Former Female Mass. Politicians Urge More Women to Run For Office

Photo By Alex Rozier // BU News Service

By Alex Rozier
BU New Service

Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of Women’s Advancement hosted Lessons From The Women Who Ran, a panel of five women who have run for office who shared their experiences Thursday evening in the hope of inspiring the next generation.

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, former Secretary of Economic Affairs Evelyn Murphy, former State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien, and former Acting Governor Jane Swift spoke on the panel about their political careers.

“We have to lay out the foundation for more and more women to get involved in politics,” Walsh said to a crowd at Faneuil Hall.

At the gathering, each panelist discussed both the challenges of getting elected as a woman and the importance of increasing the female representation in politics.

“Unless we have a critical mass of women in the Boston Police Department, at the governing table, in state government, to get enough women to say, look, there a lot of women who are single head of households, who are working at night making a lot less than their husbands, who are taking care of their kids, [those conditions] will not change,” Coakley said.

Murphy, who served as lieutenant governor from 1986-1991 and ran for governor in 1990, talked about the perceptions people had of her as a female candidate.

“If you’re running for governor, you have to focus on jobs, and as a woman that becomes particularly important because in many ways you’re not associated with jobs. You’re associated with all the softer things like health care,” Murphy said. She said that perception comes partially because women are underrepresented in the business world as well.

Swift, who became acting governor in 2001 during her term as lieutenant governor, described the challenges of campaigning for the seat while pregnant with twins.

“We were lost somewhere in the western suburbs, and I was trying not to throw up [from morning sickness] because we had to do this one last fundraiser,” Swift said. She is now the CEO an online K-12 learning center based in Middlebury.

Walsh introduced the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement in 2014, with the hope to “advance women toward full equality, and to promote equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls in Boston,” according to the office’s website.

WCVB reporter Janet Wu moderated the event.

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