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Holiday Newsletter  - Volume 4, Issue 3



Upcoming WDC Events

Montgomery County Democratic Party's Annual Holiday Party

Montgomery County Commission For Women 2014 Womens Legislative Briefing  

Planned Parenthood Action Fund Pres, Cecile Richards Captivates Audience at Nov. Luncheon

Recap of Final Obamacare House Parties  

New Newsletter Feature - INTERVIEW  

Join or Renew Now 

Facebook Page    

Political Book Club

Volunteers: It Takes a Village 

Suggestion Box 


You may click on one of the above titles to go directly to that subject, or simply scroll down the newsletter.     


Thanks to Sybil Cantor, Teddi Pensinger, Carmela Cowgill, and Lucy Freeman for their contributions to the newsletter.




Mark your calendars now for these upcoming events. For more information on locations and registration, watch for future e-mails and daisy cards - or visit our website at www.womansdemocraticclub.org.   

Thursday, December 12 

Happy Hour    

5:30-7 p.m.  

Lebanese Taverna

7141 Arlington Road, Bethesda


Want to meet new people and talk politics?  Join us at the next WDC Happy Hour. Every second Thursday of each month, Democrats who are passionate about politics gather to relax and network with WDC members and their guests. Whether you want to meet elected officials, make new friends, form new business contacts or just have fun, the WDC Happy Hour is the perfect place to meet and greet fellow Democrats.    



Members and Guests enjoying the November Happy Hour.   




Sunday, December 15  


Annual Holiday Membership Celebration

Special Guest Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

4:30 - 6:30 p.m.

Marriott Courtyard

5520 Wisconsin Avenue

Chevy Chase, Maryland

Cost:  $24 by mail; $25 online for members and guests


Hors d'oeuvres, wine, beer and soft drinks will be served.  One alcoholic beverage included in above cost. Cash bar available for additional alcoholic beverages.  Guests may join the Club at the discounted rate of $25 if they join at the Celebration.


Since replacing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate in 2009, Senator Gillibrand has blazed a courageous path on national issues of equality, ethics reform and women's economic and political empowerment. In her first term in the Senate, she successfully pushed forward the repeal of the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy banning gays and lesbians in the military. She is also a leading sponsor for the Respect for Marriage act that would repeal DOMA. In addition, she currently has partnered with Civil Rights legend, Congressman John Lewis, to push forward the Voter Empowerment Act, to counter the nationwide attack on voting rights from extreme state legislatures. Most recently, Senator Gillibrand led the effort to combat the epidemic of sexual assault in the military despite fierce opposition from the Pentagon. Her legislation is nearly universally supported by victims of military sexual assault as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America.


To RSVP, send your check to Judith Heimann, 6900 Marbury Road, Bethesda, MD 20817 or reserve online at http://www.womansdemocraticclub.org by noon, Thursday, December 12.  (Reservations may be closed earlier if the event is sold out.)  Questions? Call Natalie Bouquet at 301-907-7856.





Snowmen Sunday, December 8


1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Montgomery County Education Association

12 Taft Court


Please join your fellow Democrats to celebrate the holidays - and bring a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to the Community Ministry of Montgomery County. Also, please bring an item to share according to your legislative district: Districts 14-18-39, Breads or Finger Foods; Districts 15-16, Salad or Dessert; Districts 17-19-20, Hors d'oeuvres or Fruit.  Questions: Call MCDCC 301-946-1000.





Sunday, January 26, 2014 

11:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.    

The Universities at Shady Grove,  

Building II,  9630 Gudelsky Drive,  



Joanne Bamberger, author of the Amazon bestselling book How Women & Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America  will be the keynote speaker.

This is a great opportunity to learn about legislation that will be considered during the 2014 session of the General Assembly. We urge those of you who are members of our Advocacy Committee as well as any member who is interested in learning more about what to expect in Annapolis to participate. Admission is $15 in advance; $20 at the door.


Have questions about 2014 Women's Legislative Briefing, please go to The Montgomery County Commission for Women.




                                                                                                      by Carmela Cowgill

Ms. Richards at Podium

The Woman's Democratic Club's October luncheon featured Cecile Richards, a leading activist and President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund since 2006.  Under her leadership, the Planned Parenthood's membership has doubled to seven million.  The organization has advocated for a healthier and safer world for women and teens for nearly 100 years.  Planned Parenthood is affiliated with over 750 clinics which provide health care services to nearly three million patients and sex education to nearly one million people.  Individuals make 47 million visits to the Planned Parenthood website each year.  Ms. Richards has advanced Planned Parenthood's advocacy so that it played a pivotal role in shaping coverage and services for women under the Affordable Care Act.

Ms. Richards opened by noting that prominent personalities have declared this to be the "Century of the Woman,"  leading her to wonder what happened  to previous centuries -- perhaps they had been relegated to the way of Tarzan and Jane!  Recent events, she agreed, had emphatically proven that "women are the deal."  As voters, activists and candidates, women have grown into an influential political force.  Her own roots come from the stock of strong, Texas women.   While in labor with her mother in her birthing bed, her grandmother broke the neck of the chicken which would become her grandfather's dinner when her neighbor could not bring herself to handle the task at hand.   Governor Ann Richards, Cecile's mother, demonstrated her mother's influence when she agreed to manage the political campaign of Sarah Weddington who was running for state legislature.  No man would accept the position.  Sarah Weddington went on to win the election.   Later, Ann Richards became the first and only pro-choice woman governor of Texas.
Ms. Richards made it clear that in order to preserve the advances that women have made, tenacity and perseverance must continue.  This has been a tough year. "We get what we fight for, no more, no less."  In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay, "it is not true that life is one thing after another, it is one damn thing over and over again."   Ms. Richards used the passage and implementation of Obamacare to illustrate the obstacles we face.  It is clear that women have already benefited from the Affordable Care Act.  Women no longer face gender rating when paying for coverage.  Pregnancy, breast cancer and domestic violence can no longer be considered pre-existing conditions.  The playing field is being leveled.  Preventive care must now be included in coverage and requires no co-pay.  However, the dissension generated by the passage of this bill was disturbing for many.  While there were many gender offenders in the recent past, Ms. Richards cited an example in this anecdote. Then Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona stated that he was against including maternity care coverage in Obamacare because "I don't need maternity care," to which Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan retorted "I think your mother probably did!"

The Republican primaries of 2012 proved to be a complete race to the bottom in terms of women's issues, thus re-enforcing the adage that "just because you think everyone is out to get you, doesn't mean you're paranoid!"  Planned Parenthood mounted an advertising campaign in Virginia, Iowa and Florida to expose the extreme positions of candidates running on the Republican platform and the impact on women.  Other organizations soon followed.  Those early investments paid off.  All told, forty million dollars were spent over the course of the campaign to counter Romney's positions on women's issues.  By the time of the second presidential debate, women's health issues had come to the forefront.  By Ms. Richard's count, President Obama mentioned Planned Parenthood four times during the debate!  This is how important women's health care issues had become during this contentious campaign. In the end, the election reflected the largest gender gap in the history of the Gallup poll.  Of the 2.2 million members of Organize for America (working for Obama), 71% were women.


Planned Parenthood subsequently took the same advertising approach to the recent state elections, including the recent elections in Virginia .  Early on, it became clear that Ken Cuccinelli had a problem with women, but equally clear that the feeling was mutual!  Planned Parenthood focused attention on 200,000 voters, going door to door, and mounting a "keep Ken out" campaign.   In the end, Ken Cuccinelli was defined as unacceptably anti-abortion, anti-birth control and anti-women.  Planned Parenthood spent $2.5 million, but in a race where Terry McAuliffe won by 2.5 points, he had a 9 point margin among women voters.  It has been 40 years since a Democrat won the Virginia governorship when the Party had the White House.  In exit polls, 20% of voters said that abortion rights were the most important issues to them and 59% of these voted for McAuliffe.


The Virginia election turned on its head the conventional wisdom that the highly motivated voters would be opposed to legal abortion; instead the highly motivated voters favored permitting women to make their own reproductive decisions. Virginia voters, both women and men, understood how extreme Cuccinelli's positions were and how far from the mainstream he had gone.  All of this lays the foundation for the elections of 2014.  Ms. Richards recognized that many of the same types of folks will be running the same types of campaigns. The good news is that in spite of all the attacks on Planned Parenthood, membership increased by 3 million.  One half of these are young people, both men and women.  Planned Parenthood is investing in a whole new generation that will be the future of this country.

Something happened in Virginia, as it did in Texas, where Governor Perry has forced the closure of health clinics and vetoed an equal pay bill.  Women roared back against the anti-women bills that Perry was cramming through the special session of the legislature.  A huge crowd of men, women, young, old, gay, straight, Democrats, Republicans, African American and Latinos came out against these harsh anti-women bills, more than could possibly testify before the session.   It was an amazing mobilization.  The attempt to thwart State Senator Wendy Davis's 13-hour filibuster against a package of anti-abortion bills in the Texas legislature was in danger of failing because of parliamentary technicalities.  She had successfully filibustered for 12 hours and 50 minutes.   Ten minutes of a sustained roar from the crowd assembled to support Senator Davis kept the legislature from voting. The "Texas of the future" was evidenced by the demographics of this "people's filibuster" and "it was great!"   


The "Texas of the future" is a 13-year old Texas boy who had live-tweeted Senator Davis's entire filibuster and was so inspired that he ran for class president and won.  After his victory, when Senator Davis announced her campaign for governor, the young man took to Twitter again, with this encouragement to Senator Davis.  "If I can do it, so can you!"  Similarly, in West Virginia, a young woman's high school mandated that students attend an abstinence-only sex education program.  The student refused to attend the unbalanced and compulsory presentation, and took her fight with the school to social media.  On learning of the publicity, the school principal threatened to alert the college to which the student had been accepted of her  "bad" character.  Apparently, the principal did not know how to use Google, because when the all-women's Wellesley College learned of the young woman and her stand against the abstinence-only program, it responded with its own tweet welcoming the senior with open arms! These are just two examples of strongly motivated young people who stood up in support of women in today's public arena.  They demonstrate what motivation can do.  "Give young people rights, information, access to education, job opportunity and healthcare and they get all kinds of crazy, independent ideas!" 


While it is women who are largely the keepers of the flame, the ones to pick up the pieces, Ms. Richards characterized these as fragile times for American democracy.  We are all connected and women should foster this connection across the electorate to preserve the achievements we have made.  In Ms. Richards' analysis, the recent elections, dissent, and extremism of the Republican Party has served to solidify an understanding among a significant part of the electorate. There are forces at play that will diminish the hard-won advances in women's rights and prevent future advances unless these voters become highly motivated and vote.  Women with their issues must be understood as significant players on the political scene, no longer relegated to "a special interest group" whose interest and motivation may ebb and flow.  In this vein, Ms. Richards cautioned that the weakening of the protections of the Voting Rights Act will likely affect women voters in large numbers, as women have less time than any category of voter to deal with onerous voting requirements.

Ms. Richards has become especially sensitive to the impact of politics on real life.  Clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood and others offer vital services to women, and their closures affect women adversely and often leave them without health care.  She realizes that these women have no one to speak for them and that Planned Parenthood fills this void when it advocates for bills like Obamacare. These women depend on government and depend on us.  The services provided to women in these clinics are not luxuries; they are life-saving necessities. She cited an example of a Houston woman who had had a lump in her breast for years and presented herself to a Houston Planned Parenthood Clinic because she heard President Obama say, during the presidential debates, that Planned Parenthood did breast exams.  She is counting on all of us and on our government.

During the Q&A, Ms. Richards made an interesting and important point about a language she now uses when talking about abortions rights, women's rights and health issues.  Rather than discuss the issue of women's reproductive health in terms of "Pro-life vs. Pro-choice," Ms. Richards discusses the issues as a woman's personal decision.  Ms. Richards noted that the political polarities of "Pro-choice and Pro-life" no longer resonate with today's demographics.   Young Planned Parenthood members and many others do not see reproductive rights as unsettled legal issues, but as personal rights.  Their existence is assumed - since Roe v. Wade is settled law - and the focus is not whether the right is available, but on how the legal, needed services should be made available.  Young people do not see reproductive choice as an area where the government should dictate or interfere.  This issue is instead seen as deeply personal and complex.  Ms. Richards asserts that discussions within this framework are less polarizing and less contentious and will lead to more open discussion.  


The last elections proved we can change the direction of our states and of our country.  Our work is just getting started.  Ms. Richard's ended by quoting Sojourner Truth who said it best: "If the first woman God made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back."



Board Members with Ms. Richards






                                                                        by Lucy Freeman  


Leni Preston addressing members at House Party
The District 18 Obamacare House Party was held Wednesday, October 30th, at the home of Beth Tomasello.  At Elly Shaw-Belblidia's home on Wednesday, November 20th, the last House Party was held for Districts 17 and 39. Leni Preston, Chair, Maryland Women's Coalition for Healthcare Reform, told everyone what is in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, how to find a navigator, and how to find insurance. Leni said the website is working better everyday and now people should sign up.  
Leni has spoken at each of the seven House Parties; she can take an complicated subject and make it understandable to all while being interesting and even at times funny. She has performed a great service to our community.


Joan Riggs and Kathy Deerkoski, both enthusiastic volunteers, shared what they are doing to spread the word and urged everyone to join them. They are going to festivals, parades, stores, clinics, and other venues to tell how to get more information and meet with a navigator.

To join them as a volunteer, please e-mail Joan at jmr607@hotmail.com or Kathy at Katherine.deerkoski@gmail.com.

In a previous newsletter, Mary Lou Fox summarized Leni's briefing at an earlier house party.  We are repeating this important information below:


Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act are already in effect such as allowing dependent children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents ' plan and the elimination of preexisting conditions for children. Beginning in 2014 affordable insurance options will expand coverage through state exchanges for:  

  • Medicaid expansion to cover adults up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL);
  • Advanced tax credits for adults from 138 - 400% FPL to help pay premiums;
  • Tax credits for small businesses to afford insurance for their employees.

Maryland's Health Benefit Exchange has been established and expanded by State law in 2011 and 2012 to offer all Marylanders the opportunity to buy insurance as individuals, as a family or as small businesses in a marketplace called the Maryland Health Connection  (www.marylandhealthconnection.gov).   Beginning with Open Enrollment in October 2013, individuals and families who are uninsured or who purchase their own Individual insurance can go to the Maryland Health Connection to view Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) that meet ACA standards . At that time, they may immediately enroll for insurance that will start on January 1, 2014.


These QHPs will cover all basic care - doctor's visits, hospital visits, maternity care, prescription drugs and more including mental health and substance abuse services.   Enrollment can be done on the website but there will also be Navigators or assistors to help people enroll as well as a Call Center.   During the enrollment process individuals and families will have the opportunity to see if they qualify for a tax credit or for Medicaid.   If so, they can be enrolled immediately. Projections are that 340,000 uninsured Marylanders will be enrolled in the first three years.


The ACA benefits all consumers as well as those with employer -provided insurance plans because pre-existing conditions can no longer be used to deny insurance coverage and women cannot be charged more than men. Also included in the ACA is Sen. Mikulski's amendment that women's preventative services will be available without co-pays and deductibles.   Existing health plans outside the new marketplaces will be "grandfathered" until they significantly change.    


For more information, or to receive regular updates, see the Coalition website www.mdhealthcarereform.org.


INTERVIEW edited by Bonnie Wicklund


Carmela Cowgill



Our second vice-president, Carmela Cowgill, currently serves as the Club's volunteer coordinator and has been a member of the Board since 2010.  As the first born child of Italian immigrants who were tragically separated by World War II, she has a unique perspective on the issues and struggles of first generation Americans.  Desperate to leave the poverty of southern Italy, her mother moved to America as a citizen by virtue of her father's citizenship status.  She left behind her son and husband, who were to join her in the near future.  The upheaval of World War II delayed her family's reunion for seven years.  Because her parents didn't speak English well, Carmela learned English watching TV before she began elementary school, so she knows the difficulties involved with acclimating into new culture.   Carmela has lived in the Washington area all her life.  She earned a BA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland.  Her undergraduate studies included an internship in Missouri Senator Stuart Symington's office.  Her interest in politics dates back to John Kennedy.  Even as a youngster, the 1960 Democratic convention and speeches, election, and inauguration captured her imagination.  She felt a special affinity for Kennedy as the first Catholic president.     




Carmela worked for the Superior Court Division of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for most of her career.  Because this office handles the prosecution of local crime her job made her sensitive to issues like domestic violence and gun violence before they reached the awareness of the general public.  During the course of her career, she became a legal administrator with experience in the public and private sectors.  She retired from the Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility as its Executive Officer.  While a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis forced her into early retirement, the experience has given her a special perspective on what is truly important in life.  She appreciates the need for health care reform more than most, and she has become sensitive to the difficulties of people with handicaps and challenges.  Working with the WDC has given her a channel to focus her political interest.   



I really like historical biographies, such as Lincoln by David Herbert Donald and John Adams by David McCullough.  I also enjoy fiction books like The Help, by Kathryn Stockett and The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by MaryAnne Shaffer and Anne Barrows.  These stories give the reader insight into parts of society unlike my own, and also give an awareness of what other people go through during times of isolation.



My favorite recent movie was "Lincoln" with Sally Field and Daniel Day Lewis.  I guess I'm just a Lincoln junkie!  I admit to a fondness for old episodes of "Law & Order," the older the better! 




Recently we subscribed to satellite radio which has channels dedicated to different types of music. While I enjoy virtually any music, I could listen to the Broadway channel all day long, so I'm a Broadway junkie, too. 




On our first trip to Europe as a family, we took our son, who was about 13 at the time, on a walking tour in France, primarily in Normandy. We were following a path running along a river in the countryside which the French Resistance used during World War II to hide. It was the rainiest and most miserable day of our trip. The realization that fighters had to do this for weeks and months made a big impression on us, especially my son. Freedom is not cheap or always comfortable!


Now that my son is grown, my husband and I have done more traveling outside the U.S.  We have become friends with a family in Tuscany who rent apartments for a month at a time; we have stayed mostly in Tuscany but also traveled to the lake district in the north, and in Rome.  Traveling in Italy gave me the opportunity to practice my "Calabrian" Italian.  Dialects are often regarded as being inferior to classical, formal Italian, but now that these dialects are disappearing, a cultural movement has formed to keep the dialects alive.   My first experience with socialized medicine was in Italy, when my husband's eye infection required urgent attention.  We visited a hospital in Siena, met with a doctor who supplied the much needed medication. We just walked in, he was treated, and we walked out. What a relief!  




I enjoyThe New Yorker James Surowiecki's insightful columns on the economy and Jon Lee Anderson's investigative reporting on the various rebel groups throughout the world. I am constantly amazed how he is able to get some of the roughest terrorists, rebel leaders and criminals to trust him enough to share their stories.  



I find Barack Obama as motivating and inspiring a politician today as I did John Kennedy over 50 years ago.




The election of Barack Obama was such a wonderful experience--so many generations and cultures were brought together by his election.





Gun control.  During November's luncheon when Cecile Richards talked about the need for a change in the language we use to discuss control of women's rights, it occurred to me that we need a similar change in approaching the whole issue of guns. We need a different way of talking about guns in our society.    We should register guns as we do real estate, cars, births or deaths while limiting the availability of weapons of mass destruction, i.e. rapid fire automatic guns. 







All current members have received their renewal forms in the mail.  Please renew now!    Membership renewals were due on September 1, 2014.  All non-renewing members are purged from the membership and email list, so don't forget to renew now.  Click here to renew or join now.



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  Don't forget to like us on Facebook; we're listed as Woman's Democratic Club, Montgomery County.



The January 15th meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. at the home of Marlene Cohn.  The book selection is Bull by the Horns, Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself by former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) chief Sheila Bair . The book holds nothing back in its candid assessment of Wall Street, Washington, and the internecine politics and conflicting agendas shared by regulators, lawmakers, bankers and politicians.

The next meeting will be on March 19th at the home of Melpi Jeffries.  The book selection is The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military by Rawn James Jr, the son and grandson of African. American veterans.  Mr. James narrates
the remarkable history of how the struggles for equality in the military helped give rise to their fight for equality in civilian society. 

On May 21st the book selection is The Bully Pulpit
: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She analyzes the friendship between Roosevelt and Taft, which first made for a powerful partnership but then dissolved with disastrous consequences for both. She also describes how journalism can capture the public's imagination and help shape the national agenda.

The book club meets the third Wednesday of every other month at members' homes. A facilitator leads the discussion for each book. Want to join the conversation? New members are always welcome! For more information, contact Estelle Stone at estellestone24@gmail.com.


If you're interested in seeing what other books have been discussed, please go to www.womansdemocraticclub.org and click on Political Book Club, which is listed under Events.  




 Help Wanted

 We need your help creating a vibrant Club and we solicit your ideas and participation. And the most valuable contribution you can make to the Club is - you guessed it - your time. Sharing your skills and expertise with us and joining a committee are fun ways to meet other members and make new friends while helping the Club accomplish its goals.


WDC is looking for members to help on the Communications Committee and on the Membership and Outreach Committee.  We need writers and photographers for our events and we need volunteers to help staff the WDC booth at the Women's Legislative Briefing. Want more information?  Email Carmela Cowgill at cacowgill@yahoo.com.  You can also go to www.womansdemocraticclub.org and click on "Get Involved" then   'Volunteer" to complete the volunteer form.




Suggestion Box  

Do you have ideas for future programs? Do you know someone who would be a great speaker at a future WDC event?  If so, please send an e-mail to  wdcmcmd@gmail.com .






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Woman's Democratic Club
Beth Tomasello.President
www.womansdemocraticclub.org     wdcmcmd@gmail.com
Woman's Democratic Club
Sybil Cantor
Email Coordinator