Pat Connolly and Sharon Dennis of Arlington were tired of whispering and looking around when they wanted to discuss progressive issues in the summer of 2016 in public. As were their other close friends.
They just knew there had to be more people who felt as they and their cadre of associates felt, and who were also tired of lowering their voices and looking around to see if the coast was clear.
Thus began the Progressive Women of Arlington (PWA).
From those inauspicious beginnings at local eateries has grown an organization of more than 60 women who in a very short time have notched some important victories: PWA members stood in blistering Texas summer heat to collect signatures for city council and mayoral terms limits (Arlington’s first term limits measure passed with 63 percent of the vote in November 2018).
PWA members also registered voters, knocked on doors to canvass for candidates, wrote letters to representatives and local newspapers, and fearlessly made their presence known during controversial hearings on gas wells and term limits in Arlington. The dozens of PWA members who filled Arlington’s council chambers over the year did not go unnoticed:
Opponents of term limits came to label them and other supporters as “extreme” and council members tended to look askance at the women in the blue tee-shirts packing controversial council meetings.
“We got a kick out of li’l old us being called extremists, ” Connolly laughs today. Drawing on Tip O’Neill’s famous “All-politics-is-local” mindset, she says, “We’re just trying to do the right things, starting here at home. We’re active in state and national matters and always will be, but our focus for 2019 is on making sure that we’re taking care of business where we live.”
PWA members range from teachers to entrepreneurs to executives. Their interests run the gamut from women’s health to common-sense gun legislation, tranparancy in government, to school finance and to electing progressive candidates.
“Many became “woke” after the Trump election” , says Connolly. “Many of us just voted in every election – nothing more. Many of us had never been to a council meeting, had never attended a rally or a march, had never registered a voter. And it was very empowering to do so they found out. Even though we had a lot to learn – and still have a lot to learn – we found that we can accomplish a lot when we jump in, roll up our sleeves and get to work. There is “power” in numbers”.
The focus on local issues is a sensible fit: Arlington is a big city in its own right – seventh-largest in the state and third-largest in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with a robust and diverse community. “We’re proud of our city and the economic growth that we’ve been witnessing in the entertainment district, AT&T Stadium, UT-Arlington, etc. But we find tremendous economic disparities in Arlington – a galling lack of public transportation, a government that doesn’t reflect the diversity of our community – many issues. And we’d like to keep working on those so that our government truly represents the needs and interests of the people who live here. From there, we’ll branch out, perhaps.”
To keep the focus local, PWA has set 2019 priorities calling for transparency in local government – through the represent.us movement — and a focus on environmental initiatives that can be accomplished locally – while keeping a hand in on state and national issues that affect Arlington voters.
PWA is one of the founding members of the Coalition for a Better Arlington, which is taking root in the area, and PWA’s members are routinely active in other regional progressive organizations working on political campaigns and issues.
PWA members are required to attend one monthly meeting per quarter and dues are $15 a quarter (negotiable for those who have unique financial needs). Connolly says the organization is especially interested in recruiting a larger number of young and diverse women.
Membership begins when members attend their first meeting and pay dues. “We expect people to come ready to contribute to the mission,
” Connolly said. “We need everyone, because there’s so much
potential in our area to keep building on the successes of the past two years. I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.”
Visit PWA’s website at: https://progressivewomenofarlingtontx.org/ If you’re interested in joining, contact Connolly at firstname.lastname@example.org