Sallie Soule Remarks upon Winning Kunin Award

I am honored to accept the first Annual Governor Madeleine M. Kunin Lifetime Achievement Award from Emerge on behalf of my mother, Sallie Soule.  She could not be with us this evening as she is in Florida preparing for a Climate Change march.  At almost 89 years old, she’s still leading the way and actively engaging in issues that matter.   Here are my mother’s remarks, as shared with me:

I am sorry that I cannot be with you tonight.  This award serves as a symbol to honor those women who came before me who worked tirelessly to advance women and their position in community service, leadership, and politics.

I feel fortunate to have spent my life participating in government and community engagement.  My motivation to get involved came at an early age; my grandmother was a suffragette and a founding member of the League of Women Voters.  She inspired me to understand that I can make a difference in the things that matter most to me.  Because of her mentoring, I became involved in politics and women’s issues.  My grandmother was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in the 1930’s and she served as a role model to me.

As a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother I found I had compelling interests in areas such as women’s health care, education, and working conditions.  My grandmother’s leadership spurred me to action. She encouraged me to always work with others collaboratively.  Women, when working together, inspire one another.  That was certainly the case when I served with my good friend Madeleine, first in the House, then in the Senate when she was serving as Lt. Governor, and then as a member of her administration.  Thanks to Madeline who was the Democratic Whip when I was elected to the House, I was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee.  It was unheard of for a first term representative, let alone a woman, to be appointed to that committee.  It underscored for me how important it is for women to encourage one another’s participation in areas where they are traditionally not well represented, and to support each other, whether it be at the local level in business, representation on school boards, or engaging in health services that directly impact their well-being. 

One of the things I am most proud of is that I was able to work together with a group of women and create the first Vermont Women’s Health Center. It could not have been done alone. We were able to access legal support from within our network, as well as the needed capital by securing a local bank loan of $30,000. This was 45 years ago, before the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. While serving in Madeleine’s administration, Gretchen Morse and I worked together to form the Reach Up program. That program particularly helps women gain job skills and find employment so they can support their minor, dependent children.  Many of you may be familiar with the Champlain College Single Parent Program, which is an outgrowth of Reach Up.

Vermont is a good place to be in politics.  Compared to other places, it does not require as much capital to run here, and I won my first campaign with less than $800 in contributions, $100 of which came from my Republican husband!  The balance came from my classmates from a women’s college and local women interested in women’s reproductive rights.

And, why should women be involved in politics? It is worth the effort of being united in the mission of serving this great State! By working together, as a team and seeking out the assistance of network connections, change will come. And we need to make a change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

Women understand the importance of issues such as childcare, education, health care and reproductive rights. I hope this award will inspire girls and women to continue to embark on lives that are rich in public service.  May you all continue to Enjoy, Engage, Energize, and Emerge. Thank you very much!

Note: You can see a video of Governor Kunin's presentation of the award, and Senator Soule's daughter, Sarah, accepting the award here.




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