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Film About Madeleine Kunin to Premiere on VPT April 12

(Photo courtesy of the of the Vermont State Archives)

The woman who became Vermont’s first female governor in 1985 reflects on her ground-breaking career in a new independent documentary called Madeleine May Kunin: Political Pioneer. It will have its broadcast premiere Friday, April 12, at 9 p.m. on Vermont Public Television.

In interviews with Kunin and archival images from her public and private life, the film portrays a woman who has dedicated herself to service. After deciding not to run for a fourth term, Kunin left office in 1991. That year, she founded the Institute for Sustainable Communities, a nongovernmental organization.

After working on Bill Clinton’s successful campaign for president, she worked in his administration as deputy secretary of education, then ambassador to Switzerland. A native of Switzerland and a Jew who immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1940, Kunin learned during her time as ambassador that her family’s assets were still held by the Swiss government following the persecution of Jews during World War II.

In the film, Kunin says, “One of the themes in my life ... is that I’m very fortunate. I could do things in this country that my ancestors couldn’t, and I think the memory of the Holocaust instilled in me a belief that you’ve got to speak out when you see injustice.”

Friends, family, former co-workers and young women whom Kunin inspired to run for office offer insights on her impact on Vermont, the nation and the global community. Among those who comment are Kunin’s husband, John Hennessey; her brother, Edgar May, who died in 2012; Liz Bankowski, former campaign manger and chief of staff; UVM political science professor Frank Bryan; and former governor Howard Dean.

With her teaching, her public speaking and her writing, including her recent book The New Feminist Agenda, Kunin fights for parity for women and better circumstances for families. Kunin is currently a James Marsh Professor-at-Large at UVM.

Producer of Madeleine May Kunin: Political Pioneer is Catherine Hughes. Production funding is provided by the farm families who own Cabot Creamery.