Alumna, former legislator discusses women’s struggle for political power

October 13, 2008

Ellen Sauerbrey '59 has crusaded for women’s rights all over the world. Former ambassador to the U.N. commission on the Status of Women, she is a staunch supporter of families.

Sauerbrey will explore the topic “When Women Have No Political Power” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in McDaniel Lounge. The conversation, sponsored by the McDaniel Women’s Leadership Network, is free and open to the public.

In 2003, she was the key negotiator in the passage of a U.N. General Assembly resolution on women and political participation. Some 110 nations signed and took the blueprint for implementation back home with them.

Sauerbrey has served as an inspiration to women struggling for political voice in developing nations. The only child of a family with modest means, she worked in the campus dining hall to help pay her tuition and graduated from the College summa cum laude in 1959.

Determination and stiff resolve helped this Republican overcome tremendous odds in 1978 and gain a seat in the Maryland legislature – where she represented her northern Maryland district for 16 years, the final eight as minority leader.

In 1994 she came within 6,000 votes of becoming Maryland’s first woman governor and derailing a Democratic regime that had presided over Annapolis for more than a quarter century. She lost again in 1998 but some say she had built the foundation for Republican Bob Ehrlich’s win in 2002.

Sauerbrey took her convictions to a global level in 2000 when President Bush appointed her to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Three years later, she was confirmed as Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. In 2006 she became U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration – a post she held until last December.