In 1981, Marlene Johnson had an idea that she knew was radical but necessary. On a train ride to Duluth, she shared it with her friend and fellow political activist, the late Kathleen Ridder. They would create a statewide organization modeled after the recently organized national Women’s Campaign Fund. Intent on leveling the playing field between men and women seeking elected office, they would encourage pro-choice women to run for office and raise and contribute early money to their campaigns in order to help women win.
So what inspired Johnson and Ridder? As a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Johnson heard tale after tale from women frustrated with banking and business laws that kept them from getting ahead. One member shared a particularly shocking story - she was forced to have her husband co-sign a business loan, despite the fact that he had no involvement in her business.
It was time for change that would only come if women had a seat at decision making tables. And so the Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund - now known as womenwinning - was founded in 1982 with the mission to encourage, promote, support, and elect pro-choice women of all political parties to all levels of public office.
The organization sought to support candidates from all parties at all levels of government, in the hopes that more would be elected and eventually climb to the most influential elected offices. Their vision was bigger than any one party, and their goal was bigger than any one race. Johnson and Ridder set out to find five Democrats and five Republicans to give or raise $1,000 for and become founding members of the board. To their surprise, they found 25 pro-choice women - from both parties - who were ready to dig in and do the work of electing pro-choice women. Today, 35 years later, womenwinning is the largest and most influential women’s PAC in the state of Minnesota. With more than 13,000 members, we continue our commitment to the mission to elect pro-choice women.