Smart Women Products, Women Voters League Team Up

Posted April 21, 2004 at 4:05pm

The women’s rights movement began on a sweltering afternoon on July 13, 1848, in Upstate New York, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton was invited to tea with four female friends. Two days later the small group had chosen a date for the first Women’s Rights Convention, found a suitable location and placed an ad in the Seneca County Courier.

Impressed? Don’t be. There are no limits to what “smart women” can do. And even 156 years later, women are still getting together and taking action.

This Saturday, Smart Women products and the League of Women Voters have joined forces to present the Smart Women 2004 Elect to Make a Difference Tour, whose kickoff rally will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Capitol Hill’s Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, home of the National Women’s Party.

The kickoff rally will unveil the Smart Women 2004 Elect to Make a Difference Kit, and this latest addition in the Smart Women line does not disappoint its cult-like following who appreciate the product’s amalgamation of function and fun.

The election kit contains: “Smart Women Take Note and Vote” notebook and pencil; “Stick to the Issues” magnet; “Take Politics Personally” tattoos; and a “Vote 2004” bumper sticker and pin, as well as the LWV voting guide.

Smart Women founder and President Julie Hellwich — a “smart woman” herself, with masters degrees in both social work and public health — practically stumbled into the business venture.

“I bought a rubber stamp with the words ‘Smart Women’ and used it to make gifts for my friend,” explained Hellwich from her home office in Minneapolis, Minn. Her friend was so sure other women would appreciate the coalescing of nostalgic yet purposeful products that she went to a local drugstore and promoted Hellwich’s creation.

Smart Women products, which are common at birthday parties, as bridesmaid presents or as “just-because” gifts, underwent a political facelift when Hellwich was impelled to have her political voice heard. “After the death of Senator Paul Wellstone [D-Minn.] and the situation in Iraq, I knew I had to do something … this is my way of doing something, this is my way of electing to make a difference,” the mother of two offered as a reason for Smart Women’s political theme.

Hellwich then approached the League of Women Voters. “I always respected the league because they are extremely involved and invite you to think about what is important to you,” Hellwich explained.

Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters, thinks “the partnership is a perfect fit,” because the league has been encouraging women to “take politics seriously,” “stick to the issues” and “take note and vote” for the past eight decades. The league, founded in 1974, aims to promote informed and active participation of citizens in government.

The Saturday tour kickoff will feature “prizes and popcorn, tours and tattoos, lemonade and voting rights guides” and falls on the same weekend as the popular March for Women’s Lives.

Lyndsey Farrington, communications coordinator for LWVUS, believes the rally will be “a unique way to reach a diverse group of people we usually don’t reach.” The league feels that the Smart Women kit “provides a practical daily reminder of the importance of civic participation.”

“People believe one vote really won’t make a difference, but it is important to understand how joining together can largely impact the political future,” Farrington said.