Ellen R. Malcolm
Nonprofit Founder, Executive, Activist
Monumental Achievement: Thanks in large part to the vision and passion of Ellen Malcolm, Congress is more diverse and women have run for the highest political office in the land. In 1985, Malcolm created EMILY’s List, which has raised more than $600 million to elect Democratic pro-choice women to office. EMILY’s List—on whose board Malcolm is chair emerita after serving 25 years as president of the organization—has grown into a five million member community and is widely recognized as one of the most powerful political organizations in the country. Malcolm, the author of When Women Win: EMILY’s List and the Rise of Women in American Politics, also helped create America Coming Together, a nationwide organization dedicated to empowering and mobilizing voters. She is a recipient of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award, and 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, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Association of Political Consultants.
"My M.B.A. was extremely helpful in creating EMILY’s List. It helped me understand who our community is and how to involve them in our mission. I don’t think EMILY’s List would have been as successful without the framework and tools GW gave me."
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, Malcolm 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 Malcolm’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 five million member community and is widely recognized as one of the most powerful political organizations in the country.
EMILY’s List has helped elect 26 Democratic pro-choice women to the U.S. Senate, 150 to the U.S. House of Representatives, 16 as governors, and nearly 1,100 women to state and local office. The organization has trained nearly 10,000 women to run for office. And since 1985, EMILY’s List raised more than $600 million to elect Democratic pro-choice women to office.
Thanks in large part to Malcolm’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 Congress is more diverse now than at any time in history. The candidates EMILY’s List has helped elect include the United States’ 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. Malcolm served as EMILY’s List’s president for 25 years, turning over leadership in 2010 to Stephanie Schriock, EMILY’s List’s current president.
Malcolm 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, Malcolm 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, Malcolm earned a master’s in business administration from the George Washington University in 1984.
Like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, Malcolm 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.” Malcolm 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, Malcolm was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Association of Political Consultants.
In 2003, Malcolm helped create America Coming Together (ACT), a nationwide organization dedicated to empowering and mobilizing voters. She 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 Malcolm 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.” Malcolm is the author of When Women Win: EMILY’s List and the Rise of Women in American Politics.
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 emerita of the EMILY’s List board of directors. She is also former chair of the board of the National Partnership for Women & Families and is a former member of the board of directors for the National Park Foundation.