Women's Studies


To get an idea of why this month’s magazine is The Women’s Issue, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start your reading on page 11, where editor Brennan Nardi chose eight past Madison Magazine covers featuring women. Look at the pictures. Please. Because every effort I’ve made in the last few hours to write this column has been insipid, anachronistic, patronizing or worse. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to put this whole idea to bed. Do I really need to explain how women have risen to power, achieved success or contributed to our quality of life? And who the heck am I to write about it anyway?

I do work in an office of women. Our publisher is a woman. Our owner is a woman. And the magazine editorial department consists of three women and me. So when the four of us sat down a few months ago to plan this issue we had some pretty interesting conversations about what we wanted to include. Madison women have served at the highest levels of government, the courts, education, business, health care, non-profits and more for so long it feels disingenuous to suggest it’s a big deal.

What did make sense to us was to tap these leaders, some now second- or third-generation in their roles, for what they’ve learned. Mentoring is so important. I don’t know why it sometimes gets trivialized. It’s been identified as one of the most important assets of successful young people. It knows no gender or race. It’s so significant for young women that some of this community’s most prestigious awards, including those bestowed by the Madison Community Foundation and the YWCA, specifically honor women who have mentored young women. All of the women we interviewed are extraordinary examples of selfless sharing of their experiences, wisdom and knowledge.

This brings us to the next issue we faced: whom to include. We threw scores of names on the table and soon realized there are so many successful, important, powerful, thoughtful women in our midst we need not worry about the absence of “the usual suspects,” a designation that doesn’t do justice to Shirley Abrahamson, Barbara Lawton, Kathleen Falk, Kathleen Woit, Leslie Howard, Susan Schmitz and countless others who have done it so well for so long. We found a tribute to these longtime leaders in the stories told by some of them as well as some newer decision makers and influence leaders. In other words, the contributions of women to everything this community stands for are simply not limited to the jobs—or the women holding them—we have conveniently singled out as deserving attention. There are women of influence and power everywhere. Highlighting many of those who are not typically on the six o’clock news—or the covers of magazines—feels to us like an accurate accounting of the importance of all women’s contributions. We think you’ll find our choices both interesting and inspirational.

One of the smarter decisions we made was recognizing that all the good stuff we had was better service journalism than the piece I was originally assigned: What a Man Has Learned from Women. Faithful readers know I am married to an amazing woman who, among other things—so many other things—is Madison Magazine’s senior food contributor. Nancy Christy is the smartest, strongest, funniest, most ethical, generous and beautiful woman I’ve ever known. There’s no end to what I’ve learned from her.

So you tell me. Is this worth it or not? Are we diminishing the contributions, if not the women who made them, by suggesting it’s significant that they were made by women? Or does the content of this month’s magazine simply answer the question?

Neil P. Heinen, Editorial Director

Comments and letters can be sent to P.O. Box 44965, Madison, WI 53744-4965 or e-mail nheinen@madisonmagazine.com. Letters we publish may be edited for space and clarity.

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