Haverford’s Fall 2022 Friend in Residence: Cynthia Richie Terrell
The advocate for women’s representation in politics visited campus to share her experiences in activism.
Cynthia Richie Terrell, a gender activist who, through her nonprofit organization RepresentWomen, has spent her life working to improve the representation of women in politics, served as this semester’s Friend in Residence. In addition to an October 4 visit, Terrell lived on campus from October 29 to November 7 as part of the program which brings Quaker leaders and activists to Haverford to speak, teach, and present about their life’s work.
Terrell has served as a member of the Haverford Corporation for years, and has two children who graduated from the College in 2018 and 2020. Walter Hjelt Sullivan, director of Quaker Affairs, noted that her work, though timeless, carries particularly serious weight now.
“The rights of women to control their own destiny and [make] basic decisions about their bodies and health is at the core of the current struggle over health and reproductive rights,” said Sullivan. “Women have important wisdom and have an important role to play in the building of a sustainable and just world.” By advancing women’s rights and increasing representation, he observed, Terrell’s work directly benefits people of all genders.
Sullivan also noted that Quakers have historically been on the frontlines of the fight for women’s rights, with ministry dating all the way back to the 17th century. Yet, he noted, the larger work toward equality, both in rights and in representation, for women and other historically marginalized groups, is far from over. Terrell has spent her life advancing this work, through RepresentWomen, as well as the nonprofit electoral reform organization FairVote, which she founded with her husband, Rob Richie ‘86.
To that end, Terrell spent her time at Haverford in collaboration with the Center for Gender Resources and Sexuality Equity (GRASE), the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), Haverford College Democrats, and Quaker House. In addition, as part of Family and Friends Weekend, she gave a talk, “Strategies to Build Women’s Political Power,” on October 29 about advancing political representation of women, with the ultimate goal of reaching a gender balance in politics in our lifetime.
Terrell says she was thrilled with the opportunity to teach about her work at Haverford. “I really valued the chance to hear what Haverford students are thinking about and am grateful for the chance to learn from them,” she said. “I especially enjoyed my visits to classrooms, with the Haverford College Democrats, and dinner with the Fellows associated with the CPGC, who are doing such valuable work and had great questions.”
She noted that the survival of American democracy depends on the participation of everyone in the process, which is exactly why it’s so critical to ensure that women, people of color, and other marginalized groups are given an equal opportunity to serve in government.
“Being at Haverford was a great opportunity to talk about how we can innovate together to build strong and inclusive institutions,” said Terrell. “The midterm election results make clear that record levels of spending and candidate focus alone won't significantly change who represents us. We must look to the systems strategies that we know are electing more reflective legislatures–like ranked choice voting–to reach gender balanced, reflective government, in our lifetimes.”
Terrell’s residency was not her only recent opportunity to speak and teach at Haverford. She, along with her husband, State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, and March on Harrisburg volunteer Armin Samii, served as speakers at a CPGC-sponsored panel in October.
Terrell noted that her time at Haverford was filled with not only her own teaching, but also listening to the experiences and voices of others. She noted that she enjoyed spending time in the fall colors of the nature trail, watching Ultimate Frisbee, and enjoying the friendly spirit of a Quaker institution.