Cecile Richards, "Make Trouble" In Conversation with Ellen Chesler
May 27, 2018 at 3:00pm
In Conversation with Ellen Chesler
To Make Change, You Have to Make Trouble
From Cecile Richards—president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more than a decade, daughter of the late Governor Ann Richards, featured speaker at the Women’s March on Washington, and a “heroine of the resistance” (Vogue)—comes a story about learning to lead and make change, based on a lifetime of fighting for women’s rights and social justice.
Cecile Richards has been an activist since she was taken to the principal’s office in seventh grade for wearing an armband in protest of the Vietnam War. Richards had an extraordinary childhood in ultra-conservative Texas, where her civil rights attorney father and activist mother taught their kids to be troublemakers. In the Richards household, the “dinner table was never for eating—it was for sorting precinct lists.”
From the time Richards was a girl, she had a front-row seat to observe the rise of women in American politics. She watched her mother, Ann, transform from a housewife to an electrifying force in the Democratic party who made a name for herself as the straight-talking, truth-telling governor of Texas. But Richards also witnessed the pitfalls of public life that are unique to women. Her experiences paint a powerful portrait of the misogyny, sexism, fake news, and even the threat of violence confronting those who challenge authority.
As a young woman, Richards worked as a labor organizer alongside women earning minimum wage and learned that those in power don’t give it up without a fight. Now, after years of advocacy, resistance, and progressive leadership, she shares her story for the first time—from the joy and heartbreak of activism to the challenges of raising kids, having a life, and making change, all at the same time.
She shines a light on the people and lessons that have gotten her through good times and bad and encourages readers to take risks, make mistakes, and make trouble along the way. Richards has dedicated her life to taking on injustice, and her memoir will inspire readers to hope and action.
Cecile Richards is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health, reproductive rights, and social change. She began her career helping garment workers, hotel workers, and nursing home aides fight for better wages and working conditions. After years in the labor movement, she moved back home to Texas to help elect the state’s first Democratic woman governor: Her mother, Ann Richards. She went on to start her own grassroots organizations and later served as Deputy Chief of Staff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2011 and 2012, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Richards is currently the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and is a frequent speaker and commentator on issues related to women’s rights and activism. Richards serves on the board of the Ford Foundation. She and her husband, Kirk Adams, have three children and reside in New York City.
Ellen Chesler, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, the longtime partner to the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, which has recently established a presence in New York City as a progressive public policy and leadership development center. She is author of the critically celebrated Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, 1992, 2007; co-editor with Wendy Chavkin, M.D. of Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality and Women in the New Millennium, 2005; and co-editor with Terry McGovern of Women and Girls Rising: Progress and Resistance Around the World, 2015. She has written numerous essays and articles in academic and policy anthologies and for major newspapers, periodicals, and blogs, and is at work on a new book about the history of women’s rights as fundamental human rights. She worked for many years in philanthropy, most recently as a program director at the Open Society Foundation, and early in her career, in government, as chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy. She has taught history and public policy at Hunter College/CUNY and Barnard College. She is an honors graduate of Vassar College and holds a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University.
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