Victoria Kennedy addresses conference

Victoria Reggie Kennedy is reminded of how far women have come by a kitchen mixer newspaper advertisement circa 1961.

She described the ad to a room of about 200 — mostly women — on Tuesday. A woman wearing a chef's hat and crimson painted nails leans against her suited up husband. On a kitchen counter gleams a stand mixer, and the ad touts that the mixer does everything except cooks — "that's what wives are for."

"We're cooking now," she said in the keynote address to UL's third annual Women's Conference. She rattled off impressive statistics — women now make up 50 percent of the workforce and are 60 percent of college graduates, for example.

She encouraged the group to write themselves back into history, the theme of the conference.

She pointed to a letter that Abigail Adams, John Adams' wife, wrote on March 31, 1776, pressing for everyone to remember the ladies as a new nation was being formed.

"Of course they forgot," Kennedy said before the speech Tuesday. "It took a lot of years before women were given many rights, got the right to vote."

The wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is a native of Crowley. Her parents now live in Lafayette and are UL alumni. It was Kennedy's first time to speak at a UL event.

She said she was persuaded to speak by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who introduced Kennedy as a "Louisiana daughter" and encouraged the group to write themselves back into history.

While learning U.S. history, Blanco said she "sometimes wondered if women even existed in all those years of war and land grabbing."

She was only reminded that women existed because of history teacher's enthusiasm over Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag, Blanco said.

Kennedy told a story of when she was snubbed shortly after she married Ted Kennedy. Two college men told her they didn't "read that part of the newspaper" when she introduced herself.

"You don't need to read those parts to know what women are doing now," Kennedy said. "We are in the front pages. We are in the business pages."

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