The Rhode Island Democratic Party kicked off its Women’s Caucus Tuesday night, convening women leaders and aspiring leaders alike from 21 of the state’s 39 cities and towns.
Party Chair Joseph M. McNamara, Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, Caucus co-chairs Senator Gayle Goldin, Representatives Lauren Carson and Kate Monteiro, and June Speakman representing the R.I. Association of City and Town Chairs led the event.
The emerging caucus will play a role in educating women on how to get engaged in politics, support candidates and run for office. Its creation was prompted by what McNamara called “a tremendous outpouring of interest in the Democratic Party since Trump’s election.”
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook, and we are getting a lot of emails about how folks can get involved,” he said.
The event was rescheduled from last week due to a snowstorm, and Carson was happy that the teachers, nurses, students, environmental activists and more who made up the crowd still showed up to express their passions.
“I’m glad we still have the momentum we started with a week and a half ago,” Carson said.
Before they discussed mobilization plans and issues on which to take action (getting women in elected office being one of the biggest), Carson invited the approximately 100 attendees to introduce themselves and choose one word to describe why they’d come – some of those words were “progressive,” “concerned,” “momentum” and “power.”
Many women in attendance were already elected officials or members of their various town party committees. Others said they hadn’t previously been politically active but were compelled to become so after the election of President Donald Trump. One woman, an immigrant from India, didn’t hesitate to express her feelings.
“I am done with what’s going on,” she said. “I’m all about action and not complaining on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do something.”
Two married women, one of whom touted being a proud Mexican-American, said they were hoping to help maintain an accepting atmosphere in which their young children could grow.
“I want them to hear of our advocacy and how much we’re fighting for the rights of everybody,” said one.
Though a few women were confident they would someday run for office, others weren’t as sure. Gorbea said she once had those reservations herself and assured the women they could run if they wanted.
“I was just like many of you, a few years ago…I wanted to get involved in politics but didn’t know if I had the time or experience to run for office,” Gorbea said.
It appeared some women had previously taken Gorbea’s advice, which delighted Speakman, the former Barrington Democratic Town Chair and professor of political studies at Roger Williams University. She was glad to hear that Rhode Island has four new women serving as town party chairs.
“That means that women now make up 20 percent of local party chairs,” she said. “That means the Democratic Party will begin to change.”
Tuesday’s kickoff was the first in a series of regional meetings that will be hosted by the Women’s Caucus and the state Democratic Party. The next meeting of the caucus will be Monday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Democratic headquarters on 200 Metro Center Blvd. in Warwick. The caucus is open to all Rhode Island women. Dates for events in Woonsocket, Central Falls/Providence, East Bay, South County and Westerly area are to be determined. For more information call the Rhode Island Democratic Party at 272-3367.