2018 was a landmark year for SBWPC as we celebrated “30 Years of Feminism: From Marching in the Street to a Seat at the Table.” Thirty years ago, our founding members organized to bring feminist consciousness into the political discourse. They understood that feminist, progressive women needed to take a seat at the table, or as Sheila Kuehl would say, a place in the room, to shape policies and enact legislation consistent with our values.
SBWPC changed the political landscape in Santa Barbara. In 1988, for the first time ever, two women, Gloria Ochoa and Diane Owens, were elected to the Board of Supervisors. Ten years later, Barney Brantingham proclaimed in his November 7, 1998 Santa Barbara News Press column that “Voters kissed ‘good old boy’ days good bye.” Susan Rose, Naomi Schwartz and Gail Marshall were elected to the Board of Supervisors, Hannah-Beth Jackson replaced Brooks Firestone in the Assembly and Lois Capps retained her seat in Congress, the first women ever from our district to serve in the House. This momentum did not slow down. Over the years, many more women followed at all levels of government. Today, electing progressive, feminist women to serve in political office and on boards has become the norm in Santa Barbara.
Thirty years later, we continue our mission to bring about change through the political process and community involvement. At our anniversary dinner, on October 19, 2018, Congressman Salud Carbajal recognized our work by presenting SBWPC with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition “in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community.” I was also honored with a similar Certificate.
SBWPC continues to mentor women wishing to serve in elected or appointed office and endorse candidates espousing our values. In 2018, we held three candidate workshops, continued raising money for our new fund “A Seat at the Table: a Fund for a Feminist Future,” conducted three endorsement meetings and volunteered for our endorsed candidates. We also promoted our feminist agenda by supporting or opposing legislation at the local, state and national level. We renewed our commitment to the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment which is long overdue.
We continue to advocate for an inclusive society based on the values of social, political, racial and economic gender equality, a society where everyone has a voice and nobody is left behind. Our vision of society is facing an unprecedented threat. In Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley’s words, the narrative Trump created – a mythical past destroyed by liberals, feminists and immigrants, a sense of nostalgia for a racially pure, traditional patriarchal system, seeding division and attacks on the truth – puts us perilously close to the breaking down of our democracy. We cannot and have not remained silent in the face of such a threat. Throughout 2018, we have spoken truth to power at every turn participating with our community partners in numerous protests, marches and rallies against the administration’s regressive policies.
The road ahead will be difficult but the mid-term election has given us hope. By electing such a diverse group of women – women of color, LBGT women, Muslim American women, Indigenous women, young women, many newcomers to politics – to represent them in Congress and state offices, the voters have chosen our vision of society over that of the President. These are the women who will lead us to victory!
These are also the women who will lead SBWPC through its next thirty years. I am thrilled that SBWPC will be led in 2019 by an extraordinary group of young women: incoming President Luz Reyes-Martìn and Vice-Presidents Andria Martinez Cohen and Madison Cuneo.
It was a privilege and an honor to serve as your president for the past three years. SBWPC would not be what it is today without you. Together, we created a community of like-minded progressive feminists who work together to make the world a better place and to provide a safe space to support and mentor each other so each one of us can reach her full political potential. We are strong because we embrace the concept that success for one of us is success for all of us. This was true when SBWPC was born and is still true today.
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank the smart, bold women who serve on the board, on our various committees and who volunteer at all our events. Your support and insights were invaluable. A heartfelt thank you for all you have done.
I hope you are as excited as I am to embark on Year Three of the Resistance under the leadership of Luz Reyes-Martìn. 2019 will be a great year for SBWPC!
Catherine J. Swysen