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Experience, handwritten notes and ‘Soft leather seats:’ a heartwarming story about the role of women in politics

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The M.L.B. met regularly for more than a decade at the Rye Playhouse. Getty Images

On Sept. 18, 2018, Geraldine Salerno learned what the M.L.B. had been all about for 40 years.

“Mom and I are hugging,” she said.

In the huddle of the white room at the Rye Playhouse, the founder and first chair of the International M.L.B. Federation had stepped aside to let the other female officers take over, to make way for a committee that would act as a repository for memories and best practices, from her chairmanship up through her retirement in 2013. It was time to pass the torch.

I was sitting at the poker table, playing with my friend Yvonne Pfeiffer when a text popped up on the phone from Salerno, announced as a group text: “Memories are building!”

We were in full game mode, but I looked at the screen and saw, stammering, “???” as dozens of women around the room struggled to type a message.

“Well,” I replied, at first focusing just on getting the message complete, but when it finally came in: “Here’s what we’re doing.”

“Who the hell are you?” someone asked.

Salerno quickly identified herself.

“Geraldine Salerno,” I said.

But it was how Salerno began speaking in the group text that had everyone—and probably herself—crinking up: “I came to New York in 1962 with $200 and I was driving my husband’s Dodge Dart.”

Of course, it’s part of the legacy Salerno tried to make as the first chair of the organization. She launched her first task force back in 1975, and by 1981 had formed the International M.L.B. Federation, a 55-person group devoted exclusively to educating young women about the most basic politics of women’s leadership.

It grew rapidly, and in 1982, it met regularly for more than a decade at the Playhouse in New York, hosted at the club, where new board members were welcomed in “their soft leather seats and Pina Bausch led dancers,” as Salerno recalled years later.

In that city for the first time ever, Salerno was sitting with Susanna Bunting, whose original graphic design was so impressive that the next year, she was named chair of the group. Salerno soon left Rye Playhouse, where she was a member, to take the chairmanship of the International M.L.B. Federation in Washington D.C. It was a post from which she never sought to return.

Read more in The New York Times

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