From an 11-part series recorded at the April 16, 2022, “Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women” event
Thanks to First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis for hosting the April 16, 2022, event on behalf of the 38th anniversary of Minnesota Women’s Press and its kickoff of Changemakers Alliance.
To become a supporting member of Changemakers Alliance and its conversations-to-CALLs-to-action, click here. Contributions also can be made via Venmo at @mnwomenspress.
I am really excited to put a badass woman on my resume. And I am pleased to be up here with other badass women. What a room full of power. I don’t know if you can feel that, but, wow.
I am Beth Peterson. I am the statewide director of Vote. Run. Lead. My job is to build a more inclusive and equitable democracy here in Minnesota. In the next two election cycles, Vote. Run. Lead. is going to shift the Minnesota legislature to majority-led women.
I know what I am asking. I ran and served as a city council member in the heart of the Iron Range in Eveleth. As the only woman on the council at the time, it was really hard to bring about and keep in the forefront issues that moms were experiencing in my town at the time.
Having discussions about simply how to arrange the bathrooms when we were renovating our city auditorium to bringing awareness to domestic violence month in our city and shifting how our police addressed that issue in our community — even to evaluating our economic development practices in order to recruit employers that really had family-friendly practices like paid leave and health care and other things that moms need beyond just a living wage.
So, I have done that work of creating a Minnesota that works for everyone. It will take a change of mindset. Imagine if our legislature looked like this room. What could we get done, right?
Right now we are seeing across the nation what happens when women are not equitably represented at the legislature: our reproductive and voting rights are under attack and the things women need to be economically stable are actually legislated against.
Minnesota has shown what can happen when women lead. We see more radical and equitable solutions. For instance, last year we saw the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives office and the creation of the task force for Missing and Murdered African American Women. It is being replicated all across the nation — what started here — and that would not have happened without representation in the legislature, such as from Senator Mary Kunesh or Representatives Jamie Becker Finn and Heather Keeler.
We must do better, though. Minnesota must do better. For instance, we need three times more women of color in the legislature to reach parity — and that is based on what we currently have, that is not counting who we are losing this year due to retirements.
We also have never had a Black woman in the senate. [audience gasp] No, we have never had a Black woman senator. There are five Black women running this year to change that.
Our Latina representation is also in danger in the senate with the retirements of Senator Patricia Torres Ray and Melisa Lopez Franzen. So, we can do better.
I love what Representative Alice Hausman said [in earlier video clip during program]: Don’t ask permission, just do. That is what I am asking you to do. Hold our parties accountable. Get involved in the process and ensure women have the support they need to move through that endorsement process, or to leverage party resources when they run. Also, give more money to women of color who are running for office, to make a more inclusive representation. Volunteer on their campaigns. You can help out and we can make this change.
I am also going to ask you to run for office. You can do that by nominating yourself on the Vote. Run. Lead. website. Come talk to me. Email me. Let’s chat.
We know that women are the leaders that we need. That our diverse life experiences and our different journeys provide the qualifications and innovative solutions for problems that we face today. We are the leaders that we need to drive these solutions and make a more equitable democracy here in Minnesota.
After today I expect all of you to be my new best friends. Call me when you want to run for office. Call me if you are thinking about running for office. Have your friends call me. Text me at odd hours, my phone is always with me. I want to meet with you. I want to help you run for office. I want to help you on this journey and work together to run for office, and help other women run for office.
We can make the Minnesota house Her house.
Suzann Willhite, director of ERA Minnesota, speaks in the group conversation at “Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women” about why the state needs to legalize equal rights for women.