When class of 1987 Greenhill graduate Ilyse Hogue took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in July, she opened with the words, “I am a fourth generation Texan. Texas women are tough.”
Hogue, who transferred from the Hockaday School to Greenhill in her eighth grade year, never imagined that she would one day take the spotlight at the DNC during one of the most controversial presidential races and tell the world about her decision to have an abortion years ago.
“It was an honor to actually have a small part in this historic moment,” Hogue recalled about endorsing the first female presidential nominee from a major party. “But it was scary. I didn’t get into this job because I wanted to stand on stage in front of millions of people … I felt really strongly that I had to because I had the stage and millions of women are suffering because so many of us are silent about our need for abortion care and they couldn’t do it and I could.”
Hogue has been president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, since February 2013. Prior to joining NARAL, she had little experience in women’s reproductive rights “other than being a supporter.”
And her collegiate career at Vassar certainly didn’t indicate she would one day head one of the largest pro-choice organizations in the country.
“I studied environmental science,” Hogue said. “So, nothing to do with what I do now. I did a lot of work in ecology and human rights for a long time before I got into the work that I do now.”
In 2006 Hogue joined MoveOn.org, one of the largest online public policy advocacy groups, as director of political advocacy and communications. During her time with the organization, Hogue got what she considered a “crash course in the ways that reproductive healthcare played in policy” while trying to get the Affordable Care Act approved.
Hogue looks back on her time at Greenhill and credits part of who she is today to her time at the institution.
“I think Greenhill in the ‘80s was unique in that it nurtured the individuality of students,” Hogue said. “Teachers were really engaged and tuned in, thinking actively how they could cultivate their students.”
Christine Eastus, head of the English department when Hogue attended Greenhill, can remember her drive and focus as a student.
“[Ilyse] was a powerhouse of energy,” Eastus recalled. “Everything she got involved in got her total attention. She never hesitated from a challenge. Apparently she did the same in her career.”
One formative aspect of Hogue’s time at Greenhill was her experience on the school debate team.
“I had a teacher in ninth grade who kind of looked at me and who I was in the world and what I got excited about and suggested I take a class in debate,” she said. “I think that gave me a broader perspective on the world. You also have to give out and articulate positions on current events, so it built my self confidence.”
Despite growing up in a state that has historically been against pro-choice policy, Hogue said being from Texas is a large part of who she is. In July, when the Supreme Court overturned HB2, a 2013 law designed to restrict access to abortions in Texas, Hogue considered it a huge victory for Texas women.
“I feel like there are so many people in Texas that believe in the same thing I believe in, and need the healthcare we are fighting for,” Hogue said.