HOW IT BEGAN...
A group of friends, all DFLers, all women, would get together periodically to visit and talk. They were a mix of women: some older and some younger; some with long histories of involvement in the DFL, some newer to the process; one who had been a candidate for public office, most party office holders; some from the Twin Cities metro area and some were from greater Minnesota. There was something they all shared; a passion for public policy and DFL politics.
The topic this day turned to discussion of an upcoming DFL event, an event to honor “Living Legends of the DFL.” Who were these living legends? What were the criteria for their selection? The answers came easy. They were all DFLers who had held congressional or statewide electoral office. Apparently, the criteria to be a “legend” of the party was election to office and the criteria for “living” portion of the tittle was apparent. Any current or former office –holder still breathing would make the list; regardless of quality of service or level of honor/dishonor brought to the party. Oh, there was something else. With two exceptions, they were all men.
While we applauded the impulse to honor the people who have demonstrated a commitment to the DFL, some obvious questions arose. “Where were the women who had been the backbone of this party?” Where were all the women who worked year-after-year to bring the electoral victories? Where were the women who infused the party and the entire political arena with challenging dialogue and savvy perspective? Where were the women who put themselves on the line as candidates and as campaign leaders- particularly when breaking new ground? Where were the women who, in fact, represented the only consistently reliable base of workers and of voters for this DFL Party and its candidates?
A FORCE FOR CHANGE...
Everyone knows about the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. This was one wallop of a straw.
Wasn't it almost 30 years ago that the landmark study of the DFL called "Present but Powerless" described a political party that gained the value of women's involvement without recognition of that value and without sharing of power with those who contributed so mightily? Many things have changed, fortunately, since the 1972 report. And they have changed because of the efforts of women like those being honored. But once in a while, there needs to be another "nudge".
Decisions were made to have a grassroots process - to give value and meaning to the awards. Every recipient of the first DFL Women’s Hall of Fame, whether a Woman of Distinction, having dedicated energies over the years to the DFL and the DFL principles or a Rising Star of the party - every one of them was a trailblazer, women who not only impacted public policy of our state and the politics of our party but who opened doors for other women and demonstrated the quality that women bring to the arena of political action.
The women before us have told us we have power. We believe it, we exercise it. While we are not dependent on the party to tell us we have power, it is our sincerest desire that we can, into the future, work together in an environment that both respects and honors all of those women who have contributed to and continue to contribute to the DFL party.