I’ve been a feminist all of my life. Or at least since I was four and my only brother was seven. I know I was four because shortly after I got glasses, my brother David sat me down to explain the relationships in our family. He said our father was the boss and our mother had to do what he said, unless she had a very good reason not to. He said because he, my brother, was older, a boy, and smart in school, he would always be the favored child.
“You should just stop trying to get more attention than I get, because that will never happen. You’re a girl.
“But that’s not fair!” I said
He waited for the rise of the “alley cat temper” he loved to provoke.
Cool as a cucumber, he continued. “If you had been beautiful, or brilliant, you might have been the favorite, but you’re a female, so you’ll always be inferior to me.”
That did it. Jumping up, I tried to punch and kick him, but he fended off my attacks easily with his longer arms. Then when Mother yelled from the kitchen, “Stop that you two,” I stormed downstairs to cool off under the clothesline in the backyard.
That experience made me a feminist overachiever bent on proving my worth, determined never to be limited by gender, and keenly interested in the leadership of women who excelled.
So it is easy to understand why I was fascinated with Colombia’s surge of female leaders that started after suffrage in 1957 and was going strong in 1994 when my US ambassador husband and I arrived during the “drug war.” This paradoxical development of women leaders rising so quickly and breaking so many barriers under such unlikely circumstances was attention getting enough, until it was surpassed when two of the highly qualified female leaders profiled declared themselves candidates in Colombia’s 1998 Presidential Primary.
Presenting such stellar leadership in a strictly Colombian context in El Poder Compartido, a book that was translated and published in Colombia in 1999, touched only the surface of their remarkable development. In Sharing Power, today’s newly published English version, traces these inspiring leadership profiles to their roots in the rich Latin American legacies of female political activism that have put elevenP women into presidencies in their hemisphere.