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October Spitfire 2013 Recap: "Suffragette in the City - Politics, the Upcoming Elections, and Active Citizenship"

Boston GLOW Spitfires are held on the first Wednesday of every month. These value-added networking events offer fresh perspectives on the topics our members find most interesting. 

(Our October 2013 Spitfire Panelists, from left to right: Cheryl Clyburn Crawford,
Samantha Washburn-Baronie, Celia Segel, Marissa Szabo)

Our government might be on pause, but the democratic spirit was alive and well at last night’s October Spitfire, “Suffragette in the City: A Conversation about Politics, the Upcoming Elections, and Active Citizenship.” A group of thirty Organized Women met at Globe Bar and Café on Boylston Street to share their experiences, network, and talk (political) turkey. 

Leading the discussion was moderator Marissa Szabo (Intergovernmental Affairs Analyst, Office of the State Auditor) and expert panelists Cheryl Clyburn Crawford (Executive Director, MassVOTE), Celia Segel (Organizing and Politcal Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts), and Samantha Washburn-Baronie (Associate Director, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.) Showing a plethora of knowledge across a wide cross-section of subjects, the panel examined the recent mayoral race and Charlotte Golar Ritchie’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign that nonetheless made a significant impact. “There’s a good ‘ole boy network in Boston…” Cheryl Clyburn Crawford said, “but let me tell you, at her campaign events, the room was packed.” They discussed barriers to women and minority groups running for office, voting, and further participating in the political process along with potential solutions, such as calls for early identification of potential female legislators, online voter registration, and the sharing of information through “tell-a-friend” strategies. “I definitely caught the bug early,” Washburn-Baronie recalled, “and I did the research and legwork necessary to work in the political sector, and was able to engage those close to me along the way. It’s easy to share your views with others, and you never know what effect it might have.” 

Szabo’s insightful and thought-provoking line of questioning culminated in a discussion of the term “women’s issues.” “I’m interested in knowing your thoughts about the phrase, and how you think women should approach discussing such issues,” she prompted the panelists. Celia Segel was quick to reply, “I think we need to be a little less shy about the issues impacting women and girls in our community…the term should be used to further our mission.” “What are women’s issues?” Clyburn Crawford added, “Equal Pay? Reproductive rights? Women might be the ones who feel the brunt of these problems, but these are human issues, not women’s issues. Everyone is affected.” 

When the conversation opened up to feedback from the rapt audience, there was an explosion of questions and comments to build upon the panelists’ solid foundation. The group debated and deliberated in rapid-fire succession as the wall came down between panel and audience and the evening evolved into something truly special: a meeting of intelligent, informed women simply communicating with each other. “It’s pretty incredible how appropriate the name of the event is.” attendee Priti Rao observed as the evening began to wind down, “When people think of the Suffragette movement, they tend to forget that it all started with a small group of women and grew into something so much bigger. I think that’s what we’re doing here. We’re becoming that new movement.”


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