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Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

This week marks the close of March and Women’s History Month, which is an intentional time to lift up the vital contributions women have given to history and society. It is in this spirit of celebration and honor, we share this piece from the Democracy Fund, Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger, written by Anne Gleich, Jessica Harris, and Jessica Mahone. The article offers an incredible list of phenomenal women across the nation working to improve our election systems, political representation, journalism, and who are leading efforts to build bridges across divisions and combat hate. Shout out to Shari Davis of NCDD member org The Participatory Budgeting Project who was mentioned for her work! We highly encourage folks to learn more about the work of these powerful women and to join us in congratulating them on their hard work and impactful accomplishments! Read the article below and find the original on Democracy Fund’s blog here.

Celebrating Women Who Are Making Democracy Stronger

In the first presidential proclamation celebrating women’s contributions to United States history, President Reagan observed: “American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways … Their diverse service is among America’s most precious gifts.”

As pioneers, teachers, mothers, soldiers, journalists, inventors, lawmakers, laborers and so many other roles, women have and continue to make vital contributions to American economic, political, and social life. Throughout our history, women have not only advocated to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but were also early leaders in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health, labor, and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement. It is not hyperbole to say that the United States has been transformed by these generations of women, and our democracy has been strengthened through their courage, creativity, and persistence.

As we commemorate Women’s History Month at Democracy Fund, we also want to take some time to celebrate our incredible women-led and women-focused grantees who today are continuing this long tradition of public service and leadership.

Women are leading efforts to improve our elections and make sure every vote counts.

At Democracy Fund, we believe that voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Through our Elections Program, we are proud to support many innovative American women who are leading efforts to ensure our elections are free, fair, accessible, and secure.

Tianna Epps Johnson, founder of the Center for Technology and Civic Life, is building free and low-cost tech tools to help local election officials better engage with their communities and modernize elections. Electionline, run by Editor-in-Chief Mindy Moretti, is providing news and information about election administration and reform across all 50 states and has created a hub for elections officials to network, learn from each other, and collaborate on ways to improve the voting process.

When it comes to accessibility, many Americans still face barriers that prevent them from participating in the election process. Michelle Bishop and the National Disability Rights Network are educating election officials, equipment vendors, advocates, and the public on the need for fully accessible elections. Terry Ao Minnis, Democracy Fund Senior Fellow and Director of the Census and Voting programs at Asian Americans for Advancing Justice, is working to ensure a fair and accurate Census so that all Americans receive the resources and assistance they need to participate in our democracy. And Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell at the Center for Civic Design are bringing user experience principles to the design of forms and tools that will make voting easier for all voters. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg at CIRCLE at Tufts University and the historic League of Women Voters, under the leadership of Virginia Kase, are innovating new ways to inform and engage women voters across the political spectrum.

Jennifer Morrell, a former Colorado election official, is working with state election officials to develop and implement new testing and auditing procedures to ensure votes are counted correctly, and results are reported accurately. And Mari Dugas and the Cyber Security Project and Defending Digital Democracy has published several playbooks to help campaign and election officials defend themselves against cyberattacks and information operations aimed at undermining trust in the American election system.

Women from both sides of the aisle are working together to create a Congress that looks more like America.

Even though we just saw a historic election cycle where a record-setting number of women ran for elected office and won, we still have a long way to go until women are fully represented in the United States. That is why, through our Governance Program, Democracy Fund is proud to support many leaders and organizations that are working to equip women with the skills they need to participate in politics, run for office, and lead once elected.

ReflectUS, a nonpartisan coalition working to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the racial, ideological, ethnic, and geographic spectrum, is fostering collaboration among seven of the nation’s leading training organizations to help equip more women to run, win, and serve. The Women’s Public Leadership Network aims to increase the number of women under consideration for political and government-related appointments and is growing a network and support system for conservative women who are interested in running for elected office or participating in our political system. Latinas Lead, a new program from The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, helps current Latina state legislators scale the leadership ranks in their State Capitols, as well as recruit potential Latina candidates for state-level office.

Once women are elected, the National Foundation of Women Legislators provides resources and opportunities to develop leadership skills and build professional and personal relationships across the aisle through regular conferences, state outreach, educational materials, and more. The Women’s Congressional Policy Institute, lead by Cindy Hall and a bipartisan board of female former legislators, has been bringing women policymakers together across party lines to advance issues of importance to women and their families for over twenty years. With our support, they have also launched several programs to foster women’s leadership on Capitol Hill through the Congressional Women’s Caucus and the Women Chiefs of Staff Program. We are also supporters of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game— a yearly event to foster bipartisan relationships between women Members of Congress and their counterparts in the D.C. Press Corps.

Women journalists are holding our leaders accountable and creating opportunities for the next generation of reporters.

Women play a vital role in holding leaders accountable once they’ve been elected. Although the majority of journalism and communications graduates are women, the majority of newsroom workers, particularly leaders, are men. Holding leaders accountable to all Americans requires a news industry that is inclusive and represents all communities, which is why, through our Public Square Program, we are proud to support organizations and leaders that are working to change America’s newsrooms and create new resources to inform and serve their communities.

By pioneering innovative new methods that newsrooms can use to better listen to and collaborate with the communities they serve, Bettina Chang at CityBureau and Sarah Alvarez and an all-woman staff at Outlier Media are rethinking how journalism is done. The Obsidian Collection, led by Angela Ford, is working to promote the importance of Black media in the United States, preserve the stories of Black communities through archiving, and build a blueprint for future generations in Black media.

Founded by Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is dedicated to increasing the number of and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting by providing low-cost regional trainings in the use of advanced technology, open records laws, advanced interviewing techniques and other investigative techniques. The Ida B. Wells Society partners with organizations such as the National Association for Black JournalistsInvestigative Reporters and Editors, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to provide access to journalists and aspiring journalists of color who want to sharpen their investigative reporting skills and broaden their professional networks.

Take the Lead’s 50 Women Can Change the World in Journalism training program harnesses the collective power of women in journalism to build a more just and equal world, advance their careers, and work together to re-envision journalism. According to co-founder Gloria Feldt, Take the Lead’s goal is “nothing less than gender parity by 2025.”

Women are leading efforts to combat hate in America and build bridges across our divides.

Like many who care about the health of our political system, we at Democracy Fund have been alarmed by increasing tribalism and extremism across the United States, including the implementation of policies targeting immigrant and minority communities and the rise in hate-crimes against communities of color, and Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. We’re partnering with leaders and organizations that are working to ensure the resilience and safety of targeted communities through our Special Project on Fostering a Just and Inclusive Society.

Grantees like Sherrilyn Ifill at the NAACP-LDFKristen Clarke at the Lawyers Committee for Civil RightsMarielena Hincapie at the National Immigration Law Center, and Aarti Kohli at the Asian Law Caucus are leading efforts to protect those whose civil rights and safety are endangered in this volatile political moment. Purvi Shah and Movement Law Lab are incubating projects that combine law and community organizing to protect, defend, and strengthen racial justice movements. To inform national conversations, Meira Neggaz and Dahlia Mogahed at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding provide case studies and data on the day-to-day challenges many Muslims face, as well as actionable recommendations for breaking the structural barriers that hinder the American Muslim community from full inclusion and participation. And Samar Ali is leading the Millions of Conversations campaign to engage communities across the country in changing the narrative about Muslims in America.

In this blog, we could only highlight a few of the remarkable women leaders whose organizations, programs, and projects Democracy Fund is proud to support. We hope you’ll take some time to explore the complete list below. By working to improve our elections, hold our government accountable, combat hate, and open doors for the next generation, these women are making their mark on American history right now—and our democracy will be stronger because of them.


Bonnie AllenChicago Lawyers’ Committee

Pam AndersonConsultant for Voter Centric Election Administration

Michelle BishopNational Disability Rights Network

Mitchell BrownCapacity and Governance Institute

Jamie ChesserNational States Geographic Information Council

Dana ChisnellCenter for Civic Design

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil RIghts

Lisa DanetzNational Voter Registration Act Compliance Consultant

Mari DugasBelfer Center Cybersecurity and Defending Digital Democracy

Tiana Epps Johnson, Center for Technology and Civic Life

Rebecca GreenWilliam & Mary Law School eBenchbook

Astrid Garcia OchoaFuture of California Elections

Kathleen HaleCapacity and Governance Institute

Karen Hobert FlynnCommon Cause

Shanna Hughey, ThinkTennessee

Sharon JarvisMoody College of Communications, University of Texas

Virginia Kase, League of Women Voters

Kei Kawashima-GinsbergCIRCLE at Tufts University

Kate KrontirisVoter Turnout consultant

Nsombi LambrightOne Voice

Susan LernerCommon Cause New York

Amber McReynoldsVote at Home

Gretchen Macht, RI VOTES at University of Rhode Island

Mimi MarzianiTexas Civil Rights Project

Terry Ao MinnisAsian Americans for Advancing Justice

Mindy MorettiElectionline

Jennifer MorrellRisk-Limiting Audits consultant

Katy Owens HublerCommon Data and Elections Process Model consultant

Katy PetersDemocracy Works

Wendy QuesenberyCenter for Civic Design

Ashley SpillaneImpactual

Wendy UnderhillNational Conference of State Legislatures


Erica BernalNALEO Educational Fund

Danielle BrianProject On Government Oversight

Louise Dube, iCivics

Mindy FinnEmpowered Women

Sylvia Golbin GoodmanAndrew Goodman Foundation

Rosalind GoldNALEO Educational Fund

Dr. Mary GrantEdward M. Kennedy Institute

Cindy HallWomen’s Congressional Policy Institute

Cherie HarderTrinity Forum

Marci HarrisPopVox

Dr. Carla HaydenLibrary of Congress

Audrey HensonCollege to Congress

Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center

Sheila KrumholzCenter for Responsive Politics

Frances LeeUMD Interdisciplinary Polarization Research

Dr. Carolyn LukensmeyerNational Institute for Civil Discourse

Tamera LuzzattoPew Safe Spaces Project

Maya MacGuineasCommittee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Angela MansoStaff Up Congress, NALEO Educational Fund

Meredith McGeheeIssue One

Darla Minnich, National Issues Forum Institute

Joan MooneyFaith and Politics Institute

Jennifer NassourReflectUS

Beth Simone NoveckNYU GovLab

Michelle PayneCongressional Sports for Charity

Rachel PericWelcoming America

Lisa RosenbergOpen the Government

Laura RosenbergerAlliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund

Sonal ShahBeeck Center

Suzanne SpauldingDefending Democracy Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Michele StockwellBipartisan Policy Center Action

Jody ThomasNational Foundation for Women Legislators

Sarah TurbervilleThe Constitution Project at POGO


Sarah AlvarezOutlier Media

Bettina ChangCity Bureau

Heather ChaplinThe New School for Journalism + Design

Meredith ClarkUniversity of Virginia/ASNE Diversity Survey

Sue CrossInstitute for Nonprofit News

Gloria FeldtTake the Lead

Leslie Fields-CruzBlack Public Media

Angela FordThe Obsidian Collection

Martha FoyeWorking Narratives

Lackisha Freeman, WNCU

Sarah GustavusNew Mexico Local News Fund

Elizabeth GreenChalkbeat, American Journalism Project

Andrea HartCity Bureau

Hadar HarrisStudent Press Law Center

Rose HobanNC Health News

Deborah Holt NoelUNC-TV Black Issues Forum

Janey HurleyAsheville Writers in the Schools

Paola JaramilloEnlace Latino North Carolina

Nikole Hannah JonesThe Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting

Mollie KablerCoast Alaska

Regina LawrenceAgora Journalism Center

Sally LehrmanTrust Project

Joy MayerTrusting News Project

Stefanie MurrayCenter for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University

Tamiko Ambrose MurrayAsheville Writers in the Schools

Amy NilesWBGO

Angie NewsomeCarolina Public Press

Suzanne NosselPen America

Erika OwensOpenNews

Tracie PowellDemocracy Fund Senior Fellow

Angelique PowersField Foundation

Kristy RoschkeNews Co/Lab at Arizona State University

Melanie SillSenior Consultant for North Carolina Local News Lab

Sheila SolomonSenior Consultant for Chicago

Michelle SrbinovichWDET

Talia StroudCenter for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin

Katie TownsendReporters Committee for Press Freedom Litigation Program

Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Asian American Journalists Association

Mary Walter BrownNews Revenue Hub

Nancy WatzmanColorado Media Project

Journalism and Women Symposium


Samar AliMillions of Conversations

Rachel BrownOver Zero

Kristen ClarkeLawyers Committee for Civil Rights

Marielena HincapieNational Immigration Law Center

Sherrilyn IfillNAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Aarti KohliAsian Law Caucus

Dalia Mogahed, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

Meira NeggazInstitute for Social Policy and Understanding

Catherine OrsbornShoulder to Shoulder

Purvi ShahMovement Law Lab

Shireen ZamanRise Together Fund (formerly Security and Rights Collaborative)


Shari DavisParticipatory Budgeting Project

Rachel KleinfeldCarnegie Endowment for International Peace

Melissa RodgersImmigrant Legal Resource Center

Prof. Susan Stokes – Bright Lines Watch, University of Chicago

You can find the original version of this article on Democracy Fund’s site at www.democracyfund.org/blog/entry/celebrating-women-who-are-making-democracy-stronger.

Keiva Hummel
Keiva Hummel serves as NCDD’s Communications Coordinator. She graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Global Peace, Human Rights and Justice Studies, and a Certificate in Conflict Resolution Studies.

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