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Kim Gandy is no Mary Anderson

(Cross-posted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri – if you enjoy the historical part of this post you might also enjoy this one from Potpourri)

I have been given to understand that a) Kim Gandy, currently President of N.O.W. (National Organization for Women) wants to become head of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor and that b) today, February 8, 2009, a number of bloggers will be discussing whether appointing her to the job is a good idea. That Ms. Gandy wants the job is a total rumor to me; if she does, I can’t say that the choice thrills me.

The choice of Gandy does not thrill me because she holds great power at N.O.W. (from the N.O.W. site: “Gandy also is president of the NOW Foundation, chair of NOW’s Political Action Committees, and serves as the principal spokesperson for all three entities”; and I think she used that power to have N.O.W. sell women down the river when N.O.W. broke with its usual practice and made a general election presidential endorsement, picking Barack Obama, somebody who used and tolerated sexism and misogyny to gain the Democratic Party’s nomination. I use the expression “sold women down the river” with all its metaphorical baggage: the image of humans being treated like chattel sold down to the Delta to be auctioned off. I think N.O.W. had very little evidence of Barack Obama’s commitment to women’s empowerment, little evidence of even his commitment to women’s reproductive rights (the usual excuse used by mainstream women’s groups to go out of their way to support his candidacy). And still, under the leadership of Gandy, N.O.W. went out of its way to auction off women’s votes, encouraging them to turn out and make sure this man, who never once denounced the nutcrackers and the media comments and the misogynistic rappers singing him into office, became President of the United States of America.

On the other side of the ledger, Kim Gandy has clearly spent the better part of her life working on issues important to women; she’s probably quite knowledgeable about working conditions for women and in a position to hire high quality staff. So Gandy is not a bad person and she’s not anti-woman. But she made a Faustian bargain at high profile moment. The dynamics of the general election were such that women’s votes really mattered. And lots of women were and still are furious at the Democratic Party for depriving Hillary Rodham Clinton of an equal opportunity to win the nomination at the Denver Convention by abiding by the Party’s own rules and traditions. Under these circumstances, N.O.W. should have remained agnostic. As an organization that does not usually trade in presidential endorsements, refraining from making one would not have made news. Going out of its way to endorse Obama is what made news, and Gandy made that decision. In a year when every poll showed any generic Democrat beating John McCain and almost every poll consistently predicted Obama beating McCain, there really was no reason – even for those who believed that McCain would be a worse president for women than Obama – for women’s organizations to line up behind Obama. The only reason to do so would be fear of reprisal if they did not; or if their leaders hoped for a seat within the administration after the election. N.O.W. and, if rumor is correct, Ms. Gandy acted for the latter reasons.

I believe that once a person shows a capacity for major betrayal – in public or private life – that person cannot be safely relied upon to act in a reasonably trustworthy way again. So I was not surprised that it turned out that Bill Richardson had apparently not been totally forthcoming with the Obama administration about the corruption charges against him back in New Mexico. If Richardson would deceive the Clintons to further his aims, why would he not do the same to Obama?

If Kim Gandy was willing to sell out women who expected really very little of her – just that she stick with usual practice and show organizational restraint in an election that was wracking many women with distress – I can easily predict that she will sell out women who expect harder things of her, such as real fighting for women’s interests in an economy that is bad for everybody but worst for women.

That said, making a deal with the devil does not make Kim Gandy the devil. Of course neither does it make her another Mary Anderson, the first director of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor.

Mary Anderson (served 1920 – 1944)


The first “up from the ranks” labor woman to head an executive department of the Federal Government, Mary Anderson directed the Women’s Bureau for nearly 25 years, leading efforts to win better wages, hours and working condition for women. She served for five presidents and, during her tenure, saw the ranks of women workers more than double.

Women’s Bureau, Director’s Gallery

“As the world evolves, so too does the growing role of women who are proving their infinite capabilities in today’s complex workplace, and exhibiting a new usefulness now and for the future.”

Mary Anderson Signaturefrom the Labor Hall of Fame citation inducting Mary Anderson

Also from that citation:

From a domestic worker to factory employee to trade union leader, Swedish-born Mary Anderson was a tireless champion of women in the workplace. Director of the Women’s Bureau for a quarter century, she was the most influential of all women in Federal service. Her leadership in fact-finding and standards-setting established her as the Nation’s foremost authority in the struggle for women’s rights and the improvement of their lives and working conditions.

At the start of the 20th century the Women’s Bureau was lead by a woman whose commitment to women’s equal opportunity in the workplace transcended party politics, Why should we expect anything less from the Director appointed at the start of the 21st century?

(Excerpted at 51 Percent)

54 Responses

  1. Thanks Heidi Li! I couldn’t put mine up because I was in Apartment Sale mode.


    Meanwhile…NOW is supposed to be non-partisan. What a conflict of interest to ask for a spot in the Obama administration!

  2. Heidi Li
    Kim Gandy IS the devil.

  3. Gandy BACKSTABBED Hillary Clinton for this.

  4. Heidi: Thank you for this post. Kim Gandy is no Mary Anderson. Gandy sold women down the river to get this post. May karma bite her in the butt. I wonder, if she has any tax issues?

  5. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is near the top of President Barack Obama’s list of candidates to head the Health and Human Services Department, a senior administration official said Saturday.

  6. There should be a cabinet post — Sec. of “Woman’s interest” or some such wording.

    but then seeing how the idiot males in charge behave — they’d probably appoint a male to this post.

    What is what happened in a high school in CA — the Dean of Women was a male. I don’t know how common that was — but then how many OBGYNs are male — totally stupid.

  7. No, Kim Gandy isn’t the devil — she is just an abuser of power, untrustworthy back-stabbing liar, and a hypocrite with no moral compass. Other than that, I’ve got no problem with her. 🙂

  8. Hi Northwest,
    I’ve blogged about a cabinet level position or a presidential advisory board (on Potpourri the posts are tagged PEWAB, for Presidential Empowerment of Women Advisory Board). I honestly believe that leaving 51% of the population comparatively disadvantaged is as much as a problem as the other two big areas where we have Presidential Advisory Boards – the economy and national security.

  9. angienc2, on February 8th, 2009 at 7:20 pm Said:

    That’s a reasonable position, counselor. Gandy is like an athlete who, just when she should have peaked, choked. In some sense this makes her more disappointing then if she had no track record of working for women’s issues. I know you were being tongue-in-cheek, but I wanted to treat your comment seriously because Gandy’s plight is ethically complex. That doesn’t excuse her or qualify her for an important post related to women’s wellbeing, but I think we have to be careful about painting with brushes too broad.

  10. Heidi: Who would you recommend for the post?

  11. As a woman, maybe ‘now’, she figures she’s gonna get hers, ‘now’ you go and get yours. Its all about the money$

  12. Oh Heidi — always the calm voice of reason! But Gandy reminds me of this guy whose case I was assigned as a law clerk at my state’s Supreme Court — he really had been a good law-abiding guy until he raped & murdered that 13 year old girl — I felt kind of sorry for him. But on death row he sits & writing the opinion affirming his conviction was no struggle for me (there was no reversible error). One moment can change a person’s whole life & overshadow everything he/she did before that moment — and for me, Gandy’s moment came during this past election. She isn’t qualified for dog catcher, must less protecting & serving women’s interests in this country.

  13. Thank you for this post, Heidi Li. I never heard of Mary Anderson, but she sounds like an amazing woman. I don’t think Gandy should get the job she held.

  14. I was wondering what made NOW so compliant…talk about your pay to play moves.

  15. Don’t forget, the endorsement of Obama-Biden was also a rejection of Sarah Palin.

  16. myiq- and the Green Party ticket which had TWO women on it!

    Ms. Gandy should be ashamed. But we knew the Chicago Way was here to stay with Obama at the helm.

  17. Mary Anderson worked for Francis Perkins, the first woman ever appointed to the Cabinet.

  18. I know a little bit about Gandy’s background and how she got to NOW. To sum it up in one sentence, she basically worked her way up from local NOW offices in Louisiana until she was voted to an executive member at the national office in Washington.

    I really don’t know how to describe her. I feel like she has spoken out against misogyny in the past and to NOW’s credit, endorsed Hillary Clinton and did not jump ship until she dropped out of the race. However, Gandy doesn’t seem like the type of person who will rock the boat if it jeopardizes her chances of moving up the ladder – this isn’t anything new and it’s a quality that unfortunately most people in Washington share. They are going to keep quiet if it means that they get brownie points with the new administration at the expense of disappointing members at the local level.

    I was extremely disappointed that most feminist groups chose not to hold Obama, Edwards, and progressives accountable for misogyny in the primary. Instead they occasionally went after Chris Matthews because his sexism was so obvious to everyone. Also, they did nothing to condemn the misogyny directed at Palin. I don’t think they were obligated to endorse Palin – issues do matter. But regardless of a woman’s political affiliation, feminist organizations are obligated to protect them from misogynistic attacks in the media and even when it comes from the Democratic Party.

    Unfortunately, I think we are in the minority and Gandy realizes that all she needs to do to move ahead is to do enough to keep the Beltway happy. She scolded Chris Matthews a few times and NOW had a webpage devoted to misogyny in the media. Not nearly enough IMO but enough that Gandy has proven her feminist cred to the Villagers in order to get promoted.

  19. OT, but interesting: Mistresses of the Universe

  20. I don’t think they were obligated to endorse Palin

    Of course not. The simple (and proper) thing to do would be to say “We don’t endorse candidates.”

  21. angie wrote: “One moment can change a person’s whole life & overshadow everything he/she did before that moment — and for me, Gandy’s moment came during this past election. She isn’t qualified for dog catcher, must less protecting & serving women’s interests in this country.” I agree with 99.9 per cent of what you say here – not bad for two lawyers, eh?

  22. Delores Huerta would be an interesting possibility for the post.

  23. Dolores Huerta is the correct spelling. And it would not be her, given her age and health – but somebody she would recommend.
    See http://womenshistory.about.com/od/worklaborunions/a/dolores_huerta.htm

  24. Ms. Gandy’s hypocrisy floors me.

    Excellent post, Heidi

  25. myiq2xu, on February 8th, 2009 at 7:57 pm Said:
    They had a complicated relationship, because Anderson was a big supporter of E.R.A., and Perkins, like Eleanor Roosevelt, was very cool toward the E.R.A. believing in the leglislative-administrative state as a better, and exclusive route to women’s empowerment.

  26. Sophie’s link had some enlightening examples of why we need more women in organizations.

    …. That study found that men are particularly likely to make high-risk bets when under financial pressure and surrounded by other males of similar status.
    As for women, their risk-taking was unaffected by this kind of peer pressure.

  27. Sophie, on February 8th, 2009 at 8:05 pm Said:

    OT, but interesting: Mistresses of the Universe


    Good job Nicholas!

  28. The problem with amending the Constitution is nothing happens until the amendment is ratified, and even then SCOTUS gets to interpret it.

    Look what they did to the 14th amendment – they defined it so that it had no meaning as far as civil rights (which is why all the civil rights legislation is based on the Commerce Claus)

  29. Yuck:

    “The government workers greeted Michelle Obama like a Hollywood celebrity, whooping and cheering and oohing and aahing over her slate-gray power suit. But when she took to the podium, the nation’s self-described mom in chief quickly turned policy wonk.”

    Looks like they got the story from the NYT. Why do I even bother to read the effing news? “Policy wonk” my *ss.

  30. myiq2xu, on February 8th, 2009 at 8:23 pm Said:
    Not to be too wonkish, friend, but the legislation based on the 13th A, which is what the ERA is more comparable to, is section 1983 of the U.S. Code and is NOT commerce clause dependent. It is section 1983 that, starting in 1970 with Monroe v. Pape, was used by SCOTUS to dismantle Jim Crow.

    But not to hairsplit unduly. I personally think that the lesson of the rise of the administrative state is that legislation and Constitutional action are both required.

  31. PumaInSeattle: I actually think that Michelle Obama is smarter (and sneakier) than Obama. She definitely wears the pants behind the scenes. Obama is just a puppet to everyone because he’s the unscary biracial “black” man who can read a teleprompter well.

  32. DV — I just immediately thought of Hillary and her policy expertise and had that extreme negative reaction to Meechell being called at all wonkish. But I agree with you; I think she’s even more vindinctive.

  33. legislation and Constitutional action are both required

    Agreed – along with eternal vigilence.

    As soon as you relax because you think you won they start chipping away at whatever you gained.

  34. Great post, Heidi, thanks – with her holding so many titles within NOW it sounds as though they can’t get folks to fill slots on their Boards – the death knell for NOW – it certainly has lost it’s brand

  35. DisenfranchisedVoter: I think you are so right.
    And PumaInSeattle, I really do think she wants to out Hillary Hillary and that she’s just trying to play it cool–but we can see her salivating.

  36. Funny you should mention that – just this afternoon I was thinking – I wonder how that goes in the WH – O –“boy what a day I had today – this is way more than I imagined – we’ve got to figure out a way of getting out of this”
    MO – “oh, stop your wining – this is our big chance – we’ve got it all – don’t blow it – now go out there and let them have it”

  37. Great, we get a female President on tv, and they kill her.

  38. WTF??:

    “As a Catholic, I accept the teaching of my church on abortion. That is my personal religious belief.”

    That’s a 1990 quote by Nancy Keenan, who is now the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

  39. Heidi- I’m just curious if Gandy has any experience in labor or a varied occupational background that would somehow make her qualified for this position, somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t. The only NOW chapter that came to the rescue of Palin and in turn, women, was the LA chapter, I believe. That person, who I recall was a democrat, was courageous. It sounds like Gandy is a coward, as were almost every social leader that could have made a difference for Hillary and the country.

  40. was

  41. National NARAL endorsed “Rape-gurney” Joe Lieberman even though CT NARAL endorsed Ned Lamont

  42. myiq,

    Yes, Nancy Keenan is personally anti-abortion and supposedly supports Roe anyway. When they endorsed Lieberman, lots of women stopped donating to them. Keenan’s betrayal of Hillary wasn’t much of a shock.

  43. lililam, on February 8th, 2009 at 9:07 pm Said:
    Gandy has no particular background in labor issues although NOW has done work on women in the workforce, typical stuff.

    This job really should go to woman who is either from the labor movement or who has worked say in a state labor and unemployment office – it takes experience.

    LA chapter of NOW did NOT endorse Pailin: the national NOW site is at great pains to make this clear.

  44. myiq2xu, on February 8th, 2009 at 9:03 pm Said:

    “As a Catholic, I accept the teaching of my church on abortion. That is
    my personal religious belief.”

    That’s a 1990 quote by Nancy Keenan, who is now the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
    I don’t think she has changed that opinion…She believes that abortion if a “mortal sin” yet she is Pres. of NARAL..How F*cked up is that!!

  45. Thanks Heidi. I didn’t think they endorsed Palin, but i remember their leader defending her, unless I am misremembering!

  46. New post…”No We Won’t” aftershow party open thread.

  47. I don’t know SHV. I am catholic too and I would have never, ever, for any reason, gotten an abortion, when I was young. (Now the point is moot) But that’s my personal belief; I know abortion is necessary in a civilized society for those who don’t hold that same belief. To me nothing would be worse than going back to the back-alley abortions and have women die for that.

  48. Affirming your standards for trustworthiness, if Richardson could mislead the Clintons, if John Edwards, Jay Rockerfeller AND Robert Byrd could stiff their professional colleague in the most outrageous display of contempt for the voters, Obama attracts and surrounds himself with oportunist survivor types, is it a fair bet to expect he’s the sweet center of a tightly coiling spiral that ends with and reflects him?

  49. SHV — it is not difficult to separate your religious beliefs from your professional beliefs if you believe in the separation of church & state. I personally would not have an abortion because of my religious beliefs but I am pro-choice because I believe every woman has the right to make her own choice and my personal religious beliefs should have NO bearing on her choice. It is the same thing when I worked at my state’s supreme court — I’m against the death penalty because of my religious beliefs, but I had no problem reviewing death penalty conviction & writing opinions affirming them that did not contain legal error.

  50. The (former?) president of the LA Chapter of NOW endorsed Palin, but not the chapter itself. Said, she thought Palin was what a feminist looked like.

  51. Thanks, reg- that rings a bell.

  52. I think NOW’s (and other women’s rights organizations’) endorsement of Obama was only in part because of Palin. None of these womens’ rights organizations endorsed McKinney/Clemente either. Two liberal women ticket doesn’t get a single endorsement from a women’s rights group! Make sense of that if you can!

    As far as Palin – they not only buried their heads in the sand as Palin was getting bashed, they frequently participated in the bashing. Women’s Media Center printed articles by noted feminists of yore eviscerating Palin. Kim Gandy’s role in all of it now starts to make sense. I suspect all the others were just trying to keep themselves relevant; they were jumping on the groovy train because it’s what all the cool kids were doing. It doesn’t make any of them evil, but it does make them untrustworthy.

  53. DYB, on February 8th, 2009 at 10:09 pm Said:

    Precisely. Untrustworthy because they have discarded integrity.

  54. Heidi Li,
    You’ve done it (said it) again. Excellent essay. I am disgusted with
    NOW as a national organization. Faustian bargain–for sure.

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