The lovely McLean, Virginia home of Lynne and Greg O’Brien was the setting for a NWHM event last night with special guests former ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Co-hosted by Linda and Joe Jenckes and Charlotte and Bob Kettler, the get-together was a chance for about ninety guests to get to know NWHM over a glass of wine and some hors d’oeuvres on a perfectly warm and breezy evening.
Sam Donaldson spoke briefly about witnessing the rise of women in the news media over his forty-five-year career. While the first African-American reporters were hired in the 1960s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that women were given a chance to pursue on-air reporting careers. Reporters such as Jessica Savitch, Kathleen Sullivan and Ann Compton and a tenacious Barbara Walters worked their way from “the ground up”. Donaldson spoke highly of the skill and professionalism of women such as Diane Sawyer and Cokie Roberts. He amused guests with the story that Katie Couric claims he jumped up on a desk and sang “KKKatie, Beautiful Katie” to her when she was a script girl. He praised the fact that now half of the on-air news personalities are women. In addition, he said that he tells his male journalism students that they must work twice as hard to match the quality and drive of today’s aspiring female reporters. In closing, Donaldson lent his support to the goal of building the National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, long-time supporter of NWHM followed with a series of fascinating anecdotes gathered from research she conducted for her two books, American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country and Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers. Senator Hutchison emphasized how the struggles of the first generation of American women to gain equality paved the way for those who succeeded them. She then stressed the importance of a permanent home for American women’s history as a way to honor our female predecessors and educate future generations about their troubles and triumphs. One of the Senator’s most compelling stories was about the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in medicine, Gerty Cori. Originally from Prague, Cori and her husband Carl emigrated to the United States in 1922 in the hope of continuing their joint research in physiology.
However, while Carl Cori could easily find work as an academic researcher in America, Gerty Cori was refused such a position because of her gender. Washington University in St. Louis finally agreed to hire the couple together, but Gerty Cori was relegated to a position as a lab assistant. The Coris were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1947. Senator Hutchison noted that it wasn’t until the day of the Nobel win that Gerty Cori was awarded a full professorship. Adding further insult to injury, the headline of a prominent newspaper read “California Socialite Wins the Nobel Prize.”
Former Democratic National Committee head Terry McAuliffe then warmly introduced NWHM President Joan Wages as a tireless champion for women’s rights. Her remarks included the reasons that a women’s history museum is essential to complete the American story. The most stunning story she told was about the six-year-old daughter of one of her colleagues. During the 2008 presidential primaries, the girl was overheard saying the Hillary Clinton could never be president because “it’s against the law”. When her mother asked her why she would say such a thing, the girl replied that if it was legal for a woman to be president, “we would have had one by now”. Wages ended her remarks urging the guests to become involved with NWHM as volunteers and contributors.
NWHM thanks the hosts, speakers and guests for an enlightening, enjoyable and successful evening.
Click here to view footage from the event.