September, 2006

Publisher's Message
Fearless Veteran Reporter and American Treasure...Headed Our Way!

"Sue. This is Helen. Of course I will come speak – Vermonters are a great audience... So I’ll be there, just have to juggle a few things. Send me an e- ticket. Tell ’em I have plenty to say.”

“Helen” is none other than the indomitable 85-year-old Helen Thomas. For 57 years, the veteran journalist and former United Press International (UPI) Bureau Chief has covered the White House, from the administrations of JFK to Bush 43. Thomas became a national press star in part because, as “Dean” of the White House Press Corps, she earned the right to pose the first question at Kennedy’s press briefings, which were the first administration’s to be televised. Closing each press conference – always from her front row seat, and almost always in her signature red dress, Thomas would say “Thank you, Mr. President” to which Kennedy would reply, “Thank you, Helen.”

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Helen Thomas and Sue Gillis 2003


Candid Assessment -
Where the Candidates Stand on Our Issues

Decide who deserves to represent you in Montpelier and Washington.

Vermont Woman met one on one throughout the summer with the following 12 candidates for the offices of U.S. House and Senare, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor, We asked them about a wide range of issues - those we believe are most important to the majority of Vermonters, particularly women. All the candidates except one were questioned in person, with follow-up queries posed by email.

These individuals want your vote in this profoundly critical election, and we offered each ample opportunity to reveal their true selves vis-a-vis the well being of Vermont women. See what they have to say for themselves in the summaries that follow.


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Courting the Women's Vote

The Flexible Lyric Poetry of Ellen Bryant Voigt

Mention that you're reading poetry and the first likely response is, Can you understand it?

In the case of Vermont poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, the short answer is yes. Her pensive poems, often arising out of telling observations about nature, may not strike in readers the same chord of instant recognition as Billy Collins' witty vignettes, but their chime resonates far longer. She has the gift of calling to mind the exact character of an animal or flower with a few, choice words.

A mother cat in one poem "will go inside to cull her litter, / addressing each with a diagnostic tongue"— addressing and diagnostic are unexpected but delightfully accurate. Sunflowers past their prime are "reedy, rusted [...], drooping over the snow like tongueless bells" outside the hospital window where the speaker's mother lies. Daffodils are "archipelagic in the short green / early grass" and "crayon-yellow, as in a child's drawing of the sun."

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Ellen Bryant Voigt

Sweet Fruits of Labor

As a farmer, I know there are so many things that can happen,  weather-wise or…”
Her voice trailing off, Norma Norris may well be thinking of the twists of fate that can have far graver affects on a farm family’s livelihood than do the perpetual challenges of early frost, inordinate rainfall, or shrinking profits. In January of 2004, her husband Richard “Rick” Norris was killed in a fall while on a carpentry jobsite, just one month after the Monkton couple had lost their daughter, Marion, in a car accident. Norma was left to carry on the Norris Berry Farm business as a widow, with Marion’s two young sons to raise. All within 55 days.

And while the tears still spring easily at such painful reminders of this abrupt and tragic blow, Norris perseveres day to day with a youthful lilt in her characteristic laugh and enduring sparkle in her vivid blue eyes.

The successes of Norma Norris – with Rick, and now on her own – grow from a foundation of family tradition and experience, further cultivated through a savvy sense of innovation and continuing education.

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Norma Norris

In Memoriam:
The Lifelong Fascination of Lilian Baker Carlisle

One of the most gratifying aspects of my role here at Vermont Woman is the opportunity I have to spend time talking with the Vermonters we feature in our pages, a sentiment echoed by Creative Director Jan Doerler. Jan and I will often visit with people in their homes or work environments, as we take photographs and gather visual elements about the person for presentation in the pages we share with you.
Our experience with Lilian Baker Carlisle was one we both will treasure. Lilian generously shared her time, wit, and wisdom with each of us, bringing out many of her legendary scrapbooks that are, in essence, history museums in themselves.

At the time that I first met with Lilian, she inquired as to what else would be included in that particular issue. As I started the list from the top, and mentioned that the cover would feature Northeast Kingdom belly dancer Alia Thabit, much to my surprise Lilian lit up, then sprung up - and beckoned me to another room. There, all smiles, she proceeded to bring out a number of her own garments she had begun to use – quite recently – as she learned the art of belly dancing herself. As her daughter Diana notes in the remarks that follow, Lilian had a lifelong zest for life and learning.

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Lilian Baker Carlisle