Norelli Notes: Our Grandmothers Fought for This Right


On August 26 each year, we celebrate the day, 95 years ago, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified as law and American women were first given the right to vote.

It is critically important for women to exercise that right – to educate ourselves about candidates and where they stand on issues, and then to VOTE!  Sadly, turnout at recent elections has been low.  People are frustrated and think that their vote won’t make a difference anyway, but that is not true.  When women fail to register or don’t show up at the polls, elections are decided by the minority who do.  Here is an example of why YOUR VOTE MATTERS.

Earlier this month, the all-male Executive Council voted 3-2 to defund Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) health centers right here in New Hampshire. This decision could have devastating impacts on the nearly 13,000 Granite Staters who rely on PPNNE for their basic health care services including birth control, cancer screenings, and STI tests and treatment.

This is the second time in five years that the Executive Council has cut family planning funds, and it’s just one more sign that in New Hampshire—like much of the country—we seem to be losing ground on family planning issues. This is extremely concerning, because a woman’s ability to control her reproductive health is central to her ability to work outside the home and to achieve her full potential.

That the fate of healthcare for 13,000 New Hampshire women was in the hands of five male elected officials adds insult to injury. When it comes to setting policy, all-male or mostly-male groups of lawmakers shouldn’t be making decisions that affect women without women being a part of the conversation.  We need to raise our voices loudly and to hold elected officials accountable.

In honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope that women will commit to vote – our foremothers fought for that right!!  And be an educated voter.

And in honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope women will consider stepping up to run for office at every level, so the voices of women are fully engaged in the policy-making debate.  When women run, women win!

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Norelli Notes: She IS Beautiful



“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” – and indeed she was!  The NH Women’s Foundation was pleased to collaborate with the Music Hall in Portsmouth for a film showing in late May.  This film was a documentary about the second wave of feminism. Sounds boring, you say. Not at all!  It was thought provoking, passionate and sometimes humorous. The movie was powerful. Powerful for what this generation accomplished – the true changes they created. Powerful for the future – the real work today’s generation has left to do.

As I said leading up to the movie: Whether you took an active part in this cultural transformation or you flinch if someone suggests you are a feminist, you should see this film!  If you’re a parent, you should bring both your daughters AND sons to this film as it tells the history of a courageous movement whose accomplishments have made the world a better place for all of us — the women and men who have come after them.  In addition to that the audience is sure to leave inspired after hearing from our post-film panelists.

And 500 women, men and youth attended. As a shared experience there was palpable energy in the room.  That’s why if you missed this opportunity, check out the after film panel discussion we organized:

And look for other chances to take your sister, son, friend, daughter, dad to see it.

We’re fortunate to have a great partnership with The Music Hall and look forward to other great opportunities to work with them. Below is an interview between Kait Smith at The Music Hall and myself about the value of collaborating with TMH.

TMH: Why is supporting the arts important to the NH Women’s Foundation?

TN: The arts portray the good and the bad of life in a way that draws the attention of people.  Messaging through the arts aligns with one of the stated missions of the NH Women’s Foundation—that of education.  Education of issues can take many forms, and utilizing the arts as a tool to reach an audience is an invaluable asset to achieving our goals.

TMH: Why does NHWF choose to partner with The Music Hall and what value does this partnership bring to the NHWF community?

TN: The Music Hall is a well known, well respected venue that guarantees built-in publicity for events.  The venue also increases the credibility of a program, and therefore the program’s community partners, simply by its participation.  The NHWF can attract a wider and, hopefully, larger audience for its programs by partnering with The Music Hall. Likewise, as a community partner, we can lend our community to the Music Hall.


Terie Norelli
President & CEO


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Paid Family Leave Advocate Josh Levs Announces Collaboration with NH Women’s Foundation


My Turn: Presidential candidates: Are you all in on paid family leave?

For the Monitor
Sunday, June 21, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, June 21, 2015)

There’s nothing Democratic or Republican, nothing left or right, about the idea that a newborn child should have a parent at home who does not have to worry about putting food on the table. But the United States remains the only nation on Earth with a developed economy that forces families into this situation. The countries with no mandatory paid maternity leave: the United States, Papua New Guinea, Suriname and a few tiny islands. Many countries also have mandatory paid paternity leave.

In digging into these issues for my new book, All In, I discovered something: There’s no good reason to oppose a national paid family leave law, which would act as an insurance system and not force employers to pay workers’ salaries during leave. Paid family leave is a win across the board: good for women, men and the cause of equality; a boon to businesses, and a necessity for children.

The fears that such programs hurt businesses have already been disproven in states that have them. In California, a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the vast majority of businesses say the state’s paid family leave law had minimal impact on operations and either boosted or didn’t affect productivity and profits. In New Jersey, a study of 18 diverse businesses found that six see the state’s program as neutral, while 12 felt it had a positive effect. Rhode Island now also has such a program. And Washington state passed a law to establish one but has not established a mechanism to carry it out.

By far, most Americans across the political spectrum support paid family leave. An exit poll during the last presidential election found that 86 percent of voters support creating a system of family and medical leave insurance – including 96 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of independents, and 73 percent of Republicans. A poll of likely 2016 voters found similar results.

A bill currently before Congress would create such a system. The FAMILY Act would collect funds through a very small payroll tax of 20 cents for each $100 a worker makes, up to an annual contribution cap of $237 per year, with equal contributions by employees and employers. When the worker needs time off to care for a family member, such as a new child or elderly parent, that worker could get some paid leave for up to 12 weeks. Workers could also use this time to recover from illness.

These programs are proven to help prevent people from dropping out of the workforce altogether. And companies that choose to offer more paid leave on their own reap rewards by attracting and retaining loyal, productive, happier workers. This includes small businesses, such as an 18-employee Boston organization I discuss in All In.

Paid family leave is also essential for pulling our work culture out of the “Mad Men” era. The lack of mandatory paid maternity leave and lack of paternity leave – only 14 percent of companies offer any, and the amount offered is decreasing – are symptomatic of a work culture designed for women to stay home and men to stay at work. (The thinking is: The woman should stay home, so who needs her salary? The man should keep working, so who needs paternity leave?)

The New York Times reported that in the Senate, numerous Republicans and Democrats provide their employees with paid family leave (on the public’s dime). But so far, most presidential candidates have not lined up behind a national policy. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is speaking out about paid family leave, suggesting she might no longer stand by something she said last year: that she did not believe a national policy was attainable now, politically. Lincoln Chafee supports a national program (he signed Rhode Island’s program into law as governor). Bernie Sanders talked about wanting to have “the resources to deal with paternity leave,” and announced he supports 12 weeks of paid family leave. There’s no sign yet of any Republican candidate expressing support for national paid family leave. And Bloomberg reported that several, as senators, voted against an amendment in March that expressed support for allowing use of a handful of paid sick days to care for family members.

Since All In published, I’ve heard from numerous nonpartisan groups wanting to align in the fight for paid family leave. A centerpiece of that effort begins today, with this opinion piece. The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation and I are collaborating to make this a key issue in the nation’s first presidential primary.

Our questions to the candidates include: Would you support a national law establishing paid family leave? Why or why not? If yes, how should it be structured? And what hard data and research do you cite in establishing your position?

Ultimately, the question boils down to: Are you “All In” for paid family leave?

Presidential races get ugly and divisive. But this issue unites Americans. Let’s hope our presidential candidates get the message.

Check out the article at Concord Monitor here!

In Memory of Phyllis Brill… A Lasting Legacy

Phyllis BrillOur mother, Phyllis Wagner Brill, spent her life in Baltimore, growing up in the family business, Wagner & Wagner Pharmacy.  She was the only woman in her 1952 graduating class at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.  Phyllis owned and operated Wagner’s and worked in hospital pharmacies well into her 70’s.  She was a savvy business woman, and a lover of symphony, opera, education, travel and her family.

In Loving Tribute – her children, Lessa Brill and Howard Brill

This generous $20,000 gift will be matched by the Thoresen Endowment Challenge. To donate to the Thoresen Endowment, please visit our give now page.

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Sue Thoresen: A Life of Inspiration

ThoresenThe article below was written by Bob Thoresen (in photo above) as a surprise gift to honor the NHWF work of his wife Sue Thoresen. Surprise, Sue! And thank you, Bob!

Sue and I recently attended a meeting of the Women’s Foundation’s new Development Committee. Chris Strong, the committee chair, asked me what inspired me to give to the endowment, and the answer I gave at the time was somewhat vague. I thought about the question later, however, and realized what did (and does) inspire me—Sue, my wife and best friend of almost 48 years.

I want to talk about her work and contributions to the Women’s Foundation, and I want to honor her by making an additional contribution to the Foundation’s endowment—something we both believe is vital to the long-term sustainability of the organization.

Sue was a founding member of the New Hampshire Women’s Fund, the predecessor of the NH Women’s Foundation. She was on the Board from 2006 to 2014, when the Foundation was created. She served as Treasurer for most of those years, and was on the Executive Committee, the Merger Task Force, the Bylaws Committee, and other special task forces.

Sue gave generously of her time, talent and treasure during her term with the Fund, and has since been a tireless advocate for creating a robust endowment for the Foundation. She knows that ultimately it will only thrive with a substantial endowment (a minimum of $5,000,000, we believe).

The income from that endowment will provide base funding for the operating costs of the foundation, and additional annual fundraising can then be devoted to grants, special projects, and support to the operating budget.

Sue devotes herself to every task she agrees to take on with a low-key, forthright, and no-nonsense manner. She does her homework, is superbly prepared, and delivers—always with grace and humility. She is the most nurturing and selfless person I have ever met. Many of you have been the recipients of her special gifts and thoughtfulness.

My late parents are also integral to this tribute. My mother passed away in December 2013, my father in January 2015, both at 96 years of age. They had met Sue about three weeks into our courtship. Three weeks later, we called them to announce that we were getting engaged, and my father said to me that marrying Sue was the smartest thing I had ever done. How right he was.

They came to adore Sue, and my mother often commented on how thoughtful and generous she was in every way. Sue became a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley as a second career, and was my parents’ advisor for some 25 years. She helped them invest and plan for a future legacy, part of which goes toward this tribute. My parents would have been thrilled to contribute to this investment in the Foundation’s future in Sue’s honor.

In 2014, we offered a $50,000 challenge grant to the Women’s Foundation to enhance the permanent endowment. We agreed to match every donation of $1000 or more, on a one-to-one basis up to $50,000, provided the gifts were made by the end of 2015. Some $27,000 has already been received and added to the endowment.

It is now my great honor to make a special tribute in Sue’s name by making an additional $50,000 gift to the Women’s Foundation permanent endowment for all that she has brought to the foundation over the last nine years.

Bob Thoresen

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