The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Chatham screens “Madame Presidenta” documentary

To honor Constitution Day and the ladies that Abigail Adams was famous for asking her founding father husband not forget, on September 17, Chatham students and non-students alike gathered in Eddy Theatre to watch a documentary called “Madame Presidenta,” which was co-produced by the Women and Girls Foundation along with Elas Social Investment Fund.

The evening opened with Chatham’s own Dana Brown of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics recounting women’s history of political advocacy both with and without the right to vote to the audience. Following Brown, Chatham senior Sarah Pesi described the role that the Women and Girls Foundation played in her life and journey into policymaking.

After the speeches were finished Heather Arnet, CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation, took the audience on a journey to Brazil in an attempt to understand how Brazil elected its first woman president and why the United States has yet to have a “madame” president.

While in Brazil, Arnet interviewed mothers, activists, historians, and politicians. Though the interviewees had varying backgrounds, a recurring theme throughout the film was that the only way for a person (particularly a woman) to have their voice heard, was to get involved.

The film explored Brazil’s complex past in an attempt to explain how Dilma Rousseff went from being an imprisoned activist to the president. It also noted the contrasts in Brazil’s political culture–namely the redrafted constitution, mandatory voting, control around birth control, six month paid maternity leave, and the way that feminism, to quote Arnet, “Rolls off the tongue with no fear.”

After the credits rolled, the discussion began. On the panel Dr. George Reid Andrews of the University of Pittsburgh, self-proclaimed “internationalist” and “americanist” Dr. David Rossbach, and Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman were enlisted to shed some light.

Quotas, mandatory voting, party systems, reproductive rights, and even redrafting the constitution were brought up.

“I’ll take that six-hundred page unworkable constitution over our screwed up four page constitution at this point,” Andrews said.

“We all really dropped the ball on the women’s movement,” said Sweet-Cushman, who also noted that the lack of women running and the complex electoral system were contributing factors.

Arnet said she wanted to make this film in order to show her beloved grandmother that her dream of a woman president was not impossible.

Only time will tell if and when that dream will become a reality, because as Dana Brown told the audience at the end of the event, “History is happening now.”


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