Rosie’s Sisters in Arms
We thank all the women who have given of themselves, and those who continue to do so, in an effort to form a more perfect union.
by Susan E. Stutz
“Behind every successful man is a strong woman.” Blah, blah, blah. While Resistbot may be the brainchild of men, the women here are not sitting idly by while the men do all of the work. We are right out in front and damn proud to be there.
Women have been at the heart of activism going back to North America’s earliest days when Iroquois women used non-violent resistance to protest against war declarations. Women of color, whose very lives place them at the intersection of many different forms of oppression, have been at the forefront of the racial and gender equality movement. In fact, according to research done by Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth, as a result of a “keen sense of the best tools to use to bring about social change,” having women as part of the movement of change makes those efforts more successful than they would otherwise be. The movement to amplify America’s voice has been no different.
For the most part, all of us here at Resistbot started as users and, through one avenue or another, came to be volunteers for one of the best activist tools there is. And, while some of Resistbot’s earliest volunteers have moved on to other avenues of volunteerism, I am proud to introduce you to some of the remarkable women who were there at the beginning and who have been volunteering for several years now, as well as a few who are new to the team.
“I first used Resistbot in the summer of 2017. I had never written to my representatives before but was thrilled to find “a bot for the rest of us” that was so easy to use from my phone. When I heard they wanted volunteers, I was about to retire from a career in corporate IT, so I quickly applied. I had no idea how I could help but was eager to get involved somehow. I was mad every day at something the previous administration was doing, so I had to do something.
When I did not hear back in a week, I wrote again to say it was clear they needed help handling volunteers, so call me for heaven’s sake. Jason Putorti, the Executive Director of Resistbot, responded, and soon I was running the volunteer onboard process. At the time, there were about 10-15 new volunteers per week. I would also follow up with the volunteers to make sure they were finding their way in how best to help. At the time, there were about 10-15 new volunteers per week.
Over the next year or two, I worked on letters to the editor. In the beginning, these were Resistbot messages routed to a Slack channel, at which point a volunteer would search for the closest newspaper with a website submission form, tag the message, and move on to another. It was not a very efficient process. And, there was no way to know if a submission was published. So I set up a database of newspapers with links to their submission forms and redesigned the workflow with Gmail magic built by Lisa. I then coaxed the Resistbot developers to build and automate a U.S. map to show where our letters had been published; it’s a great source of pride for those whose letters are reflected there. It was satisfying to help users speak up in their communities and thrilling to watch Resistbot’s work reaching out across the whole country. It was also rewarding to lead a revolving team of 5 to 10 non-technical volunteers to find more ways to #resist.
Though worsening eyesight has limited my ability to do computer work, I have stayed connected to the team and am always looking for new ways to engage. Resistbot has been a lifeline for many like me who felt too helpless, too busy, or just too shy about letting elected representatives know what they want from their government.”
“When Trump was elected, I knew our world had changed. My physical well-being depended on expending enormous amounts of energy on positive rather than negative action (though protest rallies are a great outlet for shouting). Resistbot offered a good way to level the playing field of lobbyists versus citizens by delivering and amplifying the will of the people.
On November 20, 2017, at the request of one of our users, I submitted a letter to the editor of Cumberland-Times News in Maryland. It was the first task I ever did as a volunteer, and I have been there ever since, submitting more than 4,600 user letters to hundreds of newspapers across all fifty states. I also began leaving Resistbot stickers in train stations in and around New York City so folks could find Resistbot and know how to use it. Yes, even the people at City Hall in New York City needed to know.
Each day I work a few hours on any project that needs doing. One of my favorites is loading the database with names and contact information for the mayors in each city where we have users. I checked every zip code of every user and researched who their mayor is as well as their contact information. Not all of our users have mayors but if they do, it is on our list. I will keep this list updated as necessary.
Other projects that have kept me sane have been reaching out to all Pennsylvania Democratic Clubs to talk them through the advantages of Resistbot for organizing; attending various political events as a representative of Resistbot with videos and posters; and, helping with the research for our covid keyword, looking at regulations and changes as they happened for each state.
When I retired, instead of holding babies or working with food pantries, I became a volunteer with Resistbot. They have empowered me to help people to be heard—there is nothing better than that.”
“I began working with the Letters to the Editor team in 2017 in response to a call for volunteers on Twitter. I had a full-time job and a young child, so I welcomed a chance to contribute to the Resistbot project from wherever I was, whenever I could spare a little time. I love that we’re helping our users get their ideas heard not only by their elected officials but by their communities as well.
“I’m not positive how I initially found out about Resistbot, but it was most likely something posted on Twitter. In June 2017, I started using the bot and ran into some trouble. I reached out to support via text, and someone named Jen replied. She and I spent some time running some tests to figure out the source of my troubles. I asked Jen if Resistbot needed any support help (I’m an engineer, but wasn’t ready to jump right into that). She said she would have Jason contact me. It turns out that they were pretty swamped with user questions and support requests since they didn’t have anyone dedicated to it. At the time, it was just him and Jen who were both working on design and coding. I came on board and quickly realized that there was a lot that I could help with!
I mostly did user support (which is interesting, to say the least) but it evolved into doing some design and coding of the texting flows on the front end, including Get Out The Vote design and support (I have literally helped users while they were voting—it was crazy!) I also ended up creating an expansive spam and profanity filter. I also set up the Letters to the Editor system, although I didn’t edit or submit letters. I moved on to other projects in December 2020, but I still use the bot quite often.”
Our boots on the ground and precinct captain in Washington, D.C., Athena has had the distinct pleasure of hand-delivering tens of thousands of user letters to members of Congress and live streaming it all at the same time. She helped save the ACA by inundating Capitol Hill with stories and letters from Americans. Always ready to offer intelligent political insight from years of organizing, Athena is also an invaluable and regular contributor to Resistbot Live.
Another member of Resistbot Live is Christine, who is in the unique position of having been friends with Resistbot’s Executive Director for well over a decade. Early on, she joined the podcast, offering an insightful international perspective on various topics. Through Christine, Resistbot Live can bridge the gap between America and other countries, giving listeners a glimpse of how the outside world sees us and our country and how our actions impact others around the globe.
Melanie joined Resistbot Live in the early days, bringing with her a connection to the world of social media. Melanie’s significant breadth of experience and knowledge have made the conversations on what can be difficult topics far richer than they may otherwise have been. Tasked with handling the live interaction between the podcast and its viewers, Melanie’s snarky humor won the day. And when we decided that women would lead the podcast, she was chosen to become the full-time moderator. Melanie’s significant breadth of experience and knowledge have made the conversations on what can be difficult topics far richer than they may otherwise have been.
There have been many more women who have volunteered and contributed in many different ways. We have the image of Rosie thanks to a young lady by the name of Carrie, who is a product and visual designer. One of Resistbot’s original volunteers was Jen Aprahamian, who did significant work on the tech side when Resistbot was a mere babe in the woods. A lot of work with Amazon lambda functions, many still in use, was performed by Hannah. And the Resistbot Live all-girl band is rounded out by Angel Barrera, who handles all of the behind-the-curtain work that helps make the podcast run so smoothly. Naomi managed the letters to the editor project for four years and kept track of all the statistics for submitted and published letters. Ali Lynne converted our original website content into a format we could use in a more modern content management system. Isabelle updated the map on our website to reflect letters to the editor before it became an automated process. Anne Elizabeth created the portion of our site that allowed for the blog articles to be accessible from the homepage and tested for accessibility; Moriah added several website utilities that ensure that our data is correct as it flows through the website. Christine helped to solve some problems with date ranges in our data reporting systems. Beth and Kate started doing integration testing and QA engineering before the bot even went live. Liz architected our initial text-to-fax service. Kelly did our earliest conversational flows, and there are so many more. Resistbot has had almost 900 volunteers come through the doors since it started.
And then there is me, Susan: I began using Resistbot in May 2017 and became a volunteer in November of that same year. I initially worked on submitting user letters to their local newspapers. From there, I did state-by-state research on everything vote-related and the database I created would become a significant source of information connected to our vote keyword. I also did research that would be used to support our COVID keyword. We provided everything that we could find including what states had shut down, what businesses were operating and how, whether or not court appearances had been canceled or rescheduled, and how to apply for benefits including food stamps and public assistance. I wrote my first article for our policy blog in November 2018 and I have been writing for us ever since. And, in September of last year, I was the first female member of what has become the best all-girl band in town–our podcast, Resistbot Live.
From 2017 through the end of 2019, my identical twin sister, Paula Albright, and I would travel the state of Florida, visiting democratic groups all over the Sunshine State to teach them how to use Resistbot. Together we gave hands-on lessons to countless activists, old and young alike, so they too could use the “bot” to reach out to their legislators. We hosted tables at FDP conventions and spoke to every caucus that would give us two minutes to show them how in just two minutes, they could speak their minds and have their voices heard. In addition to spending weeknights and weekends driving up and down Florida’s highways, Paula also contributed hours of her time researching and updating the information for our covid keyword.
We owe a large measure of gratitude to the women who have come and gone over the years, each bringing with them an inestimable value of work and time that has in turn made Resistbot the success that it is today.
We thank all who have given of themselves, and those who continue to do so, in an effort to form a more perfect union. If you love the bot as much as we do, and want to work to make it better and help others be heard across the United States and the world, we want to hear from you at email@example.com.