastern nation.

Watch Journalist Reflects on Covering 3 Decades of War in Afghanistan on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Don’t Just Kick Back & Relax, Get Active: It’s Labor Day

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Happy Labor Day! We sincerely hope if you’re reading this, that it’s not at work, but at home, at rest or among friends, or doing something you love — fermenting food, making some cheese or working on a few home projects to boost your resiliency and reduce your ecological footprint.

Or, maybe you’re just grilling. Or, maybe there is still such a thing as a Labor Day parade in your community — one that actually celebrates workers.

In 1884, Congress passed a law making the first Monday of every September “Labor Day,” a day set aside to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the everyday worker, especially union workers. Workplace safety regulations? An eight-hour workday? Paid sick and vacation days? Weekends? Yeah, thank those early labor unions — not vulture capitalists, bankers or the 1 percent.

We at Chelsea Green have a lot to celebrate this labor day, and want to invite you to share in our good cheer.

As many of you know, in late June the company sold control of its stock to its employees by creating an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).  Essentially, that means that now close to 80 percent of the company’s stock is held by its employees. The remainder of the stock remains in the control of Ian and Margo Baldwin, who founded Chelsea Green in 1984 on the South Green in Chelsea, Vermont. Margo Baldwin is currently the company’s president and publisher and will maintain that role for the foreseeable future.

Around the same time as the ESOP was created. Chelsea Green was recognized by ForeWord Reviews as its 2011 Independent Publisher of the Year, in which the company was recognized for its “significant contributions in the categories of politics and sustainable living.” This year (to date) we’ve also landed our fourth book  on The New York Times bestseller list, with Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation landing at number 14.

This doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work from all us grasshoppers here at Chelsea Green.

Given the company’s long-term mission of publishing ideas to help communities remain resilient and businesses sustainable while connecting to their sense of place, making the move to an employee-owned model is an example of the company practicing what it publishes.

“Ian and I are thrilled that the company has taken this important step and look forward to working with our employees to advance the mission and to create an even more successful and profitable company in the years to come,” added Margo Baldwin. National studies have shown ESOPs to outperform their private sector counterparts in terms of overall profitability, productivity, employee retention and employee earnings.

To celebrate, we’re putting a handful of our key labor-focused and sustainable business and economic books on sale. They include Les Leopold’s fantastic biography of Tony Mazzocchi, a major figure in the modern labor movement and John Abrams’ inspirational book on workplace democracy and equality, Companies We Keep.

And, if these books aren’t of interest, check out the forthcoming books that will soon arrive in a bookstore near you (in fact, some may have already).

So, enjoy – and seriously, don’t work too hard. But, if you do, work toward this vision of Tony Mazzocchi’s as explained by his longtime friend and biographer Les Leopold:

“Tony’s big ideas led to Tony’s big actions—and both differentiated him from nearly every other modern labor leader. He built bridges from the often insular labor movement to all of the other major movements of his time—feminism, environmentalism, antiwar, civil rights. He was instrumental in building the occupational health and safety movement, the environmental health movement, and labor-environmental alliances, as well as in creating a new generation of worker-oriented occupational health professionals. Thousand of workers’ lives were spared as a result.

He was anti-corporate to the core. He thought that the drive for every-increasing profits was in fundamental conflict with public health, workers health and safety, and a sound environment. He feared that growing corporate power could lead to authoritarianism. The antidote was growing democratic unions with an active rank and file. Most of all, he thought we had it all backward: The purpose of life was not to toil until we dropped to enrich someone else. Rather it was to live life to its fullest by working less, not more.”

A wise man. Happy Labor Day.

SUGGESTED BOOKS

Occupy World Street: The Music Video

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

This may be a first for Chelsea Green: An author who’s created a music video to promote his book.

The author is Ross Jackson, of Denmark, and the book is Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform. The book shows how the uprisings around the world stem from a similar source: A populist response to the selfish, swashbuckling behavior of global financial elites who wreck economies and then call on governments to enact punishing “austerity” measures that keep them off the hook (and out of jail), while further harming people already in distress.

The book also offers a roadmap for how several countries, banding together, could break away from the boom and bust neoliberal economic cycles and chart a new bath based on shared prosperity and sustainability.

You think he’d be satisfied with offering such a radical, but at the same time rational, view of the world. Nope. Jackson is now offering us a global sing-a-along — a protest song that we can all get behind. We’ve embedded the video below for your viewing, and singing, pleasure.

The catchy folk song — written and composed by Jackson who also appears in the video strumming a guitar and sauntering the streets — is an homage to the Occupy movement that has seen occupations spring up around the world, often fueled by the imagination and anger of the younger generation. Jackson also uses the song to offer a critique of the Euro and why it’s been so damaging to sovereign economies.

We’re posting the complete lyrics below so you can sing along to Jackson’s ditty. You can also find a downloadable lyric sheet on Jackson’s website, where he’s calling himself “The Singing Economist.”

Let’s see Paul Krugman top that. We’re waiting.

OWS The Song – Lyrics
Written by Ross Jackson, June 2012   

Well I walked downtown to Zuccotti Park.
It was 6 p.m. and getting dark
When I saw a young couple chattin’ and drinkin’ cokes.
I asked them what was going on here,
And the young lady answered loud and clear,
“We’re here to send a message to our folks.

“This land was once the land of the free,
Of justice and democracy.
Now America’s lost her way and got off track.
One man one vote was the order then.
Now our land’s been stolen by the money men
And all of us here are just trying to get it back.”

Occupy New York City
Occupy Santa Fe
Occupy Cincinnati
Occupy San José

We might be in Salt Lake City
Or in Washington D.C.
¬Speaking out for human
Rights and more equality.

The young man said his name was Bob
And recently he’d lost his job.
His firm had pulled up stakes and moved offshore.
“They say it’s cheaper in Shanghai
Where profit rates are record high
And they don’t pay much in taxes anymore”.

“The one percenters cheat and steal
And don’t produce a thing that’s real.
Asset speculation is their style.
These guys are parasites,” he said.
“They ought to get real jobs instead,
And make a contribution that’s worthwhile”.

Occupy San Francisco
Occupy Wichita
Occupy Sacramento
Occupy Omaha

Occupy Minnesota
Occupy Tennessee
Standing up for nature
And sustainability

Then I went to Europe to just check out
What the euro fuss was all about.
The youth are without jobs and that’s the key.
The young folks want their countries back
But leaders take a different tack;
Bank bailouts and more austerity.

The euro was a big mistake;
A backdoor to a Eurostate
That citizens would rather be without.
The people want a deal that’s fair
Where bankers pay their rightful share.
Until that day they’ll roam the streets and shout.

Occupy Copenhagen
Occupy Birmingham
Occupy Londonderry
Occupy Amsterdam

We are camping out in Athens
As we make a final plea:
“We’d rather leave the euro
Than have more austerity.”

We will occupy Milano
Occupy Luxembourg
Occupy Barcelona
Occupy this whole world

Now our numbers they are growing,
And we won’t accept defeat,
Time to end injustice;
Time to Occupy World Street

Time to end injustice………..

Time to Occupy World Street

Ralph’s Right: Get Up, Stand Up

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Ralph Nader (yes, that Ralph Nader), the longtime consumer activist, Green Party candidate for President, abolitionist of the two-party system, and consummate curmudgeon recently recommended one of Chelsea Green’s books as one of 11 summer readings “to activate the citizen’s mind.”

We like to think many of our books – on topics ranging from fermentation to what life on Earth might be like in 2052 – activate the citizen’s mind. So, it’s nice to see someone of Nader’s stature agree with our internal assessment.

So, what is this book? We’ll let Nader deliver the title and his synopsis of why it’s an important book:

Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated and Battling the Corporate Elite by Bruce E. Levine, Chelsea Green, 2011. Going beyond the how-to-become-active civic handbook, Levine, a clinical psychologist invites us to explore what he calls the “learned helplessness” that has “taken hold for a great many Americans…locked into an abuse syndrome in which revelations about their victimization by a corporate-government partnership produce increased anesthetization rather than constructive action.” The author, citing historian Lawrence Goodwy, then shows many ways toward “individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence,” the “cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics.”

We couldn’t be happier for Levine, whose works — Get Up, Stand Up and Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic — and his relentless magazine writing and blogging have made him a must-read for the anti-authoritarian set.

Also included on Nader’s summer reading list is Days of Destruction Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco (Nation Books, 2012), When the World Outlawed War by David Swanson (self published, 2011), Corporations Are Not People by Jeffrey D. Clements (Berrett-Koehler,  2012, and The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years by Yvon Chouinard & Vincent Stanley (Patagonia Books, 2012).

Good company, eh?

If you haven’t yet read Get Up, Stand Up, we’re making a 20-page section of Chapter 4 — titled “Energy to Do Battle: Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect, and Collective Self-Confidence” — available as a free download in hopes you might take a second look thanks to Nader’s recommendation.

Included in this download is Levine’s nine ways of “Identifying an Abusive Institution or Individual” and six “Recommendations for Healing from Corporatocracy Abuse.” Great tools to help ensure that a healthy movement is comprised of healthy people.

Here’s another tidbit you can find in the download:

“It is in the interest of the elite to keep people divided and to keep them distrust- ing one another. It is in the interest of people working toward democracy to build respectful and cooperative human relationships across all levels of society.

“When one understands that the battle for democracy begins with the battle to restore individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, one then sees the entire society and culture replete with battlefields in which such self-respect and collective confidence can be won or lost.”

We hope, after reading this selection that you’ll “want to disturb your routine and enliven your vision for human possibilities” as Nader notes at the end of his list, that you’ll get up and order a copy of the book, or borrow a copy from your local library.

Energy to do Battle – An Excerpt from Get Up, Stand Up

Madeleine Kunin on C-SPAN Book TV

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Last week on C-SPAN’s Book TV, Madeleine Kunin, former governor of Vermont, presented her thoughts on the current state of gender politics in America with a focus on professional careers and employment.

Kunin contends that women have gained little support in their professional lives, despite the fact that they comprise 60% of college undergraduates and 50% of medical and law students.  She argues that women’s needs should be better represented in accordance with other countries, which maintain paid family leave, childcare, and the observance of equal pay for the same work performed by male colleagues.

Madeleine Kunin’s appearance was taped at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

For more information on Book TV, visit their website.

Why Families Can’t “Have it All”

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

by Madeleine Kunin

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first woman director of Policy Planning in the State Department, sent Internet sparks flying when her recent Atlantic cover story told women that, yes, she’d tried to have it all—an elite career and a happy family—but, she couldn’t do it. And, she told readers, neither can any other woman. In the midst of the ensuing firestorm, a simple reality emerged: men can’t have it all, either. The solution to work-life balance lies not in the battle of the sexes, but in the policy fixes that have stalled for decades in the United States while we have watched the rest of the world, including developing countries, pass us in the race to make life better for working families.

That’s a race that Americans seem to be largely unaware of, despite its importance. The personal story Slaughter conveyed was unusual. Not every woman works in Washington while her family lives in Princeton, or has to pull all-nighters on her office couch while worrying about her teenage son. Yet the tug of war between work and family—that never-ending balancing act that all families attempt to perfect—is far from unusual. Instead of concluding that we have to reject the women’s movement’s promise that women could “have it all,” it’s time to acknowledge that many of the same limitations hold true for men. Getting home in time to read a bedtime story and kissing the kids goodnight is becoming important for fathers, as well as mothers.

It is not women’s fault that the acrobatic feat of balance is rarely achieved. Neither can we entirely blame men, even if they have set the standard for how the workplace functions, from the lowest rung to the top. The real culprit is embedded in the policies of the American workplace. Men and women have to march in the same parade for change, joined by the elderly, the sick and the disabled; all would benefit from more sensible policies that are the norm in almost all other countries.

Those policies include Paid Family and Medical Leave, Workplace Flexibility and high quality affordable child care and early education. We got a start when President Bill Clinton signed the Unpaid Family and Medical Leave law, on his first day in office, the similar bill which had been vetoed twice by President George Bush. It was thought to be a good first step. Nineteen years later, we are still waiting for the second step: Paid Family and Medical leave.

Paid leave sounds like an expensive idea to many American businesses. Why then, is some form of paid maternity leave the law in every country except Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia and the United States? The rest of the world recognizes that the first few months (in England paid leave was extended from six months to a year) of an infant’s life is critical for its development. According to Save the Children, paid maternity leave is the best predictor of both mothers’ and babies’ health. The United States ranks twenty-five on the list of best countries for mothers. The Scandinavian countries, wishing to engage fathers as well as mothers in child care have carved out special “use it or lose it” father time.

Women, Men, children, and the elderly … all would benefit from more sensible policies that are the norm in almost all other countries.

Unpaid leave is an impractical option for most new parents. The birth of a baby puts new stress on family budgets; not a good time for a family to give up a badly needed paycheck. Slaughter writes that the ability to control her own schedule is what prompted her to leave the State Department and return to her (more than) full-time job at Princeton University. Workplace flexibility is precisely what every working father and mother would love to have; to be there when Emily is sick, to leave a half hour early from work to pick up David from child care, to be in the stands cheering for Johnny’s team, or to take an elderly parent to the doctor in an emergency. Women and men in top management positions often can negotiate flexibility, either in the number of hours worked, where they work, or how many days they work. Mid-level and low-level earners rarely have that opportunity because they have little power, and fear that by asking for flexibility they might be fired.

England and Australia have come up with a compromise that works for most employers and employees. It’s called the Right to Request Flexibility. An employee may ask her or his boss for flexibility without risking dismissal. The employer does not have to grant the request, but they are required to negotiate a compromise. If it is not achieved, the case goes to a tribunal. Employers have grown to like the law because it enables them to attract and retain talent, which saves them much more money in the long term than the cost of flexibility. James Wall, former vice president at Deloitte, calculates that it costs two to five times an annual salary to retrain a new employee, women and men alike.

Often the cost and quality of childcare is the biggest barrier for two-wage-earner working families. Childcare can cost the equivalent of paying off a mortgage. Care can be hard to find, especially for moderate to low-income families. Once again, the United States is a poor cousin compared to our global partners who are much more aware of studies that have shown that the availability of good child care is directly related to the ability of women and men to be in the workforce. One sector of our government understands the link—the United States Department of Defense. The Secretary of Defense manages the best child care system in America. All programs are nationally certified and parents pay on an affordable sliding scale.

It is not difficult to figure out why the Defense Department makes this investment. It would be impossible to recruit and retain men and women in the military if they could not obtain good care for their families while serving their country. Moreover, they saw a correlation between the lack of good childcare and the lack of suitable future recruits.

If only American businesses could make the same connection. The lack of affordable quality childcare has a major impact on economic security. A parent who can’t afford childcare can’t afford to work, and raises children in poverty. In America, we have the highest childhood poverty rate of all developed countries. Hovering between 20 and 22 percent, it has increased by 41percent since 2000. This means mean that we will have a generation of young people who are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, be incarcerated, and have lives interrupted with tragedy. The impact of a declining skilled workforce will be felt by everyone, particularly when we ask this same generation to pay for our Medicare and Social Security without having the ability to pay taxes.

There are success stories. We have succeeded in reducing poverty for the elderly to 9 percent. The consensus is that two government programs achieved these results—Social Security and Medicare. Government intervention, while never the total answer, did in this case, produce dramatic results.

Female leaders have traditionally been in the forefront on family/work issues, changing policies in the private sector, and promoting legislation in State Houses and in the Congress. It is time for men to promote these issues with equal fervor, drawing on their experiences as fathers and sons, just as women have done as mothers and daughters.

To succeed in a time of severe budget cuts in domestic spending and increasing hostility to the role of government, women and men have to join forces both at the grassroots, and in the top echelons of power. The case has to be made that work/life balance is no longer a women’s issue, nor is it a question of reducing stress or increasing comfort, it is a question of providing this generation of women and men and the next generation with the capacity to achieve what all families desire and the nation desperately needs: to enable parents to be both good caregivers and good providers. That conversation has begun. Now we have to continue the dialogue between employers and employees, between the old and the young, and between women and men.

Madeleine M. Kunin was Vermont’s first and only woman governor, and US ambassador to Switzerland during the Clinton administration. She is the author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

Kunin recently appeared on C-SPAN’s BookTV. Watch the talk on YouTube.

“Optimists Change the World” — The Life of Madeleine Kunin

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Award-winning journalist Joyce Marcel recently sat down to talk to Madeleine Kunin,Vermont’s first woman governor and author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, which has garnered rave reviews for its blend of pragmatism and passion.

In her cultured, polite and graceful way, Madeleine M. Kunin is angry.

And when Kunin is angry, it pays to pay attention. After all, she’s got  impressive social change credentials.

Kunin was the first female governor of Vermont (1985-1991). And she was an activist governor, at that. She was the first Jewish governor of Vermont, for that matter. The first Jewish woman ever elected governor of a U.S. state. The first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor three times. The fourth woman to be elected governor in her own right (instead of inheriting the position from a deceased husband.)

After she left office, she founded the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which for more than 20 years has done successful community-building projects in 24 countries, including the U.S.

She also joined the Clinton administration, first to research vice-presidential candidates, then as Deputy Secretary of Education. Later, Clinton appointed her ambassador to Switzerland, where she prodded the Swiss banking establishment into confronting its financial actions during and after World War II.

She is the author of three books — a new one, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family,” comes out this month. She is the mother of four children; the grandmother of five. Many talented women look to her as a mentor. She is currently the Marsh Scholar and Professor at Large at the University of Vermont.

Although Kunin is an accomplished politician, author, teacher, mentor and public speaker — and a master of controlled emotion — when she entered public life she wasn’t even certain that she would like it — or be any good at it.

“But I found it a fascinating world,” Kunin told me. “All different points of view; it was stimulating. You have to be a quick study about a whole bunch of new issues. And I found the interaction with constituents interesting and fun. You may skim the surface, but the surface is huge. Instead of living a life in your own little bubble, you break out of it and see this enormous landscape of life.”

Kunin has won elections and lost elections.

“Losing isn’t easy, and sometimes I took it personally,” she said. “But you have to move on. Politics has its ups and downs. When I lost my first campaign for governor, I was devastated, even though I knew it was a tough race. You get caught by the fever. It’s an adrenaline rush in politics that can be both wonderful and miserable, depending on where you are. But I have no regrets. The risk was worth taking.”

“She is a gutsy, visionary politician,” said Jonathan Lash, who served as Kunin’s secretary of natural resources and is now president of  Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. “I loved working for her. It was a blast. She’s somebody who makes ‘politician’ not a dirty word.”

To many people around the world, Kunin has become an icon of leadership.

“Madeleine is a remarkably compassionate and visionary leader,” said George Hamilton, the president of ISC. “She has had amazing accomplishments, from writing books to founding ISC to being a role model to women around the world. Most compelling is the way she’s inspired women by example and by writing honestly about what it means to be a leader. I travel with her a lot. I see the response she gets. It’s really very moving.”

One of the young women Kunin has mentored is Vermont Representative Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden 3-4), who was the student body president of the University of Vermont and, at 21, ran for state office and won.

“Madeleine Kunin was very inspirational,” Ram said. “When I first met her, she gave me an hour of her time, and I left feeling ‘Wow! I would love to be involved in politics in a state where a former governor is so warm and accessible.’ She was a reminder that you don’t have to leave who you are when you enter the halls of power. Since then she’s been an incredible mentor and inspiration. What also means a lot to me is that she’s able to inspire women of all ages and backgrounds. She’s someone I would like to be. She embodies strength and courage. She speaks her mind and is eloquent, but she is also humble.”

At 78, I found Kunin to be both feminine and fragile.

When we met to talk at the Burlington home she shares with her second husband, retired Dartmouth professor John W. Hennessey, Jr. she was charming and lovely and, as always, elegantly dressed and coiffed. (Kunin  dedicated her new book to Hennessey: “For John, my first reader, editor, constant support and also — a feminist.”)

The couple’s living room has floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking Lake Champlain. A bright red abstract by Vermont artist Emily Mason graces one wall opposite a purple forest painted by Mason’s husband, Wolf Kahn. The two paintings strike a nice ironic balance.

The house is filled with photos of Kunin’s four children, her five grandchildren, her husband’s children and grandchildren, and portraits of her with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Geraldine Ferraro and other notables.

When talking about herself, Kunin was thoughtful, patient, honest about herself and diplomatic about others. She has a good sense of humor and isn’t afraid to giggle when something strikes her as funny. She is deeply intelligent. Her focus is laser sharp. She gives a great interview.

“She’s the complete role model,” said Jan Blittersdorf, the president and CEO of NRG Systems. “She always looks fabulous and its never conservative or like ‘a woman of a certain age.’ She’s regal. I think she’s a fine example of a successful woman. I guess I wonder who’s going to follow her footsteps, politically. What’s going to happen coming up? And is anybody going to follow her lead of supporting women in political positions? A man or a woman?”

Kunin is far from ready to retire to a rocking chair. What is making her angry now is the fact that decades after the second wave of the women’s movement in the Sixties and Seventies —the first wave gave women the vote — gender equality has still not been achieved in the United States. And even worse, gains made by women in multiple areas of civic society are being threatened or taken away vote by vote, state by state.
It’s 2012, Kunin said. Things should be different.

“I’m angry that a golf course in Georgia doesn’t allow women,” Kunin told me. “How can that be? I thought we would have settled these issues.”
In the introduction to her new book she writes that by this time:

“I did not expect that women would still make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. I expected that one-third to one-half of our Congress, governors, state legislatures and mayors would be female. I did not expect that in 2010 that number would be 17 percent in the Congress, and the United States would be tied at 69th place in the percentage of women in parliaments, out of 178 countries. I expected that one-third to one-half of corporate board members would be women. I did not expect to see that proportion stuck at 17 percent. I expected that a high percentage of the Fortune 500 companies would be led by women. I did not expect that figure to be 3 percent.  I expected that misogyny, rape and other acts of violence against women would be widely condemned and sharply reduced…I expected that by 2011 grandmothers like myself would be able to tell their grandchildren of how life used to be ‘long ago.’”

Does she think the Republican right wing has declared war on women?

“It sure sounds that way,” she told me. “It’s contraception, it’s choice, it’s violence against women, it’s cutting social programs, cutting Pell Grants. But I’m sure they don’t see it that way. There’s a real disconnect — they just look at issues from the male perspective. We have a huge divide.”

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney can have many children because they can support them, she pointed out. What about single mothers who can’t support even their smaller families?

“Take the whole issue of contraception,” Kunin said. “I don’t know if I want to say it, but they should remember that Jesus was an only child. Almost every woman and family throughout history has practiced contraception. It didn’t start yesterday. The ability to control when and whether you want to bear children is the most essential thing for family life, not just for women. And making it possible for lower-income women have insurance coverage for that is just common sense, because it also dramatically reduces the number of abortions.”

Kunin is anything but shrill about a current political climate she characterizes as “nasty.”

“I guess I’m still polite in my anger,” she said. “That’s just my nature.”

Keep reading…

From Women’s E-news, Madeleine Kunin Reflects on Mom-Career ‘Muddling’

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Originally published by Women’s E-News.

The first female governor of Vermont reflects on how she wound up running for office with children aged 3, 6, 8 and 10. In this excerpt from her book The New Feminist Agenda she credits, among other things, coming of age in a transitional time.

(WOMENSENEWS) — The 1950s portrait of the ideal family has almost become a museum piece: Mom standing by the kitchen counter wearing an apron; Dad sitting in an easy chair, wearing a shirt and tie; their two children–the boy always somewhat older and taller than the girl–playing quietly on the rug in front of the fireplace. Why, I wonder, is Dad always reading the newspaper and Mom incessantly stirring batter in a bowl?

That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it is for 21 percent of American families today, only Mom is more likely to be dressed for yoga than for the kitchen and Dad is no longer wearing a tie. However, in 79 percent of American families, both Mom and Dad are getting the children off to school before each rushes off to work.

Surprisingly, working families today– despite their guilt about not spending enough time with their children–actually spend more time with them than their parents did. Two economists from the University of California, San Diego, reported that child care time by parents was about 12 hours a week before 1995. “By 2007, that number had risen to 21.2 hours a week for college-educated women and 15.9 hours for those with less education.”

All parents, regardless of income, want the best for their children. Most parents question, from time to time, whether they are good parents and both Mom and Dad are likely to be stressed, depressed or both. Many families swing back and forth between the two models, depending on the time in their lives, whether they have an opportunity to work full- or part-time, their financial resources, their personal preferences and cultural expectations.When I am asked how I managed to have a political career and raise four children with my then-husband, I don’t have a clear answer. The most accurate reply is that I muddled my way through, but since I tell women not to berate themselves, I will answer that I did it in stages.

Marriage and Ambition

When I got married at the age of 25, considered “old” in 1959, I believed I could easily have a career in journalism and have a family. Marriage would be no substitute for my ambition.

I knew from the start what I did not want, and that was to be like a typical 1960s doctor’s wife I had met at teas for the Woman’s Auxiliary to the American Medical Association, who had sacrificed her career to “put her husband through medical school” and then, for her reward, settled into full-time motherhood. A woman’s identity was closely tied to her husband’s in those days. Protocol demanded that every envelope be properly addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Kunin. I, like most of the women of my generation, had no first name.

But when my daughter Julia was born in 1961 I dropped all ambivalence about family and work and reveled in the miracle of motherhood. I saw myself as the original earth mother when she nursed at my breast; I was now part of the Great Chain of Being. I was happy and determined to take total responsibility for her care.

When did my attention wander off from motherhood and back to thoughts of a career? On my 30th birthday, my friend Terry and I were sitting at an outdoor café in Cambridge, Mass., rocking our navy blue English baby carriages back and forth in rhythm. We lived in Cambridge, where my husband was pursuing post-doctoral research at Harvard and I had recently given birth to our second child, Peter. I said to Terry, “My God, I’m 30. What’s going to become of my life?” (This was the hippy era, when the mantra was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”)

I came of age as a mother and a politician in a transitional time, when the women’s movement was beginning to illuminate a new world in front of our eyes. Some women my age looked the other way. I was transfixed. The women’s movement gave me permission to change my timetable for reentry into the adult world. The usual schedule for mothers was that they would wait until their children were fully grown and safely ensconced in college.

Not Waiting

The environmental movement and the women’s movement had both drawn me in with a passion and given me a cause. Instead of waiting, I ran for a seat in the Vermont legislature when my children were 3, 6, 8 and 10 years old and served for three terms, before being elected lieutenant governor and then governor.

But in the early 1990s, when I was writing my first book, “Living a Political Life,“a memoir, the first draft had so many passages about guilt that my editor took large chunks out. Most distressing to me is that my children have almost no memory of the chocolate chip cookies I baked, the macaroni and cheese I cooked or the hours on the playground I spent shoveling sand–for 11 years between 1961 and 1972.

The answer to the question of “How did you do it?” is that there is no simple single answer. Each person walks through the labyrinth at a different pace, and even in a different direction, before she or he comes out the other side. I know that if my husband had not been the primary wage earner and supported my ambitions I would not have had the flexibility or finances to launch and sustain a 16-year political career.

I had one other advantage not often discussed: a high-quality nursery school (what would now be called a preschool), called Jill’s School, that my youngest son Daniel loved to attend. Then there was Mabel Fisher who babysat and later Shirley Labelle whose specialties were apple pie and baked potatoes. Her real talent was that she greeted my children when they came home from school. Without the help of these women, I would have been still standing by the stove stirring batter.

Madeleine M. Kunin was the first female governor of Vermont and the first woman in the U.S. to serve three terms as governor. She served as deputy secretary of education and ambassador to Switzerland in the Clinton administration. She lives in Burlington, Vt.

For more information:

Buy the book, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family”:
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9781603582919?p_ti

Madeleine M. Kunin on The Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/

Madeleine M. Kunin on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/MadeleineMKunin


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