In the last few years, there have been scores of books written about healing the political divide in the United States – including “Uncivil Agreement,” by Lilliana Mason, “Why We’re Polarized,” by Ezra Klien and, notably “Trust: America’s Best Chance,” by 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Most of these volumes focused on the national political picture, but as Buttigieg was known to point out, the presidency is not the only office that matters. We are also divided at the state and local level, he says and one former state official agrees.
Enter former state Rep. Kathleen Teahan, who’s new book – “For the People, Against the Tide: A Democratic Woman’s Ten Years in the Massachusetts Legislature – seeks to address that.
What’s one way to help build that bridge?
It takes everyone mending fences and working together, as Teahan puts it.
“I didn’t write it to make a profit,” she said with a laugh. “I wrote it as a gift and I self-published it. I just hope it makes a difference in the future.”
The self-published book is available on Amazon. She also has a website KathleenTeahan.com to further her mission of fostering a more civil political discourse while encouraging more women to seek office.
“I started it in 2009,” Teahan said in a phone interview last week from her Harwich home. “One reason is I want to leave the world a better place for my children and all children, and seeing the dysfunction of our government, on the federal level – and somewhat on the state level – and seeing the condition our country was in with the racism and divisiveness, lack of respect and honesty – I just had to get out what my experiences were, hoping to inspire courageous and caring candidates for political office and to get everybody to pay attention and vote.”
In 1995 Teahan lost her first campaign for state representative by 75 votes because many voters wondered if she was “too nice” for politics. Her memoir shows that “Nice” and “Courageous” are not mutually exclusive qualities. One of the 219 women compared to the over 20,000 men who, to date, has served in the Massachusetts State Legislature, Teahan, won her subsequent five elections with persistence and hard work. She loved every day working for the people of Abington, Whitman, and East Bridgewater and being a “voice for the voiceless.”
Before moving to the Cape 13 years ago, Teahan had lived in Whitman all her life. She has volunteered in political and other organizations in both places. Her connection to Whitman families, classmates, and friends remains strong no matter where she lives. Both her books; The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World, the story of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie and For the People, Against the Tide will be available at the Whitman Mother’s Club Candy Cane Craft Fair, on Saturday, Dec. 4.
She said her personal views and experiences lead her to never give up hope things will get better because she has seen the progress made since women’s sufferage 100 years ago.
“There’s a lot of hope, and I think a lot of it comes from women,” she said. “Even as I finished this memoir this year, I was one of only 219 women ever to serve in the Massachusetts Legislature in the history of it and there have been over 20,000 men.”
The “next chapter,” if you will, of her life is an effort to encourage more women to seek public office.
“Women bring a different perspective needed to balance out things,” she said. “Just like when you have any group, you need to have everyone to have a seat at the table to have it be the best it can and get a lot of different ideas.”
Getting out the vote is a key aspect of realizing that kind of representation, according to Teahan.
“Every one of us needs to be involved to keep democracy alive and bring it closer to the dream it was meant to be – the way we’ve always thought of it,” she said.
Teahan said the book “reads like a story” because, when she started it in 2008 she had talked with a couple writing agents, one of whom said she needed to put more of herself in the book. The other agent said memoirs are not that popular. That person’s suggestion that Teahan concentrate on writing about the Toll House cookie led to her first book – a children’s book titled, “The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World: the Story of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.”
“Now they are popular,” Teahan said of memoirs. She has held a book launch for “For the People, Against the Tide” (the title comes from an award she received from Healthcare for All when she was working on children’s oral health issues) in Harwich, but touched base with the Express to reach the people in the Whitman area.
“They’re the ones who sent me to the State House and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “It was quite an honor and I know there are many young people, especially Gen Z, who are passionate about making a better world and they are working hard.”
Teahan said writing it was her small part in helping young people, especially, learn how to do it and what needs to be done to attain elective office. One group she has already been speaking to is ActOn, one of whose goals is more transparency in government as well as more equalized power in the legislature, so the Speaker’s Office wields less control.
“I’m going to do what it takes to bring changes about,” Teahan said.
She’s hoping to “hit the road” to make library appearances and the like, to support the book and it’s message.
Former governors, Michael Dukakis and Deval Patrick, former Mass. Commissioners of Public Health, David Mulligan and Dr. Howard Koh, and seven others she worked with provide endorsements for this political memoir.
For the People, Against the Tide is available in paperback to bookstores and libraries through the book vendor, Ingram Publishing, and is for sale online through Amazon.