Lobby Corps Close-Ups: Nancy MacKenzie

August 10, 2010

This is the next 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.

Nancy MacKenzie was driving along the highway when she heard on the radio that, according to an organization in New England, women did not want to be empowered. This caused Nancy to nearly drive off the road. That message served as a wake-up call, helping her to realize that women were never going to be given equality — they were going to have to fight for it. And once women gained equality, they were going to have to keep fighting for it, or they were going to lose it again.

This incident set the stage for Nancy to join the AAUW Manassas (VA) Branch in 1974 and later, in 1981, to join the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps.

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Photo by Kevin McCoy

During Nancy’s 29 years with Lobby Corps, she has experienced the delight of passing essential legislation and the tireless fight to maintain the rights that women had previously gained. Title IX, in particular, is a bill that Nancy has continued to lobby for.

When Nancy attended Purdue University before Title IX was passed, only one athletic scholarship given to a woman — for the role of the majorette. Even though Nancy was not personally engaged in sports, she thought the discrimination against female athletes was terrible. This personal experience inspired Nancy to seize the opportunity to lobby congressional offices to strengthen and enforce Title IX.

Nancy also participated in Lobby Corps when AAUW focused on passing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Over a seven-year period, Nancy lobbied as the bill evolved from a maternity leave bill to a parental leave bill to a general medical leave bill. Soon after President Clinton was sworn in, the FMLA was finally signed into law.

While Nancy was thrilled that the hard work of Lobby Corps helped pass such a critical bill, she never thought that it would influence her personally. However, when her son was able to rely on the FMLA to take time off from work to aid his pregnant wife, Nancy was proud that a bill she had spent so much time advocating for actually helped her family.

Over the years of lobbying, Nancy has had a number of positive experiences with congressional offices. Once when she was waiting in a senator’s office, the receptionist told her that no one was free to meet with her. When the senator appeared and noticed that an AAUW Lobby Corps member was visiting his office, he insisted that the receptionist call a legislative assistant to meet with Nancy. Another senator told her how grateful he was for the accurate information and statistics that AAUW provides and noted that he even quoted AAUW reports on the Senate floor.

Nancy is thankful that the Public Policy and Government Relations Department staff provides such accurate material and are always there to assist Lobby Corps members. While all her experiences lobbying and interacting with congressional staff have been meaningful, the best part of Lobby Corps for Nancy is getting to know all the AAUW members in the surrounding area. Without the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps, she would never have gotten the opportunity to meet all these great women.

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.

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