Friday, August 29, 2008

Bay Area delegates celebrate women in politics

DENVER — History arrived on Angela Ramirez Holmes' cell phone in an e-mail early Tuesday morning.

The message from St. Mary's College professor Denise Witben reminded the 32-year-old delegate from Pleasanton to celebrate the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage.

Holmes, in Denver at the Democratic National Convention as a delegate for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, needs no reminder.

She read the e-mail as she sat at the national Democratic Women Caucus meeting, one of dozens of events Tuesday centered on the expanding role of women in American politics in the nearly nine decades since they won the right to vote.

"For young women, it's good to be reminded that women haven't always had it so good," Holmes said. "But women are making history here. Women delegates outnumber men for the first time."

Retired federal worker Pat Baran of San Ramon, a Clinton delegate, does remember when women had to "fight tooth and nail for everything. That's why I voted for Hillary."

For Baran, Holmes and many Clinton delegates, the Democratic Party's daylong celebration of women is both a historic mile mark and a stark reminder that the United States has yet to elect a woman president.

Clinton has ceded victory to presumed nominee Barack Obama.

But the convention has been tough on her delegates, many of them women who have long dreamed of feting her as the first female presidential nominee.

With Clinton scheduled to Advertisementspeak at the convention Tuesday night, the culmination of appearances from dozens of elected women, East Bay women say they are looking for guidance, reassurance and recognition.

"Eighteen million people voted for Hillary, many of them women, and I want to hear recognition for her supporters," said Ana Marie Bustos, a young Oakley bank executive whose voice breaks as she tries to describe her torn feelings.

Bustos describes herself as a "recovering Hillary fan" who wants to see a Democrat in the White House.

"I want to do the right thing, but what's the right thing?" Bustos said.

She can always consult her mother.

Bustos is one of two East Bay delegates who brought their moms to Denver and escorted them to as many events as they could wrangle tickets.

Bustos' mother, who shares her first name, doesn't hold back. After all, she is not a delegate and not subject to the disapproval of party whips.

"In the Philippines, where I was born, there have already been two women presidents," said the older Bustos, who accompanied her daughter to a reception for Californians at a Denver hotel. "My grandmother was the first mayor of my hometown. Women are much better because they think with both their heads and their hearts."

Michelle Obama has helped bridge the divide, calling her husband "the change we need" during her address to delegates Monday.

Indian immigrants Kranti Kapre of Hercules, also a Clinton delegate, and her mom, Charu Kapre, saw Clinton and Michelle Obama in a joint appearance Tuesday sponsored by EMILY's List luncheon.

"We were so impressed with Michelle's speech on Monday night," Kranti said. "She and Hillary are great role models for so many women. Growing up, my mother didn't have the role models that I have had."

Richmond Councilman Harpreet Sandhu is an Obama delegate.

But he expressed pride in Clinton, too, calling her a strong example for his two daughters, ages 21 and 23.

"Women are still paid less than men for the same work," Sandhu said. "I know how tough it will be for my daughters. But Hillary helped crack the glass ceiling, and that's positive for my wife and daughters."

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