Students Launch Political Book

Five Harvard undergraduates presented their recently released book—a collection of writings by politicos aimed at motivating young women to become involved in politics—to more than 30 students and community members at the Harvard COOP last night.

Skirting Tradition: Women in Politics Speak to the Next Generation features writings by politically successful women including Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Gore for President campaign manager Donna Brazile.

It was compiled in association with the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government by five undergraduates—Editor Lia C. Larson ’05 and Associate Editors Naomi M. Ages ’05, Elena H. Matsui ’06, Anat Maytal ’05 and Kate E. Nielson ’05.

The book comes at a time when despite an increased focus on women’s issues in the 2004 election, the country saw a decline in the number of female officeholders elected in November. As the book’s cover explains, only 14 percent of officeholders are women while 52 percent of the nation is female.

Larson, who is also a Crimson editor, said the motivation for compiling the book came from a past study group at the IOP, which brought political celebrities such as Shaheen to address being a woman in the political world.

“The idea was to ask these women to really speak to women in our generation about getting into politics,” said Larson. “We realized we wanted more people to benefit from what we were hearing.”

Nielson said too many people overlook the difficulties women face in seeking and winning office. “One of the effects we hope for is awareness of the issue,” she said.

Matsui emphasized that the essays demonstrate how women can successfully overcome these obstacles.

After reading excerpts from the essays at yesterday’s book signing, the five editors opened the event up to questions.

The audience praised the young women’s efforts.

“I think what they were saying was something new and as a freshman, I haven’t seen a lot of women in politics events going on around campus,” said Tatiana H. Chaterji ’08. “That was a really positive thing to see.”

The book’s promotion kicked off at the Faculty Club two weeks ago with keynote speaker, former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift.

The book’s editors began soliciting essays from female politicians in spring 2003, but did not receive their first essays until last winter. They said they faced difficulties in getting a final product, but they attributed part of their success to the resources they found at Harvard.

“We used a lot of the IOP’s contacts. They helped us a lot with the process,” Ages said.