Women’s Rights Rollback: The New Frontier

september, 2021

12sep3:00 pmFeaturedWomen's Rights Rollback: The New FrontierConversations on the Green3:00 pm

Event Details

The ninth virtual town hall of the season will bring together experts in gender equality to discuss the past and precarious future of the women’s movement.


A century after the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified, the uncertainty that foreshadowed the suffrage victory presages the precariousness of women’s rights today. “Finish The Fight!”, the rallying cry from the final battles of the women’s voting rights movement, once again characterizes the ongoing struggle for full gender equality.

Originally excluded from the fundamental American premise that “all men are created equal,” gender-based inequalities remain deeply rooted in structural and cultural barriers to progress. While many laws discriminating against women have been annulled, one in three American women are victims of gendered violence, they earn an average of 84% of what men earn and their access to sexual healthcare depends on where they live.

In this season’s ninth episode of Common Ground with Jane Whitney, a distinguished panel of advocates for gender equality will discuss the history and the future of the women’s movement. In the wake of the swearing in of the country’s first female vice president and likely future president, they will debate the hurdles that remain in the drive for full equality, the backlash sparked by past progress, and the evolving status of women in culture, academia, politics and the domestic sphere.

Our first panelist is Cecile Richards, who was born into the political fray and became the face of the reproductive rights movement, a political powerhouse during her 12-year tenure as the director of Planned Parenthood. Richards authored the New York Times bestseller, Make Trouble, in 2019, and was named as one of Time’s most influential people in 2011 and 2012. She transformed the 100-year-old organization from a group of disconnected clinics into a national health care organization, the only provider many women could find. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood grew from 2.5 million to 11 million volunteers and supporters, opened clinics across the South and led the country to its lowest-ever teen pregnancy rate. Richards also built the organization into one of Washington’s preeminent political engines and orchestrated a shift in the national conversation about abortion, just one of the many services Planned Parenthood provides. Charged with the paradoxical task of advocating for an issue traditionally confined to the shadows, Richards replaced the “safe, legal, and rare” script with the stories of women she empowered as a way of removing the procedure’s stigma. In recognition of her legal, political, and cultural impact, Time magazine called her an advocate “of every woman in America.”

A self-described “lifetime organizer,” Richards started in politics as a child. Her mother, the late Ann Richards, was the most recent Democrat elected governor of Texas and (in)famous for her outspoken feminism and acerbic one-liners. Following in her footsteps, Cecile began protesting the Vietnam war at the age of 9 and worked for years as a labor organizer before serving as Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s chief of Staff. After leaving Planned Parenthood, she in 2019 founded Supermajority, a political organization that harnesses the power of women.

The second panelist is Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, a former prosecutor who became a household name earlier this year for her riveting presentation of video evidence as one of the House managers of President Trump’s post January 6 impeachment trial. A lawyer, news junkie and mother of five who cooks to chill, Plaskett is a community development activist by vocation and avocation who, before her 2014 election, was the general counsel for the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, which is charged with the economic development of the U.S. territory. Raised in Brooklyn public housing by working class parents, she spent her childhood vacations in the Virgin Islands, where both her parents were born. Her lifelong commitment to public service, she says, was awakened while at boarding school by the biblical verse “to whom much is given; much is required.” A Republican who served in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration, she switched parties in 2008 because, she says, she felt Democrats were more receptive to “new ideas.” In the House, where she is a non-voting member, she is the first delegate from a U.S. territory and only the fourth African-American woman to serve on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Katty Kay, the veteran BBC correspondent who brought British refinement to the coverage of bare-knuckled American politics, is our third luminary. An outspoken advocate for women in the workplace, the peripatetic Kay has reported from around the world but is best known as a pillar of the Washington media establishment. The daughter of a British diplomat who was posted across the Mid-East, Kay began her career as an economist before switching to journalism. A frequent contributor to a host of American public affairs shows, she has presented myriad BBC programs, including “World News America,” and has anchored the network’s coverage of two presidential elections. A director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, which is charged with marshalling the power of female journalists, Kay teamed up with Claire Shipman, senior national correspondent for ABC News’ “Good Morning America,” on two best-selling books designed to empower and inspire working women – “Womenomics” and “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know.” Kay ended her 30-year BBC career this May to become the executive producer of OZY Media and is the co-host with OZY Media founder, Carlos Watson, of the podcast, When Katty Met Carlos.

Our final panelist is Sophia Nelson, a lawyer, political commentator and the best-selling author of several books, including the “The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life,” a political manifesto for women masquerading as a self-help book. Updated this spring to reflect the profound economic and societal shifts provoked by the global pandemic, which has disproportionately penalized women, it is nothing less than an effort to draw a map for navigating life’s challenges and of interacting positively with other women. The book is her second attempt to rewrite cultural perceptions. Inspired in part by what she calls “open season on accomplished black women”, Nelson ten years ago published “Black Woman Redefined,” a groundbreaking study of and guide for college-educated, career-driven black women. A student of economics and political science, Nelson became a Republican activist in 1988 after hearing Jack Kemp during that year’s primaries. She served as legal counsel to New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in The Garden State and was the GOP counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. A frequent television commentator, she ultimately decided to become a journalist and author and now is a political independent.


Moderated by former NBC correspondent and national talk show host Jane Whitney, this interactive symposium, which begins at 3 p.m. on September 12th and runs 90 minutes, will be live streamed, allowing anyone with an internet-connected device to participate and ask questions. Tickets can be reserved for $25 at www.conversationsonthegreen.com.

Conversations on the Green brings together nationally-recognized voices together to support its mission of educating and invigorating the American public through discussion of the country’s most provocative issues and ideas. Based in Litchfield, CT, COGs are interactive, Town Hall style forums allowing both the speakers and the audience to share experiences, perspectives and insights in an effort to build an ongoing conversation that strengthens community bonds.

All proceeds from Conversations on the Green events benefit local organizations including the Susan B. Anthony Project, New Milford Hospital, Greenwoods Counseling & Referrals, and the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, which provides immediate assistance to those risking their lives during this crisis.



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