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home : features : profile October 23, 2017

Activism runs in the family
Profile: Priscilla Lord and Emma Faris, mother and daughter, support progressive women running for political office
L-R: Priscilla Lord and Emma Faris. Courtesy photo.

She taught me to show up as a woman," Faris says. The lessons were clear: "You don't have a choice. You are privileged. You have a voice and you need to use it. It's not an option to not use it.
- Emma Faris

by Mary Turck


At six years old, Priscilla Lord was already doorknocking for her father's state senate campaign. By the time she was 12, Miles Lord was Minnesota Attorney General, and deeply immersed in state politics. Because her mother didn't like to go to political events, she says, "my dad would drag me along."

At these events, Lord "learned how to do a Barbara Walters interview," asking people questions and getting them to talk about themselves. Her father told her, "You have to take care of other people and you have to try to get fairness in this world," especially for "the little guy." At the same time, she says, family was "super duper important." Her mother "gave us the strength of family and she kept it all together."

Priscilla's story

Lord's involvement in politics continued, leading her to work for Hubert Humphrey in Washington, and later to teaching. By 1976, married and back in Minnesota with two young children and another on the way, she decided to go to law school. Priscilla Lord worried about her mother's reaction to the law school plan. "When I did tell her," Lord recalls, "she said, 'Oh yes, do it!'"

Pregnant with Emma, her third child, she couldn't fit in the desk to take the "pretty scary" LSAT test to go to law school. She persevered, graduating from law school in 1980. She opened a commercial real estate business so she could be independent and still have time with the children.

In 1989, tragedy struck when a drunk driver killed her son, Wayne Faris, Jr. Priscilla Lord channeled grief and anger into lobbying for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her father, now retired from the federal bench, asked her to work with him as a lawyer. She thought no; they tended to clash. But he insisted, and working together turned out to be "fabulous." Class action cases - like representing women with silicon breast implants - were a big part of the work. Eventually she set up her own practice, where she still works. She was named a Minnesota Super Lawyer by Minnesota Law and Politics in 2006 and 2007.

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Emma's story

Emma Faris remembers sharing her mother's desk and setting up a "fake office" in her bedroom as a little girl. Growing up, Faris says, "Everyone in my family was an attorney - mom, dad, grandfather, uncle, aunt. It just seemed like it was time for somebody to do something a little different." She loved going to open houses and looking at houses, which led naturally to her career as a realtor. After 16 years, she still loves that work, attributing her success to the strong connections she makes with people.

That talent for connecting serves well in her activist life, where she is a board member of womenwinning, a Minnesota non-profit dedicated to increasing pro-choice women's representation as elected political officials.

Emma Faris credits her mother for her activism. "It was seeing her and what she did from the time I was a baby until now, and the sacrifices she had to make and so many women still have to make."

Faris remembers that, as a child, "it was very cool to say, 'My grandpa is Miles Lord.' I knew there was a legacy there that was powerful." Though the legacy was important, she says firmly that her biggest influence was her mother.

"She taught me to show up as a woman," Faris says. The lessons were clear: "You don't have a choice. You are privileged. You have a voice and you need to use it. It's not an option to not use it. ... I learned that you have to put your words into action, that saying things doesn't mean anything unless you back it up by your actions and by your money."

Making a difference

Faris believes every woman has skills to bring to the table. "It doesn't matter how much you know," she says. "It matters how much you care and how you can plug in your own set of gifts to make a difference."

For Priscilla Lord, making a difference throughout her career has included advocating for clients as a lawyer, serving on the boards of organizations such as Little Earth Housing Community, Chrysalis, and the University of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Board, and even running for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Emma Faris focuses on making a difference with womenwinning where, she says, "There's a lot more work to be done to get women from thinking about running for office to running for office and winning."

Lauren Beecham, the executive director of womenwinning, praises the long-time support of both Priscilla Lord and Emma Faris - especially Faris's work to engage and empower emerging leaders by "using her experience and her power as a leader to set an example for younger women."

FFI: womenwinning.org





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