In the Company of Women

Celebrating our woman of the year

One year ago this month I raised the question of whether the idea of an issue of this magazine each year dedicated to the status and accomplishments of women had run its course. Had it become anachronistic or, worse yet, patronizing? The responses I got were anecdotal, but they were unambiguous. Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women at all levels of civic, political, charitable and personal endeavors is not just relevant, it’s important.

This year I wouldn’t even think to ask the question. I recently read a book by the brilliant philosopher, writer and teacher Cornel West describing the state of social justice, equal rights, fairness and human respect and understanding in America today as “hope on a tightrope.” It was bracing to find women included among those West finds struggling against anti-democratic-American, greed, hatred and fear. The wage gap remains. The glass ceiling is still there. If women have made any real gains in political influence nationally you wouldn’t know it by the frustrating and sad treatment of Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton whose withdrawal from the race for governor smacks of gender bias. I’ll bet it played a role in Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk’s thinking as well. And one of the heart-wrenching, demoralizing tragedies of the last year is the apparent recession-induced increase in incidents of domestic violence in this state, as dramatic a display of the challenges women continue to face in our culture as any I can think of.

So, yes, when we look around and see organizations like Safe Communities, New Routes and the Dane County Transition School, and powerful public relations executives and lobbyists—all women—that is part of what Madison Magazine is all about. And then there are the Thompson women. This magazine has been a fan of Sue Ann Thompson and her two amazing daughters since Sue Ann was the First-Lady-Who-Decided-To-Keep-Teaching-Elementary-School-In-Elroy in 1986. She was our Person of the Year ten years ago and a decade later she is still working tirelessly to keep Wisconsin a leader in women’s health. Personally, she, Kelli and Tommi are simply a pleasure to be around—warm, gracious, smart and funny, clearly bound by their love and respect for each other. To see them together is to see models of strength, courage and service to others. Associate editor Shayna Miller’s profile captures all that and more. Then she got to dress the Thompson Trio up for the cover. It’s all stylishly done throughout.

On the topic of stylishly done, Overture Center’s production of the hit Broadway musical Rent was top-shelf from set to score. It got me excited to see The Lion King next. In the meantime comes the news that Overture is having a huge impact not just at the box office but on property values downtown. All of which makes the new governance structure and debt retirement proposals expected within the next six months critically important to this city. The primary and secondary spending generated by Overture’s resident companies, employees and attendees, and the vitality the world-class facility has generated downtown make it (forgive me) too big too fail. This is going to require courage, wisdom, vision and leadership to keep this marvelous gift from Jerry Frautschi the invaluable asset to the city it’s become. We need our best minds to work this out. Maybe Sue Ann’s available.

Neil Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine.

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