Why She’s a MAKER: Ellen Malcolm is her own woman, through and through. Her family was Republican, she went Democrat. She was groomed to be a secretary; she became a political leader. She saw the old boys’ club say no to funding women candidates; she started her own fundraising club—EMILY’s List—to say “yes.” She’s the definition of persistence and the force behind many of the women on the ballots today.
Run Like a Girl: In the late 1970s, there were plenty of women who wanted to run for office, but the 'ol boys club refused to fund them. “Traditional funders...would lean back with their cigars and say, ‘You don’t have a chance of winning, so I’m not going to give you any money,’” says Malcolm. In 1985, Malcolm invited all the political women she knew to a Washington brainstorm on how to fund female candidates. “Every single person said one way or another we have to figure out how to raise early money for women candidates and then maybe the old boys would finally believe women could actually win.” And that’s how EMILY’s List came to be the first fundraising network to exclusively back Democratic women candidates. And what’s in the name? EMILY stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast—it makes dough rise.
Early Victory: In 1986, Maryland Representative Barbara Mikulski decided to run for senator, and heard the usual no from the all-boys network. EMILY’s List went into action. With just one mailing, the organization helped Mikulski raise as much as her opponent. “Now, the old boys look and say, ‘oh my goodness, she can raise money. We better get behind her.’” They did and Mikulski won.
Uphill Battle: EMILY’s List scored a victory, but struggled to recruit more contributors. Then the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings began to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Justice. “Fourteen white men basically went after Anita Hill. Working women said ‘Where are the women on that committee?’ All of a sudden we started getting inquiries, contributions, telephone calls, from women across the country.” Today, EMILY’s List is one of the most powerful political organizations in the country with 5 million members.