Lincoln, RI – YWCA Rhode Island will host the seventh annual Women Holding Office Celebration on Monday, May 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kirkbrae Country Club, 197 Old River Road, Lincoln.


The event, which is open to the public, will feature:


The premiere of a documentary about how the conversation around women’s political leadership is changing in Rhode Island.

Keynote address by Jessica Grounds, co-founder of Running Start in Washington, D.C.

Presentation of the Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill Award to Nellie M. Gorbea, Secretary of State for her political accomplishments.

Arlene Violet, Rhode Island Attorney General from 1985-87, will serve as the emcee.

KEYNOTE: Jessica Grounds served as the Executive Director of Running Start, a non-profit that she co-founded which inspires girls and young women to run for elected office. Grounds has lectured on campaign strategy and barriers for women’s political leadership. She has led candidate and leadership skills trainings for a wide variety of organizations and academic institutions.  She received numerous recognitions for her work including being named a political top 50 Influencer by Campaigns & Elections magazine, a Rising Star by Politics magazine, and receiving the Young Woman of Achievement Award from Women’s Information Network. Grounds received her undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University, holds an Executive Master’s in Leadership from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and has completed a graduate program in Women, Policy and Political Leadership at the Women & Politics Institute at American University. She most recently served as the Director of Women Ready for Hillary, the grassroots organization which built a network of supporters to encourage Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.


DOCUMENTARY: YWCA Rhode Island commissioned DuoPictures to create its fourth documentary in a series entitled “Women Holding Office.” The documentary will focus on the first woman to be elected Governor in Rhode Island and how that is changing the conversation around women’s political leadership in Rhode Island.  The documentary will feature U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. To preview the documentary, visit:


AWARDS: Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea will receive this year’s Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill Award. Previous recipients also include U.S.

Rep. Claudine Schneider, Attorney General Arlene Violet, Secretary of State Susan Farmer, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, Minority Leader Lila Sapinsley and Mayor Kathryn O’Hare.


“With the election of Governor Raimondo, our first female Governor and Secretary of State Gorbea, the first Hispanic to hold executive office in Rhode Island, the glass ceiling has been shattered,” says Deborah L. Perry, President/CEO of YWCA Rhode Island. “This representation ensures our voices and experiences are present when important issues are being debated at all levels of government and it changes the conversation about women’s political leadership.”


BACKGROUND: Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill (1880-1975) was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly from Providence in 1922 and served both as a state representative and, in 1932, as a state senator.

YWCA Rhode Island is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice,freedom and dignity for all. For more information, visit or call 401-769-7450.