STERLING – She has appeared on national television to offer her opinion on the death of a longtime senator.
She has organized a meet-and-greet for a candidate for state representative and gone door-to-door on behalf of the party.
She has hobnobbed with activists, journalists and well-known politicians.
Oh yeah, and she’s only 14 years old.
Meet Emily Spangler, a freshman at Sterling High School and the brain behind a Twitter movement – @MoreWomen2012 – to connect progressive, Democratic women candidates that boasts almost 3,000 followers.
Spangler started the movement in summer 2011, inspired by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and her “Off the Sidelines” campaign that urged women to get involved in the issues and even consider running for political office.
“I was inspired by that,” Spangler said. “I thought I could make something like that – not fundraising, but doing something to get more women involved or get them to support women candidates.”
Spangler, at first, opened the door to all female candidates, from both sides of the aisle, from all corners of the country, for offices at all levels of government. She later narrowed her focus to liberal women vying for state and national office.
Spangler built a network of candidates. She retweeted their tweets. She shared statistics and news stories about women in government. And she weighed in on the issues of the day.
The movement gained popularity within just a few months, and interaction soared in the months preceding the November election. @MoreWomen2012 attracted, of course, politicians, but also journalists, entrepreneurs and women’s groups. It also drew questions.
“Everyone thought it was part of something big,” Spangler said. “They would ask, and I would often have to tweet that it was just my thing, that it was just my way of trying to get more women in office.”
Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman, leader of the House Progressive Caucus, was among those who were curious about the mind behind the movement.
“I kept seeing this @MoreWomen2012 popping up everywhere. Many of us assumed it was an arm of Emily’s List or the Women’s Campaign Fund,” Newman said. “I tried really hard to figure out who was behind it and, through some online sleuthing, discovered it was Emily from rural Illinois. I was amazed that, even as a then-13-year-old, she had the foresight and the passion to connect progressive women throughout the country.”
Spangler worried about the fate of her burgeoning movement after the dust of the election settled. Friends and followers suggested she change her handle to @MoreWomen2014 and keep the campaign going into midterm elections. But Newman, who at that time had a relatively new blog, suggested they work together on a new, joint venture.
The two just this month partnered up to direct ProgressWomen.com and @ProgressWomenUS (the new name of @MoreWomen2012). The pair now use their web spaces to discuss state and national issues vital to women with a progressive, liberal slant.
Motivated at age 4
Spangler does not come from a political family. But the bubbly, bespectacled redhead has an intense interest in politics and government that started at a young age.
Dawn Spangler recalls her 4-year-old daughter being fascinated by a segment on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” with a little boy who could recite all 43 presidents in order, from George Washington to George W. Bush.
“It just took off from there,” she said.
Spangler soon realized politics was less about being on television and more about making a difference.
“It was about helping people,” she said. “I want to impact this world in a good way. … I love the fact that one person can change so much in this world.”
Spangler knows there are countless ways to leave an impression on the world around her, but the well-spoken teenager – who intends to run for office someday – believes government and politics are among the most powerful.
“It affects everybody,” she said.
Dawn Spangler at first was leery of her daughter “interacting in an adult world” and in the sometimes scary online world. But she now is just as blown away as the followers of @MoreWomen2012.
“There are no words to explain how proud I am of her. And that’s just an understatement,” she said. “It’s always been such a passion of hers, and we’ve always supported anything and everything she has done, but with the politics, you can tell she has a knack for that.
“And for what she has accomplished in her 14 years of being on this planet … she’s made so many contacts, especially with Facebook and Twitter, it is amazing. The people who reach out to her and support her – it’s mind-blowing.”
About Emily Spangler
Parents: Dave and Dawn Spangler of Sterling
Siblings: Brian, 26, of Chicago, and Katie, 21, of Sterling
School: Freshman at Sterling High School
Extracurriculars: Speech and Gay-Straight Alliance. She also plays the French horn in the school band.
Hobbies: Shopping, watching reality TV, and hanging out with friends
Favorite news website: The Huffington Post
Favorite news channel: MSNBC
Most desired followers: Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
When she's not on Twitter: Maintains a personal Tumblr blog
Someday, she'd like to be: President of the United States.
People tell her she remind them of: Leslie Knope, the deputy parks director of Pawnee, Ind., on "Parks and Recreation."
On the national stage: Spangler, then 11 years old, called CSPAN to offer her thoughts on the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. She admired that he, once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, could change his beliefs from those of hate to those of hope and change.