"When women run for high-profile public office, that directly impacts women and girls’ ability to imagine that they can do the same."

Author Hayashi’s lively look at the strivings and successes of women in the political realm offers portraits of those who are engaged in the gender equality struggle and a meaningful sharing of her own experience in rising above the pressures and prejudices of gender and race. In the farming area of South Korea where she was born, with the name Mi Kyung, women were “seen and not heard” and were expected to manage the house and children. There was no possibility of a female ever serving as a political or organizational leader. When her parents moved from Korea, then in the midst of perilous political unrest, to America, Hayashi, age twelve, was given the name Mary. She didn’t know the language and was one of only a few non-white children in school. Once she began receiving tutoring in English, her high intelligence took hold, and she progressed to college in the 1980s when American women were seeking wider liberation.

Hayashi soon began to realize that she, too, could speak out within a meaningful career. She began work as a health care advocate, moving into the realm of local and then state government. She had remarkable encounters with the many women whose issues and ideals are highlighted here. A meeting with Elizabeth Toledo, a representative of the National Organization for Women, resulted in Hayashi being invited to speak for a march in San Francisco on the stage with Reverend Jesse Jackson and Gloria Steinem. She addresses a wide range of issues in the narrative: advocating for the mentally ill alongside Lauren Book, a Floridian legislator; working with Fiona Ma, a San Francisco County supervisor of Chinese descent, in support of women given unfairly stringent prison sentences for retaliating against highly abusive spouses; and in 1999, waging a successful lobbying effort along with Nancy Pelosi and others, to ensure that Asian Americans would be included in the campaign against excessive tobacco use. At that point, the author states, “This was representation, and I was hooked.” She would serve in the California State Legislature and continue her strong push for the wider participation of women in their state and national governance.

In each chapter of Hayashi’s powerful treatise, she offers case studies mined from her own experience in high office and as a leader in significant campaigns and organizations to battle prejudice—racial, gender, and national—wherever found. The women interviewed, those with whom she has collaborated closely, and the situations depicted of her work with them or on her own are carefully framed and serve as examples of her central message: though progress has been made, an innate bias still exists among Americans against women serving in positions of power, and both women and men need to work to staunch that tendency. To that end, she passionately appeals especially to female readers to grasp, as she was able to do, the power that they have within themselves to speak and be heard, to run for office, and to activate needed changes in the systems that have the potential to improve conditions for all. It is a task, Hayashi asserts, in which “we all have a role to play,” and it is essential to prove to ourselves and others that our nation is truly diverse and free. Hayashi’s inspiring book is both an excellent look at an extraordinary woman and a call to action for others.

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