Studying the Pipeline to Politics for Women


When we teach about how women go into politics, how are we looking for the places and ways that women get involved? Are we giving enough consideration to small towns, and to grassroots work? Heather Lende joins us to share what it was like to run for office in her Alaskan town.

This episode considers:

  • How she ended up in Alaska.
  • What led her to run for office.
  • Why she was subjected to a recall.
  • How she rebuilt relationships with neighbors who voted against her, and what happened when she couldn’t.
  • A discussion of the book Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small Town Politics.

Today’s book is: Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small Town Politics by Heather Lende. Lende was one of the thousands of women inspired to take a more active role in politics during the past few years. But tiny, breathtakingly beautiful Haines—a place accessible from the nearest city, Juneau, only by boat or plane—isn’t the sleepy town that it appears to be. From a bitter debate about the expansion of the fishing boat harbor, to the matter of how to stop bears from rifling through garbage on Main Street, to the recall campaign that targeted three assembly members, Lende’s book reveals that small town politics aren’t so small. In her book, we witness up close the nitty-gritty of passing legislation, trying to uphold the lofty ideals of our republic, and just how the polarizing national politics of our era played out in one small town. Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics considers what living in a community really means, and what we owe one another.

Our guest is: Heather Lende , who has contributed essays and commentary to NPR, the New York Times, and National Geographic Traveler, among other newspapers and magazines, and is a former contributing editor at Woman’s Day. A columnist for the Alaska Dispatch News, she is the obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News in Haines and the recipient of the Suzan Nightingale McKay Best Columnist Award from the Alaska Press Club. Her previous bestselling books include Find the Good; Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs; and If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name. Her website is

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who holds a PhD in American history. She has served as content director and producer of the Academic Life since she launched it in 2020. The Academic Life is proud to be an academic partner of the New Books Network.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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