(From left) Lynda Johnson Robb, Anne Holton, moderator and state Del. Delores McQuinn, Dorothy McAuliffe, Jeannie Baliles and Virginia "Jinks" Holton at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (Photo by Tina Eshleman)
There was a lot of talk about glass ceilings this morning — not just cracking them, but breaking through — as four of Virginia’s former first ladies (including Anne Holton, whose husband, Tim Kaine, is Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate) and current first lady Dorothy McAuliffe made an appearance at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia to urge a mostly female crowd to help elect the first woman president.
“We’re on the cusp of making it happen,” Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, said during introductory remarks at the event. “2016 is the year of the woman.”
“Thirty days from now, we’re going to break through [the glass ceiling],” said Jeannie Baliles, who was first lady from 1986 to 1990, during the gubernatorial term of former husband Gerald L. Baliles. (She’s also the mother of Richmond City Councilman and mayoral candidate Jon Baliles.)
All touted Clinton and Kaine’s commitment to issues affecting women, such as equal pay, a higher minimum wage, affordable housing, and family and medical leave. Holton noted that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women.
“We know that what really matters is our children,” McAuliffe said. “Too many families are not making enough to provide for their current living and future.”
Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of the late former President Lyndon B. Johnson and wife of former Gov. Charles S. Robb (1982 to 1986), talked about traveling around the South with Clinton to address issues related to infant mortality. Too many babies are being born too small because their mothers aren’t getting proper prenatal care, she said. “We need to reach out to all women and make sure they understand we need someone in the White House who represents us.”
At nearly 91, Holton’s mother, Virginia “Jinks” Holton, was the oldest former first lady present. Her husband, Linwood Holton, was governor from 1970 to 1974, and supported integration, sending Anne and her siblings to predominantly black Richmond schools. Anne Holton pointed out that the museum has a photo of her father walking her sister (“wearing my dress”) to John F. Kennedy High School.
Holton recalled an incident during the current presidential campaign when, while traveling on a bus with Clinton, the presidential nominee, former secretary of state, former senator (and former first lady herself), noticed the driver having a FaceTime conversation with children during a break. Clinton started asking the driver how she balances work and family, and how she manages issues such as health care. “That’s our working-woman president,” Holton said.
With all the noise surrounding this election, including relentless TV ads, she said, grassroots efforts to get out the vote are even more important. “Bring it up at church, when you’re picking up the kids at carpool — gently,” Holton advised. “Ask, ‘Are you voting? Do you have a candidate? Let me tell you about mine.’ “
After addressing the group, the first ladies responded to a few questions and comments. (Photo by Tina Eshleman)