BOSTON >> Anne Holton, the wife of Hillary Clinton's running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, was surprised Wednesday on her visit to Boston to learn the gender breakdown in the Massachusetts Legislature.
"Twenty five percent of us are women. We still have a long way to go," Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, told Holton on a Women for Hillary panel at Suffolk University.
Holton interjected, "You're better than the United State Senate, which is at 19 percent, but not a whole lot better," adding that she found the statistic "remarkable in Massachusetts."
Holton came to Boston as part of a northeast swing that will bring her to New Hampshire Thursday where Kaine will join his wife for a roundtable discussion on education in Manchester along with stops at field offices in Dover, Laconia, and Nashua.
Holton gave up her role as Virginia's secretary of education to campaign with her husband, Sen. Tim Kaine, whom she met at Harvard Law School. After Kaine was tapped by Clinton the night of Friday, July 22 — following a fundraiser he held in Boston — Holton flew down to Miami, Fla. with the Clinton campaign and asked what she could do to help.
"They said, 'We want every minute of your time that we can get,'" Holton told reporters on Wednesday. Holton said she went into work that Monday morning and said, "I'm going to help you in other ways. I'm going to go throw my time into this effort."
Holton said Clinton has asked her to listen to teachers, parents and students, and bring back ideas to "elevate and modernize the teaching profession." Holton and Clinton had similar early legal careers focusing on the plight of children, and she said if the Clinton-Kaine ticket wins — which would put her in the Naval Observatory, the traditional home of the vice president and second lady — she might also want to devote some attention to her "passion" of working with people coming out of foster care.
When Kaine was the mayor of Richmond, Va., and Holton was a juvenile court judge, she said her husband picked up their children from school on Wednesdays, when they got out early, because she was too busy.
"Tim was our Wednesday afternoon babysitter," Holton said. She said, "There was no way I was doing a 1 p.m. pickup on a Wednesday."
If Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, defeats Republican nominee Donald Trump and other contenders for the presidency, she will become the 45th president and the first woman president of the United States. Polls have also shown a gender gap in presidential preferences, with men favoring Trump and women backing Clinton.
Boston City Council President Michelle Wu noted the importance of role models, and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said she was glad to no longer be the only woman on the council.
"I'm no longer a sorority of one," Pressley said.
Pressley and Forry also spoke to what they said were leadership skills unique to women.
"Women, we are the top dog in multitasking," said Forry, who said women can also "bring people to the table."
"We govern differently," said Pressley, who also said, "I do think that women are active listeners."
The women on the panel also spoke more broadly about diversity in family upbringing, race and economic standing.
"The cycle repeats. The fact that we don't have more women around decision-making or policy-making tables means that we don't have policies that make it easier for women to run," Pressley said. "The number of women of color that have approached me and said, 'I'm a single mom, and I don't know how I'm going to afford child care.'"
The elected women on the panel also represented diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Wu was the first Asian woman city councilor; Pressley was the first black woman city councilor; and Forry — who is Haitian-American — is the only black woman in the Senate.
Holton, 58, grew up in Richmond, Va., the daughter of former Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton, Jr., a Republican, and attended recently desegregated public schools there. Holton was appointed Virginia's secretary of state by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat and Clinton ally.
Unlike the candidates at the top of the ticket for the two major parties, Kaine and Holton got into the 2016 contest after it was well underway. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is Trump's running mate, and his wife, Karen Pence, did so, too.
Holton said she had advice for people thinking about a national campaign.
"Do the last hundred days of it. Skip the first 20 months. And we've had that honor," Holton told reporters.
Holton also stopped by a Clinton phone bank at the Democratic State Committee offices, joining a group on cell phones that included 11-year-old Brookline resident Joie Liu, who said she had been there multiple times, and other peers around Liu's age.
"It's never easy to make history," Holton told one volunteer over the phone.