news feature
August 30, 2004


Women kickin' for Kerry in KC
by Rhiannon Ross

"One campaign, one race, one woman at a time, we're going to change the face of Washington and we're going to change the voice of Missouri," said MO Treasurer Nancy Farmer to a cheering "sea of women." Farmer is running for the U.S. Senate.

"And with John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House, we're going to change the direction of this country."

Farmer addressed hundreds at the Women for Kerry rally on Aug. 26, in the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, MO. The theater sponsored the event.

Touted as the largest Women for Kerry rally in the nation, the group of women and sprinkling of men gathered to celebrate the 84th Anniversary of Women's Right to Vote and to show their support for the Kerry/Edwards' campaign. All 50 states are hosting the rallies.

"Right here in this state today, there is a door that is in front of me still closed. Still closed for our state," Farmer said. "We've (the state of Missouri) never elected a woman to the United States Senate and we've never elected a woman governor. But we're going to change that.

"We're going to change it because of you," she added. "And we are not going to borrow a key and we are not going to pick the lock, we're going to kick that door down!"

A life-sized poster of "Rosie the Riveter" exclaiming, "We Can Do It!" hung center stage. Bouquets of blue "Kerry" balloons floated above.

Politicians lined up across the stage and included Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, nominee for Lt. Gov. Bekki Cook, nominee for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, Congresswoman Karen McCarthy, nominee for the 5th Congressional District Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, MO state Reps. Melba J. Curls and Sharon Sanders Brooks, Jackson County Executive Kathryn Shields and Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.

Sebelius said this was the most important election she's ever participated in and she admitted to envying the 2004 Missouri slate for its representation of women.

Democratic women nominees in Missouri, in addition to Cook, Carnahan and Farmer, include state auditor Claire McCaskill, the Democratic nominee for governor.

"For those of you who are Missouri voters, I have to chide you a little bit," Sebelius said. "You are behind Kansans, in lots of areas, but in this one particularly: They call me ‘governor.’ They need to call Claire McCaskill ‘governor.’ We have had a woman elected to the United States Senate. You need to call Nancy Farmer ‘senator.’"

Sebelius addressed issues of importance to all Americans but which disproportionately impact women: education, Medicare, prescription drug costs, health care and social security.

Cook said one theme this week is to "Ask any woman."

"Ask any woman about the work that goes on in a household or at the office or wherever she may be. She is having a struggle and we are not better off than we were four years ago."

Carnahan stirred the crowd with her own questions: "Anybody ready for a change in the oval office? How about this — anybody ready for a change in Jefferson City?

"In this past four years, we've gone from peace and prosperity to war and economic uncertainty," she said. "In our state, we've gone from a place where we were prosperous and proud of what we did in state government to a place where it is partisanship and bickering all the time and education cuts and healthcare cuts for our kids."

Outgoing U.S. Rep. McCarthy hobbled to the podium on a crutch, sporting a cast on her left foot. She said that since Republicans have gained control, they've been kicking Democrats around. "And I decided to kick back," she said, swinging her injured foot from the side of the podium.

Cleaver, with his trademark humor, told everyone he'd been "sworn in as an honorary woman" before the rally. On a more serious note, he said, "Sixty percent of those who vote in the 5th Congressional District will be women. And we can turn things around and we can turn them out.

"So when you leave from here, every time you run into a woman who has given up hope; every time you run into a woman who's struggling to make ends meet as a single family leader; every time you run into a woman who's sick and tired of being sick and tired; every time you run into a woman who's unemployed and doesn't know where she's going to get a job; you tell them that we women said, 'Help is on the way! Help is help on the way! Help is on the way!’”

The crowd responded with wild applause and cheers.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted single women voters in this election, especially in battleground states such as Missouri. According to “Women's Voices, Women Vote,” 22 million women in the 2000 presidential election did not vote.

"We have the most breathtaking ticket in all of the states," said McCarthy with a smile. "If we pull off this ticket that we've got in Missouri, the women are going to be in charge from the top all the way down."

Women have “much to lose” if President Bush is reelected said Missouri State Rep. Vicki Walker (D-50), who attended the Women for Kerry rally. Walker is critical of the Bush Administration's efforts to dismantle Title IX, which helps fund and promote gender equality in sports.

Walker said all of the women who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had been involved in team sports when they were young. "Without Title IX it wouldn't have happened."

Women also lose under a Bush Administration, said Walker, "If you are the kind of woman who believes you have the right to choose when, if or even how many children you have. If you are the kind of woman who may have a strong believe in God, but also believes that modern medicine helps gynecological problems."

A Kerry administration, said Walker, would give women a president who respects who they are as people. "He would respect their intelligence to make their own decisions regarding their lives and their bodies."

Walker encouraged women to get involved in the election. "We have an opportunity to make a difference — IF we participate."

Actions she suggested include volunteering at least once a week for Kerry or another local candidate, donating weekly to someone's campaign, ensuring that family and friends are registered to vote, and talking about why the election is important.

And never forget the sacrifices of the suffragists, said Walker.

"Women won the right to vote in 1919, after decades of fighting for recognition. To honor those women who fought so hard for this wonderful privilege of choosing who represents us, it is incumbent upon us to participate in the democracy to make sure our vision is represented.

"Otherwise," said Walker, "go home and wait for the boys to decide what will happen to us."


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