In an interview with Mrs., Senator Elizabeth Warren talks about her new children’s book, the importance of connecting with young people and the future of feminism.
Many of us felt demoralized when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Pulled out of the 2020 presidential race. But she continued – and so did we – as she wrote in her book, Persist, released last May.
This month, she is releasing her first children’s book. Entitled Pinkie Promises, the book focuses on persistent Polly as she explores what girls can do and pinkie promises Senator Warren to do her best at whatever she does.
“The pinky promises I made with thousands of girls will always stay with me,” Warren said in the book’s press release. “These promises remind us of our strength, and I hope this book will encourage even the youngest readers to dream big, because that’s what girls do.
Recently, Mrs. got to talk with Warren about the book, her feminism and her plans to help women achieve equality.
Karla J. Strand: Senator, thank you very much for telling me today about your first children’s book, Pinkie Promises. I was able to attend the lecture you gave on the book at the first American Publishers Weekly Book Fair and read the book and it is lovely.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: Isn’t that the illustrator unbelievable??
Warren: She just knocked off my socks.
I’ll tell you about the illustrator, Charlene Chua. You know, the big difference for me wasn’t so much writing an adult book or a children’s book. Before writing a book, I always think strongly about my audience. And for this one, my audience was clearly the kids I had met, the little girls I had met in recent years.
I knew what the story would be. I knew exactly how I wanted to present it, what Polly would do and what the theme was. But I hadn’t thought of the illustrations. I think of words, not pictures. And then the editor said to me, “You have to choose an illustrator.” And so they started sending me children’s books, both in electronic form and in hard copy. And if I fell in love with this illustrator, it’s because of the way she draws little girls. His little daughters are intelligent and curious. They are hurt but they are tough. They bounce back. It’s all there on their faces. And I feel so lucky to have had such a great partner to set up Pinkie Promises. It’s his little daughters; that’s what does it. Everything else [of the characters] are great – like the uncle at first who I think is hysterical – but it’s the little girl, and Charlene can draw little girls.
“My audience was clearly the children I had met, the little girls I had met over the past two years.”
Strand: You have already written several books for adults. So why a children’s book now?
EW: Because children are the future. This book is written for our youngest feminists. To give them a place in their place in literature. I wrote this book for every little girl I met during the election campaign who was thrilled to meet a female presidential candidate who stuck out her pinky finger for a promise on her pinky.
I want them all to remember, little girls, big girls, their brothers, their moms and dads how important it is to try, to get into everything. [The book is] about a little girl who is told what she can’t do, and a little finger promises to try.
And that’s what the book is about. She gets up in front of everyone and kicks the soccer ball; not whether the ball goes in or not, but that she got up and kicked because that’s what girls do. And that’s how we measure it: it’s standing strength, it’s the fact of getting into combat, it’s the pleasure of it all!
Strand: And representation is vital. Seeing VP Harris and Polly in the book as a girl of color, I think that’s really important too. So, I hope this will appeal to a lot of different girls.
Warren: I hope too.
Strand: I saw that you were donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book to Girls, Inc. So can you tell us about this organization and why you chose to donate it to them?
Warren: I was a big fan of Girls, Inc. long before I got involved in politics. It is an organization that works on the ground every day to open up opportunities for girls. They are very active here in Massachusetts and in many parts of the country. So I was happy to have another opportunity to support them.
I try to visit Girls, Inc. when we are in different towns in Massachusetts and have spoken at their gala dinners back in the days when we had gala dinners. But mostly because I really love the places Girls, Inc. builds for girls. They are places of strength and opportunity.
Strand: I’m sure they appreciate your strong support! So in 2019, I don’t know if you’ll remember that, but Politico wrote an article that said you were practicing what they called “stealth feminism.”
Clearly tickled, Warren let out a big laugh upon hearing this question.
Strand: Yeah, and I thought it was smart, first of all, but also, I wonder if you agree with that interpretation then or now, and how would you describe your feminism now, if you even used this word.
Warren: Oh yes, I use the word feminism! I actually remember the title of the article, but at the time I thought to myself, “There is nothing stealthy about my feminism! i use [the word] loud and proud. I would say I was a little taken aback by the suggestion that I was silent about my feminism.
Warren was in the car between engagements at the time of our interview and that’s when his phone started to break. After cutting twice, she broke through and said, “See, that’s why we need broadband infrastructure investment!” Which I wholeheartedly agreed to, and then we continued with the interview.
Warren: I’ve always been very vocal about my feminism. I think anyone who knows me well would support him.
Strand: We know you have a plan for everything. So I think there are a lot of people wondering: what is your plan for the future? Where do you see yourself or feminism more generally playing a role in protecting democracy moving forward?
Warren: I see myself supporting President Biden and Vice President Harris in their re-election. And I see myself in the struggle to give women real equality and opportunities. This battleground is currently about child care and the interests of our social security system. We need to make changes in this country and start demanding more equal opportunities for women. It is not enough to say that there is no formal discrimination against women in the workplace, but at the same time it is so difficult for mothers to work and for women who have had to take years out of the workforce to care for others and lose their retirement.
These are political choices we make as a nation and I think it’s time we made choices that create opportunities for women that are equal to men.
Strand: And does this image for you include the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment?
Warren: Oh, you bet it does. I’m in.
Written by Senator Elizabeth Warren and illustrated by Charlene Chua, Pinkie Promises releases October 12. Please support your local independent bookstore (and Mrs.) upon purchase!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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