A Call To Action

By by Kate Van Dermark

The marches were electric. The energy was palpable. In 2017, and again in 2018, women united on the weekend of Jan 21 in solidarity to oppose the current administration, the injustices it has invoked, and the bigotry it has evoked.

Here in London, DAUK Women’s Caucus organized the March to the Ballot Activist Faire and the Women’s March in London organized a second march to commemorate, celebrate, and reinvigorate our efforts as we stride into this midterm election year. As it was around the world, here too we felt the enthusiasm, power, and collective strength of women when we say en masse Time’s Up, MeToo, and no more- to the prejudice, selfishness, and erosion of democracy that is a mainstay of this government and its emissaries.

Last year, women demanded our voices be heard- and they were. We made 86% of all calls to federal representatives, and as a result we won 6 democratic seats, stayed the travel ban, supported ACA and the dreamers, and blocked the ban on abortion.
Our own co-Chair, Lan Wu, led a powerful and impassioned speech at the Women’s March and the resounding cheers from the crowd echoed her sentiment that democratic achievements in 2017 are due to the dedication, commitment, and perseverance of women.

And the victories of women don’t stop there. When African American women in Alabama mobilized, they put Doug Jones and the Democratic Party in an important seat in the senate. When Andrea Jenkins took office as Minneapolis City Councilory, she became America’s first openly transgender woman of color to be elected office. When Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter, they created a movement that would help to galvanize communities to work toward ending the systemic oppression and violence against black people. Yes women, notably, women of color, continue to show up for our country, and it’s high time we show up for them.

Within the Women’s Movement, we often hear calls for unity among women asking us to lay down our identities and find solidarity in our shared creed: we have more in common than we do not. This is motivated by a genuine hope to look to the future and move forward in solidarity.
So what can we do now? How do we move forward in unity, working together for a fairer and more just society?

Here’s where we start:
1. Celebrate our history.
Any good historian will tell you, the past is where we find the future. We start with our history. The only way to move forward is to start by knowing and recognizing our shared history. That means recognizing beginning of the modern Women’s Marches is The Million Woman March in 1997 organized by Phile Chionesu; recognizing the #MeToo movement began twelve years ago when Tarana Burke carved a space for survivors to share experiences of sexual assault; recognizing that intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 as a lens to understand compounded oppression based on identity, rather than as a replacement for the words “inclusive” and “diverse”.
When we do not know our history, we forget it. And when we forget it, we erase it.

2. Admit where we are.
We live in the Information Age. We can’t know it all nor are we expected to. We cannot read every book or know every theory. However, we are responsible for educating ourselves and for embarking on that journey. We are responsible for understanding the systems in which we live. We are responsible for understanding how we benefit from those systems and what role we play in them- consciously and not. We are responsible for seeing ourselves, actions, and our positions. And we are responsible for challenging the assumptions we hold about ourselves and each other.

In other words, challenge yourself. Seek knowledge. Educate. Repeat. The Women’s Caucus will be participating in Black History month in February and Herstory in March at our meetings and on social media. We hope this will serve you in this endeavor.

3. Step up and step back.
And I don’t mean wear a safety pin. Do the real work it takes to challenge culture. Change doesn’t just happen in the political arena. It happens in our daily lives. Be courageous, confront the microagressions, the exclusive language, the jokes, the culture. It’s not easy and is almost always “just a joke” or a well-intended gesture. But address the injustices you see, and do it in a meaningful way. One way to do that is to step back. Yield your platform to someone else’s voice. Yield your ‘right of way’. Listen to the stories, the opinions, the suggestions of women of color, of differently abled women, of LGBTQ women. Elect and follow them. Amplify their voices, their plans, their ideas. Support them by standing with them and silencing yourself.

4. Engage in political reform.
Criminal justice, environmental justice, military industrial complex, affordable healthcare, education, housing, gender disparity, family leave, voter suppression, gerrymandering, etc. We all have our different interests. Choose yours and “tuck in.” Women’s Caucus would love to have you. Have an idea for something we can do? We want to know! As we have seen this year, your contribution, your time, your voice is valuable. You can make a difference. And when you feel worn out, don’t despair or disappear. Political burnout is a real thing, and a support network like Women’s Caucus is great for rejuvenating your spirits, maintaining your drive, and meeting awesome women who will inspire you.

5. Talk to your people.
Whoever they may be. Your family, your friends, your work colleagues. We have power in our spheres of influence, and each of them will have power in theirs. Use that power to educate, work together, and rally. Women’s Caucus Teach ins, legislative scripts, activist happy hours, and socials aim to give you the tools to do this and to support you.

So in 2018, as we work toward electing Democrats, opposing bigotry of the current administration, and creating a more fair and just society, let’s start by reflecting inward. Let’s learn and celebrate our history, challenge ourselves, step up and back, engage, and organize. By doing this, we can create solidarity in our movement, support women, and make a lasting change.

If you would like to get involved, Women’s Caucus wants you. EmailFacebook us, subscribe to the newsletter, keep visiting our website! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Community Outside Your Comfort Zone: My Engagement in Foreign Community Service 

By Shana Beth Mason.

I have no substantive background in community organization, public engagement policy, nor activism. My background is centered in creative and critical writing, with a focus on Modern and Contemporary art. Despite this, I have found myself engaged in a rather extraordinary kind of commitment that requires time, energy, passion, financial resources, and above all, a willingness to step outside of my comfort zone to satisfy the needs of the whole.

A scene from the Palio di Siena, as the jockeys and their horses circle the famous Piazza del Campo.

In August of last year, I was among 80,000 visitors headed to the center of the city of Siena: capital of the Siena region of Tuscany in northwestern Italy. Every year twice a year, a celebration is held that culminates in a dramatic horse race which rings around the Piazza del Campo. The celebration, the prize (a painted silk banner), and the game of strategy by which races are won are all collectively known as the Palio. Each city district (there are a total of seventeen), known as a contrada, participates in the festivities of both the July and August Catholic feast days. 365 days a year, every member of this community rallies to present this electric spectacle to those from within and beyond its city walls. But beyond the Palio, Siena is a city with roots predating the Bronze Age, and has endured as a cultural gem in both the Italian and global consciousness. The entire city center, itself, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The studio apartment I had booked for the week of the Palio put me in the heart of one of those contrade. For one week, 24 hours a day, I witnessed the deep intrigue and gamesmanship of men and women, young and old, yearning for a victory on that earthen track. I was swept up in the rituals of a nearly 800 year-old tradition that has gone unbroken even in times of war, plague and neglect. I came to understand that this was not just an event, it was the lifeblood and pride of the city; its very heart and soul. I was so moved, that I summoned my courage to approach one of the commissioners of the Contrada dell’Aquila (the District of the Eagle – remarkable coincidence of the symbol to an American citizen), stating my intention to support and sustain their community in perpetuity. “This felt like home”, I told him; “Even though”, I said, “that I am not Senese, not even Italian, I felt I could lend my own enthusiasm to belong to such a beautiful community in whatever way I could”. To my astonishment, they accepted my donation and designated me as a protettrice (“Protector”) of their district. My “baptism” is forthcoming this September, whereupon I will be granted rights – to the best of my knowledge – alongside any born citizen of the contrada.


Enter aBoys as young as five or six begin serving their contrada as drummers or future flag-bearers. Every member of every contrada participates in some form during the days of the Palio. These drummers represent the Contrada dell’Aquila (District of the Eagle). Photo credit: Snappystreet Photography, Sydney.

The big takeaway here was not my bold approach (in a language that is not my mother tongue, but passable nonetheless), nor was it the size of my contribution, nor even was it a wave of passion inspired by the Palio. What I gained most from this was the feeling of serving a greater common goal, the sensation of belonging to something so singularly special in the wide world. I learned that this was the essence of community service: to put aside your trepidations or your assumptions on how you gel with those around you. If you gravitate to a community, bolster it. If the community embraces you, embrace them ten times over. If you find yourself overwhelmed with how little you may know compared to others around you, ask questions and stand firmly in your desire to learn and be taught. If some people give you strange looks as an outsider, smile and soldier forth.


The passion and loyalty for each contrada is passed down from generation to generation in Siena. Children from the Contrada dell’Pantera (District of the Panther) wave their banners high. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Community is a living, breathing organ that can’t be fully understood or operated by one thing, alone. It takes many living, breathing things to help it function and thrive. Every community needs support in some way, and even the biggest, most prosperous places on Earth need nourishment in the form of passionate, dedicated individuals – like those in Democrats Abroad. If ever there was a time to step outside the comfort zone and take your place on the start line, it is now.


Shana Beth Mason received her BA in Literature from Florida State University and her MA in the History of Art & Connoisseurship from Christie’s Education London (University of Glasgow). Apart from her full-time job at the Imperial War Museum in London, she is working on her first book, focused on the histories of the women in the James Bond films and novels.


DAUK Women’s Caucus T-shirts!

Our Co-Chairs Lan Wu & Carol Anne Moore are wearing our new t-shirts — and you can get one too if you’re a US citizen or permanent resident!

How do I get one? Follow these steps:

  1. Click BUY NOW
  2. Complete the brief compliance form
  3. Follow the link to purchase

When you get yours, wear it and show it to us! Share on Twitter @DAUKWomenCaucus or on Facebook with #ShePersisted.


Feminism 101

fem 101 graphic

As a part of the Education Committee’s programme for 2017, the Women’s Caucus general meeting on Sept 18 featured a teach-in entitled “Feminism 101” presented by Beatrix Newsome and Kate Van Dermark with consultation from Jen Brock. The teach-in began with a summary of each of the three waves of feminism and a review of the thematic concepts in each wave. Several pertinent acts of legislation were pinpointed to demonstrate the elevation of the status of women over the last 300 years.

A presentation with common gender studies terms scrolled in the background (see below) to provide the group with a working knowledge of feminist jargon. This was interspersed with inspiring quotes from famous women and feminists from Sojourner Truth and Mae Jemison to Gloria Steinem and Gloria Anzaldúa. It also included word cloud brainstorming session of what being a feminist means to each of the women present, and a discussion of current feminist discourse seeking the group’s deliberation on issues being asked in the movement today, such as:

  • Is a fourth wave emerging and what does that entail?
  • Should the movement consider rebranding away from the “F” word, and what may be problematic about that?
  • How can we include men in the movement while maintaining a safe space for women?
  • How can we recognize and address both interpersonal and institutionalized forms of oppression to make our movement more intersectional?

Resources from the event included a timeline with each wave’s characteristics, some important figures, and 5 key acts of legislation, statistics on the status of women, and suggestions for further learning and involvement (top image). There’s something for every level of interest with short youtube clips about the three waves to seminal books, and ways to get involved to documentation programs like the Hollaback project. The resources presented are available for download here — please check them out and use!

To learn more or to get involved you can email the education committee at education@womenscaucus.co.uk.

Reflections on anti-Semitism, at home and abroad

This spring, I took a long walk in a nature reserve near York with my husband.  As we approached the trailhead, I noticed an ugly yellow spray-painted swastika, marring a map depicting the protected area. I had never been under the illusion that the U.K., my expatriate home, was free from anti-Semitism – the rise of the far-right here and across Europe had made clear that the complex hatred surrounding white nationalism were alive and well in Britain.  But these seemed abstract, the stuff of Radio 4 debates and editorial commentary, not in bright yellow paint, staring me in the face.

I thought about that swastika a great deal over these past weeks. As we’ve all read, white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted “Jews will not replace us,” placing anti-Semitism at the heart of their ethnic ideology. Whether a part of a far-right political ideal, or just simple hatred, anti-Semitism has taken on new life – from Charlottesville to rural Yorkshire. White supremacists and their sympathizers have decided that Jews aren’t white, reminding us that our acceptance is always, always provisional.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but this was nevertheless a disturbing realization for me: anti-Semitism feels like such an old-fashioned brand of hatred.

Swastika image

Nazi vandalism in Skipwith Common National Nature Reserve, York UK.

How can we challenge it?  We need progressive candidates who can move past the fractured “identity politics” which has been so soundly rejected by voters. We need candidates who can craft inclusive policies that speak to all of us; who find ourselves outside the boundaries of the racists’ white ethno-state, and to the many men and women who find their ideals detestable. After all, there are more of us out here, and we are stronger in our diversity.

TAKE ACTION: Visit the Southern Poverty Law Center for US anti-hate resources

About the author: Dr. Erin Maglaque is a resident of York and a Teaching Fellow in History at the University of St Andrews. She is a (proud!) Massachusetts voter. To learn about her academic research, visit www.erinmaglaque.com

Hurricane Harvey appeal

All of us at DAUK WC send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. We mourn especially for those who lost their lives.

As we have seen with Hurricane Katrina, the relief effort will take years, not months. Organizations are scrambling to provide emergency shelter and food for tens of thousands of Texas and Louisiana residents, including their pets. The property damage alone is estimated to be in the billions. According to Quartz, 85% of homes in Harris County (which includes the city of Houston) have no flood insurance.

In these times of national tragedy, it is painful to hear such distressing stories and to worry about friends and family back home. Our fellow Americans need our compassion and generosity to get through this natural disaster.

Please consider supporting the listed charities in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort:

Getting Involved with Grassroots Activism “At Home”

In 2012 I retired in London and told my British husband that I wanted to spend the two months of September and October at our new Florida apartment to work on the Obama campaign.  After 35 years in the UK,  I went to West Palm Beach, walked in the Obama campaign office and signed on.  It was a great experience meeting many local Democrats and promoting not just President Obama but also a friend, Lois Frankel, running for the House seat and other local candidates.  Palm Beach County has a plurality of registered Democrats and so the Democratic candidates swept the races.

Having had a taste of the importance of activism, I’ve continued to do part-time volunteering, in ’13 on outreach for the Affordable Care Act, in ’14 for the Governor’s race, and in ’16 as a Democratic party precinct leader.  Election night ’16 was as dreadful there as it was for Democrats around the country and across the world but returning in January was inspiring on several fronts:   the county Democratic Party organized immediately to rally members and voters to oppose the Trump agenda, thousands of Florida women had gone to the DC March, there were events supporting Planned Parenthood and several former Republicans were starting an Indivisible chapter.  I joined them all and marched on Trump’s first weekend at Mar-a-Lago, protesting the assault on the full range of human rights issues with 3,000 others from all the activist groups.

There are now over 6,000 Indivisible groups inspired by their guide, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”, available at www.indivisibleguide.com. Like the Women’s March local chapters (www.womensmarch.com), these groups are bringing in voters new to activism animated by key issues such as health care, immigration, racial justice, environmental protection, income inequality, etc.  They work together on events to inform voters and connect with politicians whether in town halls or community events.   And many are coming forward to run for local, state and federal seats!  The real win will be Democratic electoral victories in November ’18 to take back Congress and state legislatures.

Our members can find local events on websites and Facebook pages to join.  Members can also donate time when in town, spread the word on activism and donate money to support this work. Remember there are only (about) 465 days left until November 8th, 2018!

Guest Post by Carol Moore, Women’s Caucus Co-Chair.

July 2017 Monthly Meeting – Notes

Healthcare Highlight: Elizabeth Crocker delivered an important presentation on the current state of the healthcare battle.

Key elements:

  • The ACA is an imperfect bill that needs to be FIXED, NOT sabotaged
  • State of Play: Collins and Paul are opposing the bill for different reasons
  • Only 462 days to go until 2018 MIDTERMS
  • With your calls/open letters: push for REVISION, NOT REPEAL that causes market destabilization
  • Get the latest updates on ALL Healthcare Reform issues from:

Going Back and Connecting With Grassroots Activism with Carol Moore

  • 6,000 Indivisible groups nationwide now!
  • Focus not limited to swing states, but swing DISTRICTS within red/blue states

Committee Updates:

  • Legislative: This month’s scripts are focused on the continuing battle over #HealthcareForAll. Please share and engage with us with our #ActivistHappyHour hashtag. Get in touch at: legistlative@womenscaucus.co.uk

  • Events: The DAUK Annual Picnic was a great success! Our next event is Women in Politics & Technology in early October and we’re organizing a Book Club — stay tuned. Want to get involved? Email us: events@womenscaucus.co.uk

  • Recruiting: We’re looking to expand our membership from outside of London: if you live outside the Greater London area, help us get this underway. Email us at: recruitment@womenscaucus.co.uk

  • Media & Comms (meetings on 4th Monday of each month):
    Website: We are seeking more photos, stay tuned for a fresh layout.
    Newsletter: Deadline to submit info/content is the 3rd Friday of each month.
    Calendar: Have a Democrats or progressive women-relevant event you’d like us to help promote? Email us: comms@womenscaucus.co.uk
    Social media: We’re always looking for people to take over our social media accounts for a week! Email comms@womenscaucus.co.uk for more info.

  • Education: Our next teach in is entitled Feminism 101: Back to the Basics; it will be held during the September 18 General Meeting.  Email education@womenscaucus.co.uk to join an upcoming meeting.

Women and Minorities Save the New Foreign Service Class

Not long before I joined the Foreign Service women officers who married were required to resign. Colleagues told me of foreign service couples seeking to hide their marriage by honeymooning two continents away from their duty assignments only to receive a curt telegram informing the newly married wife that she was reported to be  in violation of regulation X in the personnel code and adding that her resignation was expected as soon as possible.

A decade later the larger public still referred to “Our Man in…” when they meant US representation. The idea that diplomats are always or usually men was so pervasive that following the first embassy bombing in Beirut on 18 April 1983 the American women diplomats  who served in Lebanon felt compelled to write a letter protesting news articles expressing sympathy for the Beirut diplomats but depicting them entirely as men in the process.  They pointed out that women had also lost their lives in the attack.

It is therefore with more than a sense of irony that a scholarship which seeks to encourage underrepresented groups into the Foreign Service has helped salvage some of the dwindling numbers at the State Department.  Citing the need for cuts in his department Secretary Tillerson suspended two classes of new Foreign Service  officers known as A 100 classes. However they have just been reinstated in part due to the injustice the cuts would have done to members of the class who were recipients of two scholarship programs Pickering and Rangel.  Both scholarships offer young people from underrepresented groups a shot at a foreign service career following a two year graduate degree. University leaders, congress and the scholars themselves raised an outcry over the suspension of the classes and now the hiring freeze has been rescinded for the entire cohort – not just the scholars. Decades ago the Foreign Service was reluctant to welcome women and minorities and now women and minorities have helped secure the future of the Foreign Service.

Learn more:

Guest post by Carol Graham, Recruitment Committee Chair.  Carol Graham was the first woman to run the US UK Fulbright Commission and now works in a number of international education roles.

June 2017 Monthly Meeting – Notes

Healthcare Highlight: Elizabeth Crocker delivered updates on the current state of the healthcare debate in Washington (including policy details comparing the ACA to the AHCA and the importance of calling our Senators).

Committee Updates:
  • Legislative: Activist Happy Hour will now take place monthly: please CALL and SHARE to amplify your impact! Share your activism with hashtag #ActivistHappyHour. New scripts are planned to be released the third Wednesday  of each month.

  • Events: We had a great table at the Annual DAUK Independence Day picnic. Thank you to all our volunteers and everyone who stopped by! Stay tuned for more event announcements from us in the near future.

  • Recruiting: The team is focusing on including members from outside of London and was a big presence at our Independence Day picnic.

  • Media & Comms: We’ve revamped our Twitter and Facebook feeds, please give us a “like”, “follow” or “share” and let us know what you think!  We’re highlighting new voices across our social media channels, so let us know if you’d like to take a week at the helm of our Twitter and Facebook. Newsletter will now be sent the first Monday of each month and the content deadline is the third Friday of each month.

  • Education: Exciting teach ins are scheduled for September and November – stay tuned for further announcements with details.

Teach In: 

  • Communication Techniques for Talking Across Party Lines. Jennifer Daniels gave a presentation on the theory behind constructive conversations (and why they’re so difficult). Victoria Shaskan facilitated an interactive theater exercise skillfully executed by Kate Von Dermark and Beatrix Newsom.
  • For those who missed it: Polarization, common bias in our thinking, lack of confidence in information used to form opinions and differing worldviews often make it very difficult for liberals and conservatives to have effective political conversations. To overcome these challenges and have more constructive discussions, research and experts suggest taking steps to be an active listener, set realistic expectations, don’t assume bad intent from the other, ask him/her to explain in detail the impact of their position and use a moral framing compatible with the other person’s worldview. Utilising these suggestions can be difficult, so experts suggest practicing with another person.