On Saturday afternoon, women in both politics and the community gathered at Keene State College for the Empowering Women Together Rally at the Redfern Arts Center. Speakers included congresswoman Annie Kuster, state Senator Donna Soucy, Elaine Hamel of Girls at Work, Metta Dael and Martha Neubert from Northfield Mount Hermon School located in Massachusetts and keynote speaker Bria Smith.
With about 100 attendees ranging in age and gender, the room was full and attentive throughout the two-hour program.
United States Representative Ann Kuster spoke of her view of empowerment, “This is hopefully, for us, the apex of the misogyny, the racism, and the sexism, and just the hateful behavior that we’ve got to turn around,” Kuster said. “There really is a moment in our society … women of all ages, young, old, black, white, gay, straight, are fed up and decided to run for congress. They decided having never been in Congress before, dozens of them, hundreds of them, all across this country.”
Molly Kelly, candidate for governor, was unable to attend the rally as originally planned due to a last minute scheduling change. State Senator Donna Soucy spoke on her behalf as a “good friend of hers.”
“Molly, being a strong, empowered woman, will always stand for reproductive rights, for access to legal abortion, and will always stand for funding for Planned Parenthood,” Soucy said. “Don’t underestimate Molly Kelly … She, like so many of you, is an empowered, engaged, and active person,” Soucy said.
Elaine Hamel, the program director and founder of Girls at Work, a program that empowers young girls with the use of power tools, said, “They’re just in a really rough place,” Hamel said of the girls she works with. “To watch them even begin to turn their voice up just by reading something on the walls is pretty amazing.”
“We’ve had over 10,000 girls come into this program scratch-free. They somehow avoid getting hurt in the shop because they come in wounded, so wounded, you cannot imagine,” Hamel said.
Metta Dael and Martha Neubert next spoke on diversity and justice.
Dael, who is the director of international studies at her workplace, said: “When we’re talking about ally-ship and equality, it’s finding space within white spaces … I truly believe that no women have any space until white men figure out how to make that space for us.” The crowd clapped in agreement.
Neubert is the Dean of Diversity, Equity and Social Justice at Northfield Mount Hermon School, as well as Dael’s partner.
“If we’re going on the lines of empowering women with the work that we do as educators, much of that for us, what it means is ally-ship in helping that happen … Ally-ship is a really big thing, and I think that must be true in New Hampshire as well, and in your state demographic etcetera,” Neubert said.
Bria Smith, the 17-year-old keynote speaker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a part of the movement March for Our Lives.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains,” Smith had the crowd repeat after her in the words of black panther Assata Shakur.
“We are [bound] by lots of oppression and seclusion, and we are [bound] by of all these different things that takes away our validation as human beings. But we have nothing else to lose but that. We can make change and create creation and do all these different things, but if we are [bound] by the oppression and the ideas that we can’t move forward to progress, we are not going to destroy those chains,” Smith said.
Following the rally, junior film communication major Peter Kelleher said he hopes to empower women through his work.
“Since I’m interested in making documentary movies and finding people’s stories, I think the way I could help women is to tell their stories and spread their message to as many people as possible,” Kelleher said.
Erin Lynch, a junior social studies education major, said, “To me, [women empowerment] means reminding myself that I have value and skills … I’m learning through programs like these that value has to do more with your skills, and what you bring to the table, as far as helping others … Having Bria Smith speak really just reminded that she’s 17, and that you don’t have to be 50 and a congresswoman to make a difference, you don’t have to be a president of company or university, you can make a difference when you’re 17 years old.”
“Definitely vote if you value women empowerment or you value your own voice … because like Bria Smith said, you’re not just voting for yourself, you’re voting for other people who may not have a voice,” Lynch said.
Amanda Bevis can be contacted at