Honoring the women of the Green Movement

On this  International Women’s Day, I’d like to honor the contributions to independent politics and activism by the women of the Green Party and Movement, worldwide and locally. This is by no means exhaustive. Women serve in leadership roles in greater proportion in state Green parties, and on the GPUS National Committee than in any other party. I’m most familiar with, and have benefited from the knowledge and expertise of, many of the women of the Green Party of New York State, and so have featured them.

The Green Party was co-founded by the woman who became the voice and embodiment of Green values and principles, and,  in fact, defined and articulated those principles : Petra Kelly. Her vision of the Green Party was defined as much by feminism as it was by social justice, ecology, democracy, and nonviolence. Kelly believed that in order for an alternative, “anti-party” party to succeed, it had to break the chains of patriarchy and embrace the holistic understanding of the world that feminism provided. From the outset, women have had a leadership role in the Green Party, whether within the party structure or as candidates.

At almost the same time that Kelly was laying the groundwork for the German Green Party, in Kenya, Dr. Wangari Maathai was building a movement to empower village women that started by simply planting trees and grew into what has become the Green Belt Movement, which also takes a holistic, community approach to solving the problems of  environment, food production and economics. Dr. Maathai later founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya, a member of the Global Greens to which the Green Party of the United States also belongs.

Green women are playing prominent roles in other countries as well. Caroline Lucas was the first Green elected to the British Parliament, after having previously been elected to the European Parliament and then as leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. In Canada, Elizabeth May was the first elected Green to the Canadian Parliament, and also serves as the leader of the Canadian Green Party.

In this country, Gayle McLaughlin has been the Mayor of Richmond, CA since 2006. She was first elected to the Richmond Town Council, which boasted a majority of elected Greens. McLaughlin has taken on Chevron Oil and major banks in the name of the people, and turned eminent domain on it’s head by using it to protect homeowners from foreclosure by the banks. She also hired Richmond Police Chief  Chris Magnus, who has reduced crime and arrests at the same time with innovative community based programs.

Green women have been prominent as candidates for election at all levels of government. A woman has been on every Green Party ticket for U. S. President since 1996:

  • 1996 – Ralph Nader / Muriel Tillinghast
  • 2000 – Ralph Nader / Winona LaDuke
  • 2004 – David Cobb / Pat LaMarche
  • 2008 –  Cynthia McKinney / Rosa Clemente
  • 2012 – Jill Stein / Cheri Honkala

(Jill Stein has formed an exploratory committee for the 2016 Presidential Election.)

In New York State and New York City, women have been candidates on the Statewide and Citywide slates respectively since 1998:

  • 1998 – Governor / Lt. Governor: Al Lewis / Alice Green
  • 2001 – NYC Mayor: Julia Willebrand
  • 2002 – Governor / Lt. Governor: Stanley Aronowitz / Jennifer Daniels; Attorney General: Mary Jo Long
  • 2005 – Brooklyn Borough President: Gloria Mattera
  • 2006 – Governor / Lt. Governor: Malachy McCourt / Alison Duncan; Attorney General: Rachel Treichler; Comptroller: Julia Willebrand
  • 2010- Governor / Lt. Governor: Howie Hawkins / Gloria Mattera; Comptroller: Julia Willebrand
  • 2013 – Comptroller: Julia Willebrand
  • 2014 – Comptroller: Theresa Portelli

Green women running in New York for Congress, State Senate, State Assembly and NYC City Council have included:

  • 1998 –  State Senate:  Julia Willebrand, SD30
  • 2000 – U. S. House: Sandra Stevens, CD14; Eve Hawkins, CD 28; State Senate: Becky Shaw, SD1; Cynthia Jenkins, SD10
  • 2002 –  U. S. House: Lorna Salzman, CD1; Elizabeth Shanklin, CD17; Margaret Lewis, CD20; Rachel Treichler, CD29; State Senate: Leslie Farney, SD38; Bonnie Cannan, SD56; State Assembly: Ivana Edwards, AD65
  • 2004 – State Senate: Rebecca White, SD17
  • 2005 – NY City Council: Robyn Sklar, CC26
  • 2009 – NY City Council: Lynne Serpe, CC22
  • 2010 – U.S. Senate: Colia Clark, Cecile Lawrence; State Senate: Ann Roos, SD31
  • 2012 – U.S. Senate: Colia Clark; U. S. House: Ursula Rozum, CD24; State Assembly: Julia Willebrand, AD67
  • 2013 –  NY City Council: Lynne Serpe, CC22

Even if not working in state parties, running as candidates, or serving in elected office, many women enrolled in the Green Party are activists and organizers in their own right. Prominent among them are Leslie Cagan, former coordinator for United For Peace and Justice, and former Chair of Pacifica Radio; Colia Clark, Betty Davis, Alice Green and Cecile Lawrence, veterans of the civil rights movement. Locally, Ivana Edwards of Manhattan has been organizing for single payer health care for years; Julia Willebrand was Chair of the Solid Waste Committee of the NYC chapter of the Sierra Club; Ann Eagan, longtime activist from Queens now living in Manhattan, was just elected Treasurer of the anti-nuclear group Shut Down Indian Point Now!; Environmentalist and theologian, Eleanor Rae, is the founder and Chair of the Hutchinson River Restoration Project, and is, appropriately for this day, the Director of C-WED: The Center for Women, the Earth, the Divine; Elizabeth Shanklin is an Advocate with the United Federation of Teachers, a longtime activist in the Women’s Movement, and the former Chair of Bronx Greens  and the Bronx County Green Party.

My thanks and gratitude goes out to each and every one of these women on this International Women’s Day for the work they’ve accomplished in building a party and movement that is truly empowering for women, and for the inspiration, pride and privilege I feel in working alongside them.



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