There’s been quite a few developments in the White House since two gutsy women — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton — kicked off their book tour this week.
A formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president has set off a storm in Washington. Trump has repeatedly described the conversation as “perfect.”
For Hillary Clinton, secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, she says the fact that the Trump administration is “stonewalling” the House’s impeachment inquiry raises questions.
“If there is nothing to hide, if the call was, as the president likes to say, ‘perfect,’ then the people in his administration should end this constitutional crisis by coming forth, telling what they know to the American people through elected representatives,” Hillary Clinton says.
She says she’s “troubled” by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s handling of the situation, specifically his refusal to cooperate with a request from the House impeachment inquiry staff. Recent reports find Pompeo was among administration officials who listened in on Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House’s “deliberate” handling of the impeachment inquiry, Hillary Clinton says, was managed appropriately.
So what makes this moment in history the right time to publish a book on brave women?
The pair says now more than ever, they wanted to highlight audacious women who stood up in the face of adversity to “make not only our country but our world healthier and more equitable,” Chelsea Clinton says.
“The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience” reveals valiant women who may have been forgotten throughout history, those who “exemplify gutsy” — such as writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, historian Mary Beard and LGBTQ rights activist Edith "Edie" Windsor.
For Hillary Clinton, she says “the gutsiest thing I've ever done personally was stay in my marriage and the gutsiest thing I've ever done publicly was run for president — which was pretty audacious.”
Chelsea Clinton says they both hope the book inspires readers to think about the courageous women in their own lives and “help more stories of gutsy women be told.”
On how Hillary Clinton would have responded if she was on the call between Trump and Ukraine’s president
Hillary Clinton: “Well I think I would have responded in real time the way that the whistleblower told us … after the fact when they fully realized what the president had been saying and the veiled threat and extortion that he was mentioning to the president of Ukraine in return for giving you military aid to protect your country against Russia, we have a favor to ask, and it involves this investigation. I'm troubled by the current secretary of state's behavior and his reaction, number one, to the fact of the call which I'm told in reporting he denied knowing about when now we learn he was actually listening in and his refusal to respond to the request from the impeachment inquiry staff. This is yet another effort to undermine the rule of law and our institutions. If there is nothing to hide, if the call was as the president likes to say ‘perfect,’ then the people in his administration should end this constitutional crisis by coming forth, telling what they know to the American people through elected representatives. The fact that they are stonewalling and refusing to cooperate raises even more questions.”
On whether the Democrats are handling the impeachment inquiry properly
HC: “I think that they've handled it appropriately. There was no rush to form an impeachment inquiry. In fact, the speaker was very deliberate and even reluctant to take that step. But in the face of the revelations from the whistleblower and everything that has followed, I think the Constitution required that the House begin this process.
“I was on the 1974 impeachment inquiry staff as a very young lawyer. One of my jobs was to write the memo about what is an impeachable offense. What did our founders mean? And what they meant was that in-between elections, if any federal office holder including the president is violating his oath of office — is abusing the power that has been granted to him — there is a remedy and that remedy is called impeachment. And you have to meet the standard that is laid out in the Constitution, which in our memo all those years ago, we explained.”
On why President Trump is going great lengths to essentially prove he won in 2016
HC: “Because he knows he didn't. He knows he's an illegitimate president. And I think his obsession with trying to undermine and discredit the work of all of our intelligence agencies, of the FBI, of other governments that were part of disclosing … information they had about interactions between the Trump campaign and allies of Trump with Russians, just speaks to the underlying illegitimacy of his presidency. His obsession with me and this really absurd continuation of something that was investigated repeatedly and no wrongdoing ever found is another attempt to distract and divert attention from his own behavior.”
On why it’s important to write “The Book of Gutsy Women” at this moment in history
Chelsea Clinton: “Well I think it's always the right time to share the stories of gutsy women. I think for so long, arguably kind of forever, we haven't heard the stories of the women who have always been there and have helped make not only our country but our world healthier and more equitable, full of more beauty and magnificence. And I think we need to not only kind of rescue these stories from history but kind of animate them to inspire us today. And for me, this book is really a continuation of the conversation that my mom and I started when I was just a little girl with her telling me stories of Shirley Chisolm and Gerry Ferraro and Maria Tallchief and these women who had been so galvanizing to her and that she wanted me to know those stories.”
On what the criteria was for which women they included in the book — and which women they had to leave out
CC: “Tonya, you can't see us but we're both kind of laughing with each other and at each other because we started kind of with lists of hundreds of women and then we actually wrote more than 200 essays and our editors gently and then not-so-gently told us that we had to kind of cut that list in half. So there are 103 women essays in the book of women who we think really exemplify gutsy, who kind of live their lives that they felt compelled to live, called to live for themselves but also for others, whether others in their family or kind of their communities or really for our world. They're all stories that mean a great deal to us and we hope they spark conversations about kind of gutsy women in readers’ lives and help more stories of gutsy women be told.”
On the gutsiest thing Hillary Clinton has ever done
HC: “Back when I ran the first time, I was the lonely woman on the stage with I think nine or 10 other candidates. And when I ran this last time, there were actually more women in space than there were women running for president.”
CC: “There were two, two women in space.”
HC: “That's right. And so for me, I take inspiration from the stories that we tell and the criteria were not only is this woman in and of herself someone who we admire, but did she do something to try to help others, to break down barriers and overcome obstacles? Because there are so many women who are great entertainers and artists and great athletes and great political leaders and all the rest who we could choose from, but we wanted to have a mix of telling stories of those who are well-known but many others who would be forgotten in history. And one quick little aside on this is I was a young girl when I learned about Helen Keller and I just always admired her story and the story of the woman who taught her to communicate, Ann Sullivan. And just last year, the Texas Board of Education voted to eliminate Helen Keller and me from the curriculum and I was glad that they reversed that decision, not so much for me but because I think kids today need to hear about Helen Keller. Similarly Anne Frank, you know, there is a rise again unfortunately of anti-Semitism and what Anne Frank wrote in her diary while hiding from the Nazis is still so compelling that people from President Kennedy to Nelson Mandela have said that she inspired them. and that it's relevant even to this day so relevant to today. I think most of the stories are relevant to today.”
Book Excerpt: "The Book of Gutsy Women"
By Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
When CNN published the eye-catching headline “Rare blue pigment found in medieval woman’s teeth rewrites history,” we both read the article, then immediately sent it to each other. It explained that researchers examining burial remains at a women’s monastery in Germany had come across the skeleton of a woman who had died as early as 997 AD. As they looked at the skeleton, they noticed something strange: There were flecks of blue in her teeth. Those blue flecks turned out to be a rare, expensive pigment made from crushed lapis lazuli stones, once as expensive as gold. Only the most talented artists were permitted to use it. So how—in a time when artists were presumed to be men—did it find its way into this woman’s teeth? According to the scientists, she was most likely a painter, dipping her brush in her mouth after each stroke.
“That the discovery was made in a rural German monastery is no surprise; books were being produced during this time in monasteries across the country,” the article explains. “But women were not known to be the illustrators of such prized creations. . . . In fact, the writers and illustrators often didn’t sign their work, as a gesture of humility—and if women were those writers and artists, the practice would effectively erase them from history.” Reading the story brought to mind Virginia Woolf’s famous work A Room of One’s Own: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
Power has largely been associated with—and defined by—men since the beginning of time. Yet women have painted, written, created, discovered, invented, and led for just as long. It’s simply that their work is more likely to go unrecognized—sometimes for centuries. We believe it is past time for that to change.
Take the women on the cover of this book, civilian firefighters pictured during a training exercise at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard circa 1941. The photo was published countless times before a librarian and writer named Dorothea Buckingham came across it on a website and looked it up in the Hawaii War Records Depository. Seventy years after the photograph was taken, the public learned who the women were: Elizabeth Moku, Alice Cho, Katherine Lowe, and Hilda Van Gieson. “We were rugged,” Katherine, then ninety-six years old, remembered fondly. “We carried heavy stuff, oil drums, bags, anything that needed to be stored.”
By now it’s a familiar idea, beautifully echoed by Sally Ride: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” But many of the women in this book set out to become exactly what they couldn’t see. They had no route to follow, no guarantee they’d ever reach their destination—whether that destination was freedom, the right to vote, the chance to be a doctor, or the opportunity to compete in sports or in anything else. But every time someone has the courage to try, she shows the way. And that helps little girls and boys alike to know that girls’ dreams are equally as valuable, valid, and important as those of their brothers, their friends, and most of the faces they see in their history books. Each of us has seen—first in her own life, then through the eyes of her daughter—just how powerful representation can be.
That’s what drove then ten-year-old Marley Dias to start the campaign #1000blackgirlbooks after she noticed that there were no characters in the books she read who looked like her. It’s what inspired Chelsea to write She Persisted and She Persisted Around the World, and to include inspiring women in It’s Your World and Start Now!, her books for young activists. It’s why movies like Hidden Figures, about three black women working in the space program, and On the Basis of Sex, about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are so important. It’s why it’s so thrilling to cheer for female athletes around the world, from ice hockey players in India to synchronized swimmers in Jamaica to the four-time World Cup champion women’s soccer team in the United States. It’s why the leadership shown by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the mosque massacre in New Zealand and the significant speech against misogyny by former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard are so powerful. It’s why we love hearing from girls—and boys—about who their favorite female heroes are and sharing our own favorites. And it’s why we loved writing this book.
Throughout history and around the globe, women have overcome some of the toughest and cruelest resistance imaginable, from physical violence and intimidation to a total lack of legal rights or recourse, in order to redefine what is considered “a woman’s place.” That is the great achievement of the women featured in this book. And thanks to their talents and guts, we have all made progress.
So how did they do it? The answers are as unique as the women themselves. The writers Rachel Carson and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie named something no one had dared talk about before. Civil rights activist Dorothy Height, LGBTQ trailblazer Edie Windsor, and swimmer Diana Nyad kept pushing forward, no matter what stood in their way. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins and tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams had laser focus despite a storm of sexism made even more challenging because each was a “first” in her own way. Harriet Tubman and Malala Yousafzai stared fear in the face and persevered. Pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale and organizer Ai-jen Poo relied on seemingly endless reserves of compassion. Wangari Maathai, who sparked a movement to plant trees, understood the power of role modeling. Early women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth and Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, saw how one cause was linked to another. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg remained fiercely true to herself even when she was ignored or belittled. Every single one of their lives was or is optimistic—they had faith that their actions could make a difference.
Before we had even finished writing, we were seized with regret that we couldn’t include every woman who has inspired us with her tenacity and commitment to improving our world, whether she defined that as her own family or our global community. We initially included a courageous DREAMer fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, but she told us that doing so would likely expose her family to retribution. And we could have written an entire book about our friends who have proven, through their own bravery and brilliance, that one gutsy woman can spark a chain reaction within her community.
The list went on and on. What about Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who shattered nearly every athletic barrier in the early 1900s and, when asked whether there was anything she didn’t play, answered, “Yeah, dolls”? What about artists like Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Carrie Mae Weems, and the rest of the page-long list we came up with? What about Laverne Cox, whose courage has changed hearts, minds, and laws—not to mention television? What about Zainab Bangura, the first woman to run for president of Sierra Leone and someone who has dedicated her life to speaking out against the atrocity of rape used as a tactic of war? What about fearless journalists like April Ryan, who are standing up for freedom of the press despite personal attacks from the president of the United States? What about the three mighty women on the United States Supreme Court, or the 127 in Congress? What about Joy Harjo, who became the first Native American U.S. poet laureate as we handed in our final manuscript? What about the six—six!—women running for president of the United States in mid-2019? We are living through a time of upheaval and tumult around the globe, but we’re also living in an era of gutsy women from all walks of life.
We hope this book will be the beginning of a conversation, or the middle— but certainly not the end. If reading about these women sparks your curiosity, we encourage you to go out and learn more about them. We hope you’ll go to your local public library and check out a book; we used to go to the library across the street from our church in Little Rock on Sunday after services, and it was there that Chelsea first discovered some of the women she writes about here. If the book you want to read doesn’t yet exist, maybe you’re the one to write it. Maybe there’s a woman you think is missing from the pages of history. Maybe it’s your mother, your grandmother, your aunt, or your daughter. Maybe it’s you. Heroes are everywhere. It’s up to each of us to seek them out, tell their stories, and celebrate the women who inspire us every day—and then, even more important, to take their example to heart by finding our own unique way to make our mark on the world.
Ensuring the rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls remains a big piece of the unfinished business of the twenty-first century. Finishing it is going to take all of us standing shoulder to shoulder, across the generations, across genders. This is not a moment for anyone to leave the fight, or sit on the sidelines waiting for the perfect moment to join. We are reminded of Gloria Steinem, who described being asked repeatedly when she planned to “pass the torch.” Her answer summed it up perfectly: “I’m not giving up my torch. I’m using it to light others. That’s the only way there can be enough light.”
So, to borrow from a well-known quote: Here’s to gutsy women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them. And may we thank and celebrate them. We’re grateful every day to the women in this book, and to all the gutsy women of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
From The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. Copyright © 2019 by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
This segment aired on October 1, 2019.