Seven Days

Feature in SevenDays

Vermont’s first — and still only — female governor, Madeleine Kunin, was elected in 1984. The arc of her career has been formidable; she was reelected three times (the only woman in the U.S. to achieve that feat) and went on to serve as U.S. deputy secretary of education under president Bill Clinton, then as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. 

Yet this autobiographical volume, which Kunin calls a “coming-into-old-age memoir,” is soft in all the ways that reciting credentials is not. A mixture of smooth, essayistic prose and poetry, Coming of Age is a tender and lucid reflection on what it means to grow older and slow down as a woman who has always been moving. 

As Kunin, now 85, notes in her foreword, “I . . . find that I can write differently now than when I was involved in politics. Now my skin has become more translucent. I can be more personal.” And she does relate personal stories, with subjects ranging from falling in love in her seventies to a relationship with the color red that blossomed when she turned 80. 

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Kunin’s dignified and intimate form of storytelling hits especially hard. In “Finding a Seat,” she elegantly combines complaints about the women’s bathroom line at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts with a sharp memory of crying in a stall after being mocked by male members of the Joint Fiscal Committee. It’s evidence of her brilliance that she can cover matrilineal regimens of seat wiping, a meditation on gendered spatial politics and a triumphant message about women’s advancement in politics in just a few pages.

Link to full article by Rachel Elizabeth Jones