Meet our Board of Directors

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Pam Elam
President

Pam Elam worked in various capacities for New York City government and its elected officials from 1980 to 2008. She has extensive experience in policy, legislative, administrative, and management operations.

Her positions have included: Legislative Aide to the New York City Council; Assistant NYC Comptroller and Director of Community Relations; Associate Commissioner of the NYC Department of Employment; Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Human Resources Administration; Coordinator at the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Chief of Staff to a NYS Senator; and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Manhattan Borough President.

Pam retired from government service in 2008 and is now a consultant working pro bono for non-profit women's organizations. 

Pam made her first public speech in support of Women's Rights in 1964 when she was 13 years old and has been organizing for women ever since, first in her home state of Kentucky and then in New York. She has organized and managed countless programs, conferences, hearings, and projects over the years including the first ever Presidential candidates debate on Women's Issues in NYC in 1988 and over one hundred public hearings on Women's Issues for the New York City Council from 1980-1989.

In addition, Pam led the effort to get the New York City Council to approve legislation in 2004 naming "Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton Corner" near the site where Anthony and Stanton wrote their newspaper The Revolution; co-organized the "Freedom on Our Terms Conference" in NYC in 2007 to honor the 30th Anniversary of the National Women's Conference (to which she was a Delegate from Kentucky in 1977); and created "Women's Rights, Historic Sites: A Manhattan Map Of Milestones" in 2008, to cite a few examples. She has also served as Vice President of the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites.

In addition to a Master's Degree in Women's History from Sarah Lawrence College, Pam has a Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law and a B.A. Degree in Political Science from the University of Kentucky.

 

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Coline Jenkins
Vice President

Great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Coline Jenkins is a legislator, author and television producer. Through the years, she has used her talents to inspire both awareness and pride in women's history. Coline is co-founder and president of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, a collection of 3,000 objects of women’s suffrage memorabilia that has been lent to museum exhibits, book publishers, documentary film producers, presidential libraries, popular magazines, television programs (both domestic and international) and Congressional testimony. The Trust’s lending practice fulfills its mission: To preserve the history of the women’s right movement, to educate the public on this history, and to promote the advancement of women’s rights. Ms. Jenkins is a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut, where for twenty years she has served as a municipal legislator. 

She co-authored a book, 33 Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History, and produced the television documentary, An American Revolution: Women Take Their Place. Her 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate contributed to the passage of federal legislation creating a national trail of historic sites, coordinated by Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

Ms. Jenkins comes from a long line of women activists. Her great grandmother Harriot Stanton Blatch, worked as a major organizer of New York State woman's suffrage during the Militant Period of 1913-1915. Jenkins’ mother was born one month prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution in 1920. Jenkins grew up in an atmosphere of suffrage and women’s right campaigning. She firmly believes equality is attainable.

 

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Dr. Myriam Miedzian
Vice President

Public Philosopher Myriam Miedzian writes frequently on contemporary social, political, and cultural issues. She is the author of three books:

• Generations: A Century of Women Speak about Their Lives, (The Atlantic Monthly Press,1997; Dell 1998; Kindle Edition 2013), co-authored with her daughter Alisa Malinovich. In depth interviews with women born from 1900 to 1976 capture how the lives of three generations of women have changed in the 20th century.
Boys Will be Boys: Breaking the Link between Masculinity and Violence (Doubleday 1991, Anchor 1992, up dated version Lantern Press 2002.
He Walked Through Walls: A Twentieth Century Tale of Survival (Lantern Books. Sept. 2009).

She is a founding director of Prepare Tomorrow's Parents, a non-profit organization which grew out of recommendations made in Boys Will be Boys.

Her articles, blogs, and OpEds have appeared in many publications, including The HUFFINGTON POST, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, THE BALTIMORE SUN, and THE BOSTON GLOBE. She has contributed to numerous anthologies dealing with gender issues.

Dr. Miedzian has appeared on over 300 TV and radio programs, including CHARLIE ROSE, OPRAH WINFREY, LARRY KING LIVE, and THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW. Her research on school programs that help prevent violent behavior, formed the basis of an NPR Weekend Edition program. She was the subject of the Time Magazine Interview.

She has lectured at, The University of California at San Diego, The State University of New York at New Paltz , Columbia; Harvard; the California Attorney General and Department of Education Conference; and the Barcelona II International Citizens Meeting. She has advised the Clinton Administration's Violence Prevention Task Force, and testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families. 

Dr. Miedzian, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University and a Masters in Clinical Social Work from Hunter College, C.U.N.Y., has served on the faculties of Rutgers University, The City University of New York, and Barnard College.

 

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Ellen Chesler
Secretary

With over thirty years of experience in government, philanthropy, and academia, Ellen Chesler is widely respected for the practical and intellectual perspectives she brings to public policy.

Ellen joined the Roosevelt Institute as a Senior Fellow in the fall of 2010 and began work to document the recent history of women’s human rights. In 2014, she convened prominent women from around the world to assess progress twenty years after the historic United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In 2015, Ellen and Columbia University Professor Terry McGovern published Women and Girls Rising: Progress and resistance around the world. The book recounts major achievements and set-backs in global organizing around women’s rights as fundamental human rights and on women in international development policy.

 From 2007-2010, Ellen was Distinguished Lecturer at Roosevelt House, the public policy institute of Hunter College. For the decade prior, she served as a senior fellow and program director at the Open Society Institute, where she developed and executed the foundation’s multi-million dollar global investments in reproductive health and women’s rights. Her work with women combined support for policy research and advocacy, public education, and litigation with strategic investments in new birth control products and model service innovations that promise long-term benefits in public health in the United States and in many countries around the world.

Ellen is author of the critically celebrated Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, finalist for PEN’s 1993 Martha Albrand award in nonfiction. She is co-editor of Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality and Women in the New Millennium and has also written numerous essays and articles for academic anthologies, prominent newspapers, journals, periodicals, and blogs.

She is a member and former chair of the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. She recently completed two terms on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. From 1997 to 2003, she chaired the board of the International Women’s Health Coalition. She is active in Democratic politics, especially on behalf of women candidates, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand, and served as a U.S. public delegate to the 2009, 2010, and 2015 meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Ellen was chief of staff to New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, the first woman ever elected to citywide office in New York.

An honors graduate of Vassar College, she earned her Master’s and doctoral degrees in history at Columbia University. She is married to New York lawyer, Matthew Mallow, and they are proud parents of two adult children, a son-in-law and two cherished grandsons!

 

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David Spaulding
Treasurer

David provides personalized service to individuals and businesses in tax consulting, tax compliance and controversy, business advisory, and tax planning. In addition, he offers detailed retirement planning services for individuals and families. A decade ago, David launched a specialized practice group, the Domestic Partners Network - through the advisory and services of a select group of multi-disciplinary professionals, the DPN offers a comprehensive approach to advising unmarried and same-sex couples, as well as non-traditional families, in the areas of tax compliance, estate and investment planning, insurance and healthcare, immigration and family planning.

Mr. Spaulding holds a BA from Binghamton University (NY) and an MFA from Temple University (PA). With nearly thirty years’ experience in taxation, David is an Enrolled Agent, licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service and more recently holds certifications as an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA) Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC). He is a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals, the Financial Planning Association and the New York State Society of CPAs.

David has served for twenty years as state treasurer and member of the executive board of Common Cause New York. David has also served as treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Small Voices, Luna Stage CompanyPeridance Contemporary Dance Company and more recently The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund.

 

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Brenda Berkman
Director

Brenda Berkman retired as a Captain in the New York City Fire Department after serving the City for twenty-five years. She was assigned to firehouses in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Brenda began her career in the fire service after winning the federal sex discrimination lawsuit she initiated that resulted in the hiring of New York City's first women firefighters. The documentary Taking the Heat, which chronicles Berkman’s struggle to integrate women into the FDNY, aired on PBS in 2006. She has also been profiled in other documentaries, several books and numerous articles. In 1996-97, Brenda served as a White House Fellow, the first professional firefighter to be awarded this prestigious leadership development fellowship in the history of the program. She has led both local and national women firefighters’ organizations, and served on boards of several nonprofits. She is experienced at testifying before government organizations and conducting media and organizational briefings. Brenda also has a Juris Doctor Degree as well as a Masters Degree in History.

Since retirement from the FDNY, Brenda’s interests have shifted to printmaking and volunteer work. She volunteers as a walking tour guide at the 9-11 Memorial in New York City to honor her friends and colleagues who were lost on 9-11, and to help educate visitors.

Brenda also volunteers in support of many groups working for women's equality.

 

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Ariel Deutsch
Director

Ariel Deutsch is a freshman at Wesleyan University where she is pursuing a major in government with a certificate in international relations. She received an Advanced Regents diploma with an endorsement in visual arts from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts in 2017. As a member of the National Honor Society, Ariel played an active role at school and in her community. In addition to holding the position of co-president of the American Red Cross Club, she was the founder and president of the Monumental Women Club, dedicated to supporting the efforts of The Statue Fund. Seeking to promote activism for equality through collaboration in the arts, Ariel organized its members to sell hundreds of bracelets with the original slogan: “Bring women of history out of the dark and into the park.” These bracelets are included in the exhibition, Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial, at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY. Since this project, she created graphic designs used as promotional material, as well as a PSA video featured in an article published by Women You Should Know. Ariel also appeared on MetroFocus with the president of The Fund.

Her enthusiasm for civic engagement has expanded since entering college. Ariel is currently serving a full term as a freshman senator on the Academic Affairs Committee of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA). An advocate for equal academic opportunity, she is working to improve resources that empower students scholastically, regardless of socioeconomic status. Ongoing projects include building public speaking programs on campus and finding viable solutions to address the high cost of textbooks. Ariel’s collaboration with faculty transcends her contributions to student life through the WSA. She also works in the Student Academic Resources (SAR) Office to support the Deans’ Office Peer Tutoring Program. In addition, Ariel serves as the Chief Program Officer of the Wesleyan Women in Business (WWIB) Club and an editorial staff member of the Italian language journal, WeScrive. As part of her participation in these groups, Ariel hopes to bring new issues to the forefront of public discourse.

 

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Gary Ferdman
Director

Gary Ferdman joined Common Cause in 2007 as director of major gifts; he now serves as major gifts officer. He is the former executive director and membership and development coordinator of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities/TrueMajority, which he co-founded with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's in 1996.

His professional career in not-for-profits spans three decades, and includes stints at Business Executives for National Security, the American Jewish Committee, United Way and Citizen Action. He serves on the boards of The Shalom Center, The Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, and Prepare Tomorrow's Parents, which he also co-founded. He regularly publishes op-eds with his wife, author Myriam Miedzian. Mr. Ferdman curated an exhibit about Marc Chagall at a museum in High Falls, NY, where the artist lived from 1946 to 1948.

He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island. Trained as a grassroots organizer, Gary received a Masters Degree in Social Work in Community Organization and Planning from Rutgers University. He also holds an Advanced Professional Certificate in Finance from the New York University School of Business.

 

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Namita Luthra
Director

Namita Luthra is a women’s rights advocate.  She serves on the President’s Council of the New York Hall of Science that reaches the most diverse audience of any science museum in the country. Through the Council, Ms. Luthra advises on public initiatives that promote STEM learning for young women and girls and on groundbreaking exhibitions and science education.

Ms. Luthra served on the Board of Directors for Sakhi for South Asian Women, a nonprofit organization that works to end violence against women and in its nearly thirty-year history has served 10,000 South Asian women in the New York area.  Ms. Luthra was a senior staff attorney at the Women’s Right Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.  There, she spearheaded a wide range of litigation, advocacy, and public education efforts to advance the rights of women and girls, including co-authoring a book called The Rights of Women and successfully litigating gender discrimination jury trials in federal court.

Prior to joining the Women’s Rights Project, Ms. Luthra was a staff attorney at the Office of the Appellate Defender, New York City’s longest-standing provider of appellate representation to indigent persons convicted of felonies.  Before that, she served as the Karpatkin Fellow at the National Legal Department of the American Civil Liberties Union.  Ms. Luthra is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.  She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

 

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Heather Nesle
Director

Heather Nesle is president of the New York Life Foundation, the charitable foundation created by New York Life Insurance Company. In addition to her Foundation duties, Ms. Nesle is vice president of New York Life’s Corporate Responsibility Department. Ms. Nesle is responsible for managing the company’s philanthropic and volunteer activities.

Through its Nurturing the Children initiative, the New York Life Foundation devotes the majority of its funding each year to programs that help children in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Since its founding in 1979, the Foundation has made nearly $238 million in contributions to New York and U.S.-based non-profit organizations. New York Life Corporate Responsibility initiatives include the award-winning Volunteers for Good program, which helps New York Life employees and agents nationwide volunteer within their communities.

Ms. Nesle most recently served as vice president, corporate sustainability at HSBC Bank USA. Prior to that, she served in various roles at Fannie Mae, most recently as senior capital markets manager, as well as senior communications manager, and information architect. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association and is a member of Philanthropy New York CEO Forum. Ms. Nesle was named a 2009 “New Yorker Who Cares” by New York Cares.

Ms. Nesle earned a Masters of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and human services from George Washington University. She currently resides in New York, NY with her husband, Steve, son, Benjamin, and daughter, Paige.

 

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Lynn Sherr
Director

Award-winning broadcaster and author Lynn Sherr spent more than thirty years with ABC News, covering a wide range of stories – from women's issues and social change to investigative reports, politics and the space program – at “20/20” and World News. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Parade (cover stories on President and Mrs. Obama, VP Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, Mitt Romney, Neil deGrase Tyson, Ina Garton, among others) and Swimmer. She continues to broadcast on a variety of platforms, to write for magazines and online, and to lecture across the country. 

Since the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, she has been writing a number of opinion columns for various online sites, including BillMoyers.com.

Her biography, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, was published in 2014. (Paperback came out in 2015). Among its other honors, the book was a New York Times bestseller, and was a Best Book of the Year for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Widely acknowledged as an expert on the life of Susan B. Anthony and the suffrage movement, Sherr is also the author of a number of other bestselling books, including SWIM: Why We Love the Water; Outside the Box: My Unscripted Life of Love, Loss and Television News; Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words; and Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes, which was also the subject of a one-hour documentary for the PBS Nature program.

Lynn Sherr also wrote (with co-author Jurate Kazickas) Susan B. Anthony Slept Here: A Guide to American Women’s Landmarks. Published in 1994, it was the revised version of their 1975 book, The American Woman’s Gazzetteer, the first popular state-by-state celebration of women, places and events that made history.