Speakers

Kirstin Downey

Kirstin Downey

The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience

Kirstin Downey is the daughter of an expatriate American ship captain and spent her childhood, until college, moving from place to place around the globe. Now living in Washington, D. C., she has been on staff at the Washington Post since 1988.  Since joining the Washington Post, Ms. Downey has won a variety of national and regional press association awards for her business and economics reporting. Most recently she shared in the 2008 Pulitzer Prize awarded to The Washington Post for its coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

In 2000, Ms. Downey received a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University to study the economic and workforce history of the U.S. Her fellowship year research into the country’s economic history led to her biography of Frances Perkins.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Charlayne Hunter-Gault

From Jim Crow America to Apartheid South Africa and Beyond: A Journalist’s Journey

Charlayne Hunter-Gault the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist will deliver the first Spring 2009 Body Politic(s) lecture on Friday, March 27.  Her talk, From Jim Crow America to Apartheid South Africa and Beyond: A Journalist’s Journey will take place at 7:30pm in Gamble Auditorium, Art Building on the campus of Mount Holyoke.  Ms. Hunter-Gault is a veteran and prize-winning journalist.  She was part of the heroic cohort of students who integrated universities in the American South during the Civil Rights era.  The first African-American woman to enter the University of Georgia, she graduated in 1962 with a degree in journalism.

At the New York Times, Ms. Hunter-Gault was the first African American reporter on staff and she held the position of Harlem Bureau Chief.  During her tenure at the New York Times, Ms. Gault won numerous awards, including the National Urban Coalition Award for Distinguished Urban Reporting and The New York Times' Publisher's Award.  She served as Johannesburg Bureau Chief and Correspondent for CNN, and spent two decades at PBS where she was National Correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and also was anchor of Rights and Wrongs, the award-winning human rights-focused newsmagazine. From 1997 to 1999, she was based in Johannesburg as chief correspondent in Africa for NPR.

Ms. Hunter-Gault has written for numerous publications, including Essence, Ms., The New York Times Magazine, Saturday Review, The New York Times Book Review, Essence, Life, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Vogue.  Her honors include two Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists; the 1990 Sidney Hillman Award; the Good Housekeeping Broadcast Personality of the Year Award; the American Women in Radio and Television Award; and two awards from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for excellence in local programming.  Her books include New News Out of Africa: What Africa Means to Me and In My Place, a memoir of her role in the civil rights movement as the first African American woman admitted to the University of Georgia.

In addition to her Body Politic(s) lecture, Ms. Hunter-Gault will be part of the Weissman Center's Tenth Anniversary Leadership Symposium scheduled for Saturday, March 28th.  For information about the WCL Anniversary and Leadership Symposium that features presentations by Congresswoman Nita Lowey ’59, activist Carolyn Jessop, journalist Maria Hinojosa, MHC Athletics Director Laurie Priest, and historian Mary Kelley '65, see the WCL 10th Anniversary website.

Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa

Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?

Maria Hinojosa is a award-winning and veteran journalist whose attention to urban affairs, political events, and international women’s and children’s rights issues have earned her impressive honors within journalism and recognition by national and international organizations.  A pioneer in the world of broadcast media, she was the first Latina correspondent for both National Public Radio (NPR) and for Cable Network News (CNN).   Currently the senior correspondent for the PBS weekly news program NOW, she anchors and is managing editor of Latino USA, a weekly national news and culture program on NPR, and she also anchors the Boston WGBH show One on One with Maria Hinojosa.  Her documentary, Child Brides: Stolen Lives, produced for NOW on PBS sheds light on the traditions and ongoing practice of child marriage.  The film, which focuses on Guatemala, India, and Niger exposes the sobering cultural realities and global implications of child marriage.  Her 2008 documentary, Women, Power, and Politics: A Rising Tide has been hailed for its timely and insightful focus on women in the public sphere and the broad range of challenges and opportunities for girls coming of age in a 21st century world.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Ms. Hinojosa lived in Brookline, Massachusetts before her family settled in Chicago, Illinois.  She graduated magna cum laude from Barnard College where she majored in Latin American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Political Economics.  Since the mid-1980s, she has been immersed in radio and television journalism.  She has been a field producer and producer, researcher, host, correspondent, and general assignment correspondent and during the course of her career has worked with CNN, CBS, NPR, PBS, WNYC Radio.  At Barnard, where Hinojosa  anchored a show that featured political Latin music, she was convinced that her role on the air helped to give voice to many.  In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, she mused that as an undergraduate broadcaster, she thought to herself,  "Maybe what I am doing is really important. Maybe what I am doing is giving these people who are voiceless a voice."  During the course of her career, Ms. Hinojosa has borne witness to the plight, work, and efforts of those who are striving to protect the rights of others and promote justice, equality, and security for many, often the marginalized and defenseless of society.

A published writer, Ms. Hinojosa is the author of Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa, a 1995 work linked to her NPR reports on gangs that earned her Top Story of the Year Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  In 1999, she published an acclaimed memoir, Raising Raul: An Adventure Raising Myself and My Son, in which she reflected on her only life as a Mexican-American woman, professional, wife and mother raising a child in New York City and modern America.

The impressive honors and tributes to Maria Hinojosa confirm the power, substance, and scope of her work.  The documentary Child Brides: Stolen Lives has been awarded the distinguished Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV Documentary from the Overseas Press Club.  The National Council of La Raza bestowed upon her the Ruben Salazar Award, a prize that recognizes a journalist's outstanding body of work.  She earned an Emmy citation for her coverage of September 11 and has won a Robert F. Kennedy Award in Radio for her reporting on the disadvantaged.  Working Mother magazine named her one of the "25 Most Influential Working Mothers in America" by Working and she in the last ten years, has been cited three times by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States.  Hinojosa received a lifetime achievement award from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors.

Patrica Williams

Patrica Williams

Elections 2008: History in the Making

Patricia Williams is a professor of law at Columbia University and columnist for The Nation who has been recognized as one of the leading American commentators on matters of race and gender. A MacArthur Fellow and graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard University Law School, she has practiced law as deputy city attorney in Los Angeles and been staff lawyer for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. She has taught at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, City University of New York Law School, and Golden Gate University School of Law. In addition to her well-known column “Diary of a Mad Law Professor” for The Nation, she has published extensively legal theory and on issues of gender, law, and race. Her works include The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Seeing A Color Blind Future: The Paradox of Race and Open House: On Family Food, Friends, Piano Lessons and The Search for a Room of My Own.

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor of the National Review Online and associate editor at National Review. A graduate of the Catholic University of America and an award-winning journalist whose writings on politics, religion, bioethics, feminism, and education have been appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Women's Quarterly, The National Catholic Register, American Outlook, and The Human Life Review. She worked for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and has been a guest on CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, and a range of American and international radio and television shows.

Samantha Power

Samantha Power

Human Rights in the Age of Genocide

Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, professor, and foreign policy analyst, will launch Body Politic(s), the 2008-2009 lecture series of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts.

Just named by Esquire as one of the 75 most influential people of the year and honored in 2004 by Time as one of the 100 top scientists and thinkers of that year, Samantha Power has been hailed for her compelling critiques of leadership, eloquent writing, and searing engagement with unspeakable horrors of genocide and civil wars.

The founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, Ms. Power currently is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy. A native of Ireland, where she lived until age nine, Ms. Power graduated from Yale University and from Harvard University Law School.

Following her graduation from Yale, Ms. Power began her journalism career, and for three years reported on the wars and conflicts in the former Yugoslavia for the U.S. News and World Report, The New Republic, and the Boston Globe. Since her first articles appeared in 1993, she has published widely in journals, magazines, and newspapers such as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine, for which she serves now as foreign policy columnist. She also has been featured on radio and television on shows such as All Things Considered and Day to Day on National Public Radio, The Charlie Rose Show, The Rachel Maddow Show on Air America, and the Colbert Report.

Ms. Power's first work, A Problem from Hell, which grew out of an essay she completed at Harvard Law School, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Her latest work, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World, chronicles the life of the UN envoy killed in 2003 when a suicide bomber attacked the United Nations headquarters in Iraq. In 2005, she began a one-year appointment in the office of Senator Barack Obama and she recently served with his campaign as foreign policy advisor.

Ms. Power's extensive and rigorous writings on human rights, international law, and foreign policy inform her Weissman Center lecture on human rights in the age of genocide.

Carolyn Jessop

Carolyn Jessop

Flight and Fight: Escape from Polygamy

Carolyn Jessop escaped from a polygamous marriage with her eight children and became the first woman ever to be awarded full custody of her children in a suit against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Born into polygamy and into a fundamental Mormon community, she is the sixth generation descendant of a polygamous family.  In 1986, at age eighteen, she became the fourth wife of Merrill Jessop. During her seventeen-year marriage, she bore eight children until increasingly life-threatening pregnancies forced her to have an emergency hysterectomy and brought an unsettling end to one of the most complicated aspects of her unequal and disempowering marriage.

Ms. Jessop became determined to leave the family in which she witnessed child abuse, and herself endured physical and emotional abuse from more senior wives and her husband. She was especially insistent that she would not leave without all eight of her children.  Her escape pitted her against her sister wives, as well as against the God Squad, the armed militia squad that the sect's leading prophet Warren Jeffs, established to maintain his power and complete order within sect communities. Carolyn faced overwhelming threats, including the possibility that a failed escape would lead to her own exile into a FLDS mental institution and the permanent loss of access to her children. She persisted, though, ultimately undaunted by the outside world, one that her FLDS community insisted was inhabited by "agents of the devil" who "wanted to destroy the work of God."

Warren Jeffs, whose father Rulon Jeffs had an estimated seventy-five wives and sixty-five children at the time of his death, was indicted in 2005 for arranging marriages of underage girls.  Warren Jeffs succeeded his father as head of the largest polygamous group in North America and became the prophet of the FLDS.  The combined twenty-year leadership of father and son resulted in the increasing dissolution of councils that ruled the sect and more power for the Jeffs. Arrested in 2006 after spending some fifteen months as a fugitive from justice and being listed on the FBI's Most Wanted List, Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to consecutive terms of five years to life for being an accomplice to rape of a fourteen-year old girl whom he married to her older cousin.

Carolyn Jessop, who was a second-grade teacher in the FLDS community, staged an unforgettable escape and since establishing herself beyond the FLDS family in which she spent almost two decades, she has faced harrowing choices and threats to herself and her children. She is outspoken and direct about the need for state protection and resources for women, girls and families who leave or seek to leave the polygamous sects where there is no freedom or choice for wives and daughters. "[I] if the government is not going to prosecute polygamy," she asserts, "then at least they should make sure that women do have free choice."

Escape, the memoir that Ms. Jessop published in 2007, documents her life within and beyond the Jessop family and the FLDS community.  Her story, which has been described as "devastating and tragic," led author Jon Krakauer to grapple with the "astonishing look behind the tightly drawn curtains of the FLDS Church, one of the most secretive religious groups in the United States." According to Krakauer, "[t]he story Carolyn Jessop tells is so weird and shocking that one hesitates to believe a sect like this, with 10,000 polygamous followers, could really exist in 21st-century America. But Jessop’s courageous, heart-wrenching account is absolutely factual. This riveting book reminds us that truth can indeed be much, much stranger than fiction."