Lobby Corps Close-Ups: Kitty RichardsonJuly 14, 2010
This is the first in our summer series introducing you to some of the passionate and committed members of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps. Do you have a lobbying story of your own? Share it in the comments box below. We want to hear from you, too.
In January 1980, Kitty Richardson saw an ad in the newspaper for an AAUW meeting. Having just graduated from George Mason University with a degree in nursing, Kitty was ready to meet new people from different backgrounds. AAUW instantly appealed to her because of the diversity of ages and experiences of the members.
Because of her lifelong passion for politics, Lobby Corps was the perfect fit for Kitty. While she was attending St. Louis University in 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began organizing bus rides down to Alabama to promote desegregation. Kitty and her friends agreed to travel together, but as the departure date got closer, everyone but Kitty decided the trip was too dangerous.
She called her father and asked him whether he, like her friends’ parents, thought the trip posed too great a risk. Kitty’s father had taught her that every man, regardless of race, color, or religion, deserved to be treated equally and with respect. When she told him of her plan, he told her to follow her conscience. So, scared of the very real threat of violence, she boarded the bus without her friends and rode down to Alabama.
Such experiences have given Kitty a different perspective on the current political scene. She remembers that, before strong civil rights laws were enacted, awful things were said and done in the political arena. Even though Lyndon Johnson’s administration was considered “stable,” Kitty feels that things only ran smoothly because Johnson was a great politician. Today is a different time, and Kitty is optimistic because, at least now there can be an open dialogue about disagreements; in the past, the party in power simply ruled the day.
This perspective has caused her to appreciate the work that the AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Department does, especially under the leadership of Lisa Maatz. Kitty feels that Lisa is eager to build relationships with congressional offices. Even if a member of Congress disagrees with AAUW 80 percent of the time, Lisa will still build an alliance from that 20 percent. Kitty recognizes this is essential, particularly because of the political diversity among AAUW members.
One of Kitty’s favorite experiences while lobbying was when she went on to Capitol Hill to advocate for a bill that would help women pursue careers in nontraditional fields. When she was discussing this bill with a congressional legislative assistant, he mentioned that his boss had recently gone to Ruth Motors and was delighted when Ruth herself came and fixed his car. The legislative assistant knew that this had made an impression on the member of Congress, and that he would be willing to support a bill to help more women become mechanics and enter other nontraditional fields. For Kitty, that was what Lobby Corps was all about: making sure that people got their fair share. Even though it’s not always the easiest thing to do, Kitty speaks up when she sees that something is wrong, and she encourages others to do the same.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Fellow Eliza Horn. Eliza is a senior at Vanderbilt University, majoring in Law & Social Justice as well as Creative Writing. Eliza works at the Women and Gender Studies Program at Vanderbilt and has organized and presented her research at their annual conference.