Before Ellen Malcolm founded EMILY’s List 30 years ago, no Democratic woman had ever been elected to the Senate in her own right. In 1985, Ellen and a small group of friends decided to change that by developing a new political strategy. To give women candidates credibility and the resources to win, they decided to raise early money and called their organization EMILY’s List (Early Money Is Like Yeast, it “makes the dough rise”). They created a new concept in political fundraising — a donor network that encouraged members to contribute to the candidates EMILY’s List recommended.
They gathered in Ellen’s basement, rolodexes in hand, to send letters to friends asking them to join. From that simple beginning, EMILY’s List has grown into a 5-million-member community and is widely recognized as one of the most powerful political organizations in the country.
EMILY’s List has helped elect 23 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. Senate and 116 to the U.S. House of Representatives. We’ve trained nearly 10,000 women to run for office — and elected more than 800 women to state and local office, including 12 women governors. And since 1985, we’ve raised more than $500 million to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.
Thanks in large part to Ellen’s leadership, an entire generation of young women and men has now grown up watching women like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Hilda Solis make their mark on history — and our Congress is more diverse now than at any time in history. The candidates EMILY’s List has helped elect include our country’s first openly gay senator and every single Latina, African American, and Asian American Democratic woman currently serving in Congress. In 2009, more than 25 percent of appointees to President Barack Obama’s cabinet were women EMILY’s List helped elect.
Ellen served as EMILY’s List’s president for 25 years, turning over leadership in 2010 to Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List’s current president.
Ellen is a veteran Democratic activist and fundraiser who began her career as an organizer at Common Cause and later served as press secretary for the National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1980, Ellen went to work at the White House as the press secretary for President Jimmy Carter’s special assistant for consumer affairs. After leaving the White House, Ellen earned a Master’s in Business Administration from George Washington University (1984).
Like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, Ellen is a recipient of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Margaret Sanger Award — the organization’s highest honor — which is “presented annually to recognize leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.” Ellen has been named one of the most influential women in America by Vanity Fair, one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year, one of Ladies’ Home Journal’s 100 Most Important Women in America, and one of Time magazine's 50 Women Who Made American Political History. In 2014, Ellen was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Association of Political Consultants.
In 2003, Ellen helped create America Coming Together (ACT), a nationwide organization dedicated to empowering and mobilizing voters. Ellen served as ACT’s president in 2003 and 2004, helping to raise over $145 million for a sophisticated and personal voter contact effort in key states. She was also instrumental in the creation of America Votes, a coalition of progressive groups (including EMILY’s List) that works together to register, educate, and mobilize voters.
Hillary Clinton — whose historic 2008 campaign for president Ellen co-chaired — once told The New York Times that Ellen Malcolm is “probably the most influential fundraiser and adviser we’ve seen. I don’t know anybody who can match her track record.”
Ellen is the author of When Women Win: EMILY’s List and the Rise of Women in American Politics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2016).
Today, Ellen Malcolm continues her work to level the playing field for women seeking elected office and to inspire and create opportunity for women and girls across the country in her role as Chair of the EMILY’s List Board of Directors. She also serves as Chair of the Board of the National Partnership for Women & Families and is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Park Foundation.