‘A Seat at the Table’: Dana Hall Girls Get Political

students at polling place
Dana students worked at polling places across Wellesley on election day.

In the spring of 1776, Abigail Adams penned a letter to her husband John, who was in Philadelphia busily hammering out the final details of the colonies’ Declaration of Independence. Recognizing the importance of this act, Ms. Adams—hoping to ensure that the women not be forgotten wrote, “…I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors…If particular attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no Voice, or Representation” (History.com Editors). It’s important to note that during this time period, women were restricted from participating fully in society. They could not inherit property, had no political or marital rights, and were considered the properties of their fathers first and after marriage, their husbands. However, as the mounting threat of revolution hung in the air, and words like ‘equality’ and ‘self-sovereignty’ were thrown about, Abigail desired to taste those liberties for herself. She wanted a voice. I like to believe that she already knew what it would take the world another two centuries to recognize—that when empowered, women help to bring up the whole of society.

students at polling place
Dana girls have served as poll workers in every election since 2008.

One of the things that I love most about working at an institution such as Dana Hall, is that we have always been committed to these principles. In fact, Dana Hall was advancing feminist ideals literally decades before it became a recognizable movement…even before the attainment of suffrage! Dana Hall understands that women cannot be what they cannot see. Thus, we are committed to immersing our students in civic engagement opportunities as early as the fifth grade. Dana Hall’s girls are learning the value of service, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, leadership and yes, political participation. They are becoming activists and advocates, upstanders and allies. In recent years, our girls have planned fundraisers, launched public awareness campaigns and organized rallies. As seniors, they are interning for elected officials, non-profit organizations and corporations. They are also learning the value of political participation even before they can vote. Last year, for example, a senior single-handedly organized a voter registration drive on campus to get her peers, classmates and teachers registered before the 2018 midterm election. At the same time, students planned and facilitated a school-wide walkout to raise awareness around the issue of gun violence in America. Moreover, student clubs such as SHADES, Salaam, Fusion, Kesher and BRIDGE host regular meaningful community discussions about issues of equity, inclusion and ally-ship. In this same spirit, on November 6, 22 students worked at polling stations across Wellesley — an activity Dana Hall has been doing faithfully for every election since 2008! In short, we are making sure that our girls see what they can be every day.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren notes, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu…It is important that we have…women who are there to help advance an agenda that is important to women” (Warren). At Dana Hall, students are not just sitting at the table, they are setting the table, designing the menu and hosting the meals, ensuring that the ‘Ladies’ whom Ms. Adams referred to so many years ago are not just remembered, but purposefully invited to build a peaceful, just and equitable world for all.

Works Cited:
“Abigail Adams Urges Husband to ‘Remember the Ladies.'” History.com, A & E Television Netwoks, 22  Oct. 2009,  www.history.com/thisday-in-history/abigail-adams-urges-husband-to-remember-the-ladies. Accessed 4 Nov. 2018.

“Elizabeth Warren Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2018. 4 November 2018. https://www.brainyquote.com


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About Heather Panahi

Heather Panahi is both an Upper School Social Studies teacher and Model UN coach at Dana Hall. She is also the parent of two Dana girls--Nora Panahi ('15) and Maya Panahi ('19). Heather joined the Dana Hall community in 2003.

3 Replies to “‘A Seat at the Table’: Dana Hall Girls Get Political”

  1. Heather,
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts and for giving our students so many opportunities to learn about and participate in civic engagement. You are, indeed, helping to “prepare [our students] for the challenges and choices they will face as women and citizens of the world.”

  2. Heather,
    When I voted on Tuesday, I saw Dana students working diligently and conscientiously to check voters in and out. They’re lucky to have this opportunity — and voters were lucky to have them there. I love your comment that “women cannot be what they cannot see.” You show students many possible futures.

  3. Heather, thank you for sharing. I am so proud that Dana Hall School students serve their community in this way! What a wonderful, tangible lesson in the important roles women hold in society.

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