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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Progressive Politics

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   The United States is lamentably behind the Western and Eastern nations that have already elected powerful female leaders. And despite the dogged perseverance with which she attempted to earn a victory, Hillary Clinton's defeat in the presidential primaries earlier this year helps continue this embarrassing legacy.

  When Vermont's former governor Madeleine Kunin published her book Pearls, Politics & Power: How Women Can Win and Lead more than four months ago, not only was Clinton very much in the race, but she seemed set to win. Instead of dealing a decisive blow to the glass ceiling that keeps women in America from scaling the highest rungs of political power, however, Clinton's defeat will help pave the way for a future female commander in chief. At least, that might be the optimistic lesson Kunin would have us draw from it.

  Pearls, Politics & Powerserves as a political primer and a call to arms for ambitious women everywhere. Kunin, the former Vermont governor and U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, draws on both her own considerable experience and historical anecdotes reaching as far back as ancient Egypt's Queen Hatshepsut. The book also includes mini-interviews with Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Loretta Sanchez and more. Kunin will be discussing her book at the Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Whitefish Bay, on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 9:30 a.m.

  Also this week, the dashed hopes and trailblazing repute of another presidential hopeful-this one much closer to home, but almost a century apart-receive their dues. Author and Santa Clara University professor Nancy Unger comes to Milwaukee to talk about her new biography of a figure well known on the University of Wisconsin campuses. Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer offers insights into the personal and professional life of the former Wisconsin governor, senator and one-time presidential hopeful.

  Like most historical figures, Follette has enjoyed mixed reviews from political historians over the years-not to mention vilification from the press of his own day over his less-than-popular stance on World War I. However, few begrudge him his vehement attacks against political corruption and vested corporate interests, as well as his stand for racial equality and women's suffrage. Unger charts the evolution of Follette's politics while also exploring the family history and personal struggles that both spurred and hampered his thirst for reform. A discussion and book-signing takes place at the UW-Milwaukee Bookstore in the UWM Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., on Sept. 10, at 4 p.m. Unger will also appear at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Brookfield at 7 p.m. that same day.

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