THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
“The National Women’s Political Caucus was an amazing outlet to channel our own struggles with who we were as young women and how we were going to move forward in our lives.”
Interviewed by Judy Waxman, March 2021
DM: My name is Doris Meissner. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on November 3rd, 1941.
JW: I’d like you to talk briefly about what your life was like before the women’s movement, before the second wave.
DM: My parents are both immigrants from Germany and I actually spoke German before I spoke English, up ’till kindergarten. I am one of two daughters, I’m the elder in the family. Neither of my parents went to college. My father was a tool and die maker and my mother was a bookkeeper. They met each other here in the United States, they did not meet each other in Germany. My mother came as a child with her parents and my father came as a young adult. My mother went to a very good public high school in Milwaukee, and she graduated at the top of her class in the middle of the Depression. Under any other circumstances, she should surely have gone to college, but that was impossible. She worked to help support her family, but she was always interested in education.
They both were very interested in education so it was an expectation in our household that we would do well in school and would work hard at school. I always had the understanding that if I got good grades, I would be able to go to college and that was a really important thing to do. Up until fifth grade, I lived in Milwaukee, after that we moved into the next county and I went to school from fifth grade through eighth grade in the next county in which there were several choices of high schools to go to because we didn’t have our own high school.
Most of the kids went to the nearest high school. My parents were very much against my going to that high school because it was not known as a very “good” school. They really pressed that I go to suburban Milwaukee High School, but I didn’t want to go. Finally, they said it was most important that I was happy so I could go to the local high school if I wanted to. That then made me decide to go to the good suburban high school in the Milwaukee area. That was a very competitive school, a very “college bound” school, and I did well there. I had some very good teachers and a good dean that really helped to encourage me to picture that I could go to college, which is then what happened.
I went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and was fortunate to live in a state where a really fine public university existed, which made it possible for me to go there. I did very well in college and met my husband there when we were freshmen. He is also from the Milwaukee area; he actually was from the rival high school a mile away from the school I went to, but we didn’t meet until college. We got married right after we graduated as seniors but that was the time when everybody had to go into the military and he had been in ROTC but he wanted to go on to graduate school and get a PhD. That was a good thing to do when you had military duty that you had to fulfill at some point or another.
I’m a widow, but he was an economist and he got a PhD in economics and I worked him through. So, it was the classic student life situation, but I was really lucky because I had done well in school and I’d been very active in activities and was able to get a good job on the university campus in student financial aid: loans, scholarships and work programs. For students we lived well, and when he finished his PhD, I became more and more interested myself in going to graduate school and by that time, we had two children. When he finished his PhD, it was time for him to go into the military, which meant going to Vietnam.
I stayed in Madison and went back to graduate school. We knew he would be gone for close to two years and I actually was interested in going to law school, but I never even imagined going to law school because that would have taken three years and he was only going to be gone for two years. So, I went to graduate school in a two-year program, which was a political science educational policy. During that time, Madison was a real hotbed for anti-war demonstrations. And it so happened that the two years that I was in graduate school, I was a teaching assistant.
One of those years the campus was shut down for half of the semester with demonstrations and there was a Weatherman chapter there. I was annoyed at the fact that I was to be a teaching assistant and I was getting no experience whatsoever being able to be a teaching assistant because classes were canceled all the time and it was shut down and demonstrators were all over the place. I was very conflicted, because it’s a very liberal student body and my husband is in Vietnam. I’m sympathetic, but my husband is over in Saigon and luckily, he was in intelligence and was doing intelligence work as compared to being out in the hinterlands someplace.
My thesis professor was very active politically and I knew he was active politically in Democratic politics in Madison. I talked to him about the fact that I didn’t think this is the right way to bring about change. Burning things down and having bomb scares and all those things didn’t seem to be the right way to bring about change in policy. I wanted him to help me get connected with politics so that I could learn how to actually make change through the political system.
JW: What year was this?
DM: This was 1969, right after the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, all of the Chicago Seven stuff, etc. It was right after Eugene McCarthy having run in the primaries against President Johnson and having won Wisconsin. It was a really unexpected and important win. It was at a time when Wisconsin wasn’t a completely a reliable liberal state, coming out of the progressive movement. Things have clearly changed since. But this professor of mine said, I’m going to make an introduction for you with a woman named Midge Miller because she ran the Eugene McCarthy campaign in Wisconsin. She knows Wisconsin politics and she’d been a pol for a long time in Wisconsin. She was considering running for the state legislature and he thought I could get involved with it.
When we met, she told me she did intend to run for the state legislature, but couldn’t be her own campaign manager. Although she knew how everything needed to be done, she had to be a candidate and be “out there.” She essentially wanted me to be her campaign manager in name but she would instruct me on what to do and I could run the organizational aspects. I told her I was interested and she said, I can’t pay you. I said I would love to do it, but I can’t do it without child care.
JW: “Here I am: a single parent, in school, two kids, no pay. Thank you very much.”
DM: That’s exactly right. So, she agreed to pay my child care. It was an incredibly exciting race because she ran against a twenty-year Republican incumbent in a four-way primary and we won the primary and we won the general election. She and I obviously became good friends. Fast forward to 1971 she was one of the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus when the convening happened here in DC in July. That same year my husband, Chuck, comes back from Vietnam and is looking for a job. He had two job offers: one in San Francisco, one in Washington, D.C.
He told me, “Whichever city you think you’d rather live in to do the things you want to do, that’s where we’ll go.” My answer was, “Who doesn’t love San Francisco?” especially at that time fifty years ago. At this point I’m really taken with all this political stuff, “I want to be in a political environment, so let’s go to Washington.” We moved to Washington over the Fourth of July weekend in July of 1971. About a week later, the NWPC organizational meeting took place. It just so happens that Midge had a sister who lived about two blocks away from where Mark Greenberg lives. She has since died.
JW: Mark Greenberg is a friend of both of ours. Okay go on.
DM: Midge has a sister that lives in Somerset who is a real estate agent. We got hooked up with Midge’s sister and that woman real estate agent found us our home. When Midge came to town for the NWPC organizing meeting, she was staying with her sister, who is about six blocks away from our home. Naturally, Midge comes over to visit and says, as I’m trying to put up drapes and unpack boxes, “You’ve got to come to this meeting, it’s so exciting, there are all these amazing people there.”
When Midge ran, the campaign was not based on feminism. The legislative race that we ran grew out of her anti-war experience and her long standing liberal political background in the state of Wisconsin: prison reform, education, mentally impaired people. Sure she was a woman, but women in public office was not in any way the driving message for her. But because she had become a state legislator and she was a real leader type and really vocal, she was invited to the NWPC organizing meeting. She spent some time in Washington around that and visited me.
I had no intentions at that point of doing anything but settling in to a new place and taking care of my kids who were by this time two and six years old. I didn’t have any particular career aspirations and I had been lucky to have had a professional job when I was in Madison, but that was for the purpose of working Chuck through a program. Midge, in her inimitable fashion, when the organizing meeting was over with, said she had passed on my name to Bella Abzug and told her she needs to hire me. I said, “Thank you very much, but I don’t think that that’s probably what’s going to happen at this point.” But that is indeed what happened.
Bella, being completely single minded, taught me a major lesson in my life, which is don’t ever work for a single person who’s a politician alone in town because they will bug you until three o’clock in the morning because they’re lonely. She had a wonderful husband, but he was in New York and she was here in the house. Within a week she started calling me very late at night, every night. No earlier than 11 o’clock at night, my phone would ring and she would say: “Doris, Midge says you need to come and work for us. When are you going to come down and talk to me?” After a week Chuck finally said, “You better go talk to this woman, we need to get a good night’s sleep!”
I started working for the Caucus before the end of July. I have in my mind July 29th, I’m not sure about that, but that’s how it happened. I became the Executive Director and I really didn’t know very much about politics at all. I had done this with Midge in Madison, but that’s hardly Washington, D.C. The first office that we had was donated space in the law firm of a woman named Margaret Lawrence. She was in a D.C. law firm but was also one of the organizing members of the NWPC organizing meeting. We had maybe two rooms and it was just me at that point and one intern: Debbie Leff, who was still in high school, a senior at BCC, I don’t think she even was in college. There was one other woman named Jenny.
I was there just for two years, I left in the summer of 1973 because I had applied for a White House Fellowship and I was selected. I applied on the recommendation and strong urging of Bobbie Kilberg, who was also one of the organizing members of the Women’s Political Caucus and was a Republican during the Nixon years. People like Jane (Hickey?) haven’t been there much longer, they just know a lot more. But those first two years were an incredibly disorganized and “make it up as you go” time. One of the things that was really important and critical, and it went with the times, not so much the times in terms of the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, was this incredible antipathy to any kind of hierarchical structures.
The NWPC had finished their meeting in July with electing a policy council to carry forward. One of the big decisions, as I understood it, was that they were going to constitute themselves organizationally. They were not going to be a classic organization with members, they were going to define themselves as the “political arm” of the women’s movement. At that point NOW existed and it goes back into the ’60s, but NOW was seen to be a much more consciousness raising, grassroots, women connecting with each other – not a political action endeavor.
The women that were the driving force in creating the Caucus were people like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm and people like Midge and the degree to which there were people in political office who really believed in and were trying to grapple with the power structures of the political parties, both Republican and Democrat. They were very committed, at least at the outset, to bipartisanship. Women being able to supersede or overcome the party structures that they were in because they believed they had been marginalized within the classic structures and the women’s elements of the Republican and Democratic Party.
Some of the most experienced of the women on the Policy Council were not the showy ones: they were people like Ellie Peterson who had been the chair of the Republican Party in Michigan. Olga Madar and Millie (Jeffries?) were UAW people. There were people like Myrlie Evers who had some strong organizational skills out of the civil rights movement. These were political action-oriented people. Even though both Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, who were feminist leaders and communicators were not nearly as experienced politically, they were part of the convening group, but they weren’t thinking this political thinking and political action of how do you influence decision making? How do you get women into positions of power? How do you get women elected? That was what differentiated what the Women’s Political Caucus wanted to be as compared with NOW or even the League of Women Voters, because the League of Women Voters had been around for a very long time. But that was political civic participation, that also didn’t have the edge that this Caucus saw itself as having.
This policy council constitutes itself as the leadership group going forward but they don’t want to elect a chair because that’s hierarchical. You needed to share the leadership – they didn’t share the responsibility. They decided on a rotating chair, and that this policy council would meet four times a year and each meeting would have a different chair. If you’re the staff it is a little difficult. Maybe Bella was the first one, maybe that’s how it is that I got in there in the first place. Maybe it was her responsibility to keep this going for the first couple of months. I don’t recall. But that proved quite quickly to be unwieldy and impractical.
Pretty soon Sissy Farenthold was elected to be the chair during the first year. She had been a state legislator in Texas and also had been a very anti-war person, and I think was involved in the McCarthy campaign. So that was what the structure would be and how it could be done without being a classic membership organization, but still having to have some mechanism by which you decide on an agenda and what it is that you’re going to do.
JW: What were the issues?
DM: Two sets of issues as I recall them: How do you move an agenda that makes it possible for women to play more of a role in the Republican and in the Democratic political parties? The other issue was how do you get women into appointive office, like cabinet members and judges. Thirdly, how do you get women elected to office at every level from city council to state legislature to Congress to the Senate? There was a clear understanding that it’s unrealistic to think you can just suddenly have women being in the Senate, suddenly have lots of women being in the House, that the way that this all works is that you work your way up and that it is really important to have women in state legislative races and being secretaries of state and county treasurers and all those sorts of things.
That meant trying to develop Women’s Political Caucus groups all around the country who could promote a similar kind of agenda at whatever level they were at. Some of these state caucuses became very savvy and effective and people like Jane Hickie and Betsey Wright became very serious political strategists. In the case of Jane Hickie, for Ann Richardson as governor, in the case of Betsy Wright, for Bill Clinton as governor and then president, they came out of organizing at the state level. They’d probably been active in politics earlier as well.
Those were the things on the agenda, but it then became clear quickly that that wasn’t as straightforward and not necessarily the easiest thing to figure out. In terms of appointive office, there was an opening on the Supreme Court. We really rolled up our sleeves, we made huge lists of women that should be eligible: Constance Baker Motley, we looked at every federal circuit judge, and esteemed lawyers, and put these lists together and sent them in. Nixon then nominated Mildred Lillie. She was not a distinguished legal figure at all, she was from *California. I don’t remember the story of how she came to the attention of the White House but her background was very conservative and she was clearly anti-abortion.
That became very clarifying – we want women in political office, we want women in appointed positions, but you also have to have some feminist inclinations. That nomination ultimately failed, I don’t know whether it was on a background check or whether it was that politically there wasn’t enough support in the Senate, I don’t remember. In terms of us as an organization, it made clear that we were not just talking about women per sé. We were talking about both Republicans and Democrats, but women that would move a women’s agenda and be representative of women’s agenda.
The other thing that was very painful and also clarifying is that Shirley Chisholm was one of the founding members of the Caucus. When she was part of the founding of the Caucus, I do not believe that she had in any way declared an interest in running for president, but soon she did. My sense of it is that that was in fall of ’71 because the conventions were in summer of ’72. She had the very strong expectation as did a number of the women that were organizing founding members that we would endorse her. Why not? You want women in office, somebody especially from your own ranks is running? You would endorse her.
But [for] the seasoned political people, that was a real problem where Republicans were concerned because this was clearly a Democratic candidate for president. There was a lot of skepticism, although it wasn’t out and out opposition. It was, how do we really do this, what is our influence, how do we best use our influence as a women’s organization? It was the other Democratic women, Bella particularly, this was really the Bella-Shirley clash, and also it became the Bella-Betty Friedan clash. Betty Friedan was strongly, strongly in favor of endorsing Shirley Chisholm, but Bella and many of the other women like the labor union women who were seasoned political operatives said absolutely not. That is the fastest way for us to make ourselves marginalized. We wouldn’t have used the word marginalized at that time. But to not be relevant.
The only way that we can credibly and effectively have influence is within the party structures that we are in and within the system that we work in. If we endorsed Shirley Chisholm, as a woman candidate for president, she is not going to become the nominee of the party. We will lose our ability to have leverage in the convention and in other things that elevated roles in the parties themselves. I don’t recall how that clash played itself out. That was tough and it certainly was painful at a personal level because I had only met Shirley, but for many of these other women, they knew each other well over many years.
The other thing I remember then is the conventions in ’72, both Republican and Democratic conventions, and curiously they were both in Miami that year. We went trekking off to Miami and, I mean we flew. I think the Democratic convention was first. Our effort at the convention involved some of the women in the Women’s Political Caucus that had become delegates. Most were not delegates. Bella was a delegate because she was a member of Congress, others were delegates. Mostly we were not people that would have been on the floor of the convention voting.
We organized or mobilized the women delegates to the conventions and create Women’s Democratic Caucus meetings at the conventions in order to talk to women delegates about the rules, the platform, whatever the standing committees are of the parties. The effort was to organize, to try to get women who were delegates to use their influence and votes within the committees and on the committee’s recommendations that would then be voted on by the full convention. We were successful in getting the ERA into the platform, some things on child care and maybe some other issues that I don’t remember. Whatever the issues were that we were arguing for, a good number of them got in the platform.
The other thing with the rules was maybe even more important. We were able to get rules changed that required future conventions to have 50 percent women representation on the committees and in the delegations. I think that rule remains in place. That was very exciting. But the Democratic convention and the Republican convention were so stylistically different because the Democratic convention was a lot of labor union women and anti-war women, and during the time that I was there, the issue of gay women and lesbians was a little bit burbling but that broke open and out later.
These were really liberal women and these were women that were characterized as “bra burners” and women that had marched in New York endlessly. We did rallies where people like Bella, and Betty, and Gloria spoke and gesticulated wildly and loudly. Whereas the Republican convention, we knew that we even had to pack differently. We wore jacket dresses, and pearls, and lapel pins, and brooches, and had white gloves and some people had little pillbox hats. We did the same thing at the Republican convention in terms of organizing women delegates, but we did it by sponsoring teas; we had teas in the afternoon like four o’clock or something like that. We did that at the advice of the Republican women who were in the Caucus: Jill Ruckelshaus, Pat Bailey, Bobbie Kilberg. The interesting thing was that the women delegates in the Republican convention were in general more savvy, more experienced, more tied into the party and the party structure than the Democrats who were by and large, with the exception of the known names, much less connected to established politics.
JW: Were there any women among the delegates in the Republicans as compared to the Democrats?
DM: There probably were less, but they were probably better placed. I remember a woman, Mary Louise Smith, from Iowa. These are women like Ellie Peterson that had been state party chairs and they hadn’t been elected to office themselves but had been in their party machinery. The Republican convention was very shrewd and effective with a man that headed the Mississippi delegation in the Republican Party. He was the chair of the Rules Committee and he was a real handsome, tall, big, maybe 50-year-old; he was in his prime and he was a real Southerner. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He couldn’t have been more warm and friendly. But he would have nothing, he wouldn’t hear of these things that we were talking about. But Mary Louise Smith and a couple of these other Republican women really worked on him effectively and we got that same kind of a rule change in the Republican Party as we did in the Democrat. But it was a completely different exercise.
JW: And kept the ERA in the platform, I was told.
DM: Yes, exactly. That was always the goal of the Holy Grail. I think that Phyllis Schlafly was in the picture at that point, but still with the Eagle Forum. I think she became prominent later in the ’70s. She was not an insider at that point either in the way that some of these other women were. That’s basically what I remember.
JW: You left to be a White House intern, is that right? Or a fellow it’s called?
DM: It’s called the White House Fellows program.
JW: Where were you assigned?
DM: It’s a yearlong program and you’re either assigned to be a special assistant to a senior person in the White House or to a cabinet member. I didn’t particularly want to be in the Nixon White House. You don’t have a total choice but you can declare preferences. I wanted to be in the Justice Department on the theory of “pick the professor not the course.” Even though I had been interested in perhaps going to law school, I wanted to be in the Justice Department because Elliot Richardson was the attorney general and Elliot Richardson had already been the deputy secretary of state, the head of OMB, the deputy secretary of defense. He had a storied political background and he had a reputation in the White House Fellows program of being a really good principal to work with.
That’s what I requested and that’s what I got. I worked at the Justice Department then for the year ’73-’74 which began with six weeks after I got there, Elliot Richardson resigning over the Saturday night massacre [one of the most controversial episodes of the Watergate scandal], and his deputy Bill Ruckelshaus. Then I worked for Robert Bork who was the solicitor general and he became the acting attorney general and the place had sort of emptied out of staff. Then came an attorney general that was confirmed by the Senate who was appointed by Nixon named William Saxbe, who had been a senator from Ohio. He was the attorney general into the summer and our year ended with Nixon resigning in August.
The White House Fellows year begins in September and ends in August. Between there is the resignation of Spiro Agnew that happened before the Saturday Night Massacre and that also became a Justice Department matter. It was an unbelievable year and experience. When President Ford became the president, he brought in Edward Levie, who had been the president of the University of Chicago, to be the new attorney general under the Ford administration. At that point, it was an issue of – so parallel to today – restoring the credibility and the morale of the Justice Department after Mitchell and after the FBI and all of the meltdown that surrounded Watergate.
Ed Levy, as a very nonpartisan distinguished legal figure, very comparable to Merrick Garland, became the attorney general. I was asked to stay on because this is now just as I’m about to leave and there’s nobody there, there are no staff. We’ve had four different leaders in one year. I stayed on and lo and behold, my next boss became Rudy Giuliani. At that point, Rudy Giuliani was a very up and coming, good, smart Republican. He became the associate attorney general at the Justice Department and I worked for him.
JW: Did you carry your feminist principles? What about the Political Caucus and your activism did you carry into that job and further on in your career?
DM: That’s a good question. Not directly, no. I think indirectly, because obviously I believed in it and I was practicing it and I did whatever I could once I got to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) in the ’80s, back again in the ’90s. I appointed women, I had a woman deputy. Late in the Carter administration when Pat Bailey came to the Justice Department and I was able to be fairly influential in her being hired at the Justice Department. She was a Republican, a very well-known Republican, and became a close confidant of Democratic attorneys general, etc.
I did what I could along the way, but I never had an actual diversity, equity and inclusion kind of role. I didn’t really stay in touch with the Women’s Political Caucus. These people were my friends just the way we are now, personal friends, but the Caucus really started moving, it became much more well-structured and much more of a real organization. Even though those of us who had been there at the outset were on the letterhead as members of an advisory board, there was never any outreach to us at all to engage.
JW: What was the accomplishment of the Caucus for women in America?
DM: It was attempting to be the political action arm of the women’s movement and I think that it succeeded in doing that. When you trace back on two things: the numbers of women that actually ran for office and became appointed to various important positions in governments, an awful lot of them traced back to caucus activity. It was the real embryo for lots of women to be able to have a touchpoint, even if it was just a training session, or how do you raise money or if nothing else, an encouragement that if you’re thinking about wanting to be doing something politically, that’s actually a valid thought, because there are other women that think that that’s important. There’s this organization that is dedicated to enabling that and championing that.
The other part of it is that it gave rise to EMILY’s List and the Women’s Campaign Fund. They were further outgrowths of the idea of women being in politics requires money and requires backing. I have always loved the EMILY “Early Money Is Like Yeast” moniker because that has become such a force in the intervening years where women’s campaigns are concerned and where the wherewithal for women to run for office would be. I do subscribe to the notion that we talked about was the group – that the impact was basically a function of the 1970s, that by the time you got to the 1980s, the Caucus had changed sufficiently and many, many other things were going on. It’s always been a victim of success, it worked itself beyond the role that it initially played, but that’s a success in and of itself.
JW: Would you say that your involvement then in the beginning of the organization and the second wave affected your life later on?
DM: Completely, completely, completely. Without the Caucus, without having gotten involved with the women leaders, the policy council, the organizing people, there is no way that I would ever have gotten a network of relationships in Washington that I was able to. I would never have been competitive for the White House Fellows program within two years without the role that I played there. The White House Fellows program, which totally changed my life, was originated in 1965. When I applied in ’73, it was still quite young as a program. It had had only maybe three or four women in the program, and this particular year that I applied, there started to be a really big push for more women’s representation. My class had four women in it, out of 17 people, which was a precedent. I am completely willing to say I was the beneficiary of affirmative action and outreach. Without the Caucus, none of those things would have happened.
JW: You kind of created in a way that kind of affirmative action in a different sphere and you were able to jump in on it, too.
DM: And nor would I have even thought of applying if it hadn’t been for Bobbie Kilberg saying, “You got to do this, you got to do this, go do this.” She really pushed me hard. Maybe she didn’t like my executive directorship. I needed to move on.
JW: I doubt that was it! Is there anything else?
DM: The sisterhood thing was really, really important. We really promoted each other for whatever we could. Margaret Heckler was in the Women’s Political Caucus, she was a congresswoman from Massachusetts. I didn’t know her at all. She wrote me a letter of recommendation for the White House Fellows program. Bobbie said, “I know Margaret, I know Peggy Heckler. I’m going to get her to write you a letter.” I said, “I don’t know her at all.” She said, “That doesn’t matter, we just want women. She’ll write the letter; I’ll write it for her.” I knew none of that stuff, none of that stuff. Now when people come to me, I tell them to write the letter, give it to me, I’ll tailor it. I didn’t know any of that!
JW: I do that too. I say I’ll make it my own, but you tell me what you need me to say.
DM: Right, exactly. That stuff all seems self-evident now. We were clueless, all of us.
JW: Well, you’ve come a long way, and I know there’s still a way to go.
DM: I do remember one of the things at the Democratic Convention in ’72 where Bella just blew her stack because of one of those cluelessness things. We get this stuff coming out of the rules committee, out of the platform committee, but she’s a delegate and she’s on the floor and she’s got to be whipping votes so that these things pass. She comes storming into whatever office we had asking where is my floor plan? They didn’t ever ask us for what it is that they needed as the staff, but we also had no idea how to staff them. Then you realize of course you would need to know where various delegations are, it’s mayhem in there. Basic stuff like that we were really just learning it on the fly, improvising as we went.
I do subscribe to something that really does apply, which I learned when I was in graduate school from one of the deans. He said, “I will choose creative amateurism over most other forms of performance if I’m looking around for people to do things. It’s amazing how bright people can figure things out if you just throw them into the drink.” That was very, very much what we were. We really were motivated and the deeper story here is that we were all struggling in our own way with our own personal issues. In our marriages, as mothers, as people reading this feminist stuff but not being the, “bra burners,” even though that didn’t ever really happen, but metaphorically. And the Caucus was an amazing outlet way to channel our own struggles with who we were as young women and how we were going to move forward in our lives.