When I moved to Vermont, Madeleine Kunin was governor — a particular point of pride for the state. Many years later, as a young mother, I took my small daughter to hear Kunin read at the packed Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick.

Afterward, standing outside on the sidewalk, a female acquaintance remarked unhappily that Kunin emphasized the need for child care and greater economic opportunities for women. I’ve often wondered what my acquaintance wanted instead — this woman whose own family economics were provided by her husband’s salary. Putting bread on our children’s table is neither masculine nor feminine, but the power to determine some tenor of the shape of our lives.

Last night, I heard Kunin, at age 85, speak again — how surprisingly funny and how gracious. At the end, an audience member asked the expected question: what do you think of the world now? Kunin stepped back from the podium and raised her hands, meeting this question with just a fraction of silence, before she answered. Be engaged. Listen. Converse. Be persistent.

At the end, she amended her answer: Make trouble.

Poor privilege white men. Their stranglehold on power is slowly being loosened.

— Madeleine Kunin


Photo by Molly S.

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