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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Senate passes a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, MacKenzie Scott remarries, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex gets her voice back. Have a happy International Women’s Day.
– A voice for the ages. Rarely does an interview exceed the hype, but that’s what happened last night during Oprah Winfrey’s big sit-down with Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
And perhaps “hype” sets the wrong tone, because this was a deeply emotional, upsetting, and even tragic story of two people who describe being let down at every turn by their colleagues and their bosses—who are also members of their own family. For those who weren’t among the millions who tuned in: the couple, who left royal life a year ago, looked back at the events that brought them to the breaking point where that choice felt like their only option.
The headlines: Members of the Royal Family voiced “concerns” about “how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.” It wasn’t Harry and Meghan who rejected a royal title for their son, but the monarchy who decided that he wouldn’t get one—or the security protection that comes with it. The institution repeatedly failed or declined to protect Meghan from the years-long maelstrom of negative, false press. And the big one: all of this weighed on Meghan so heavily that she began to experience suicidal thoughts. When she went to the monarchy for help—even to Buckingham Palace’s human resources department—she was told it wouldn’t “be good for the institution” if she were to seek treatment. “I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” is how Meghan describes what she went through. And all of this was happening while she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Parts of the dynamic Meghan and Harry described will be familiar to many successful women, and especially successful women of color: the monarchy’s failure to protect Meghan ramped up, they say, after she turned out to be so good at the job, connecting with millions around the globe. Winfrey labeled that response to Meghan’s success as jealousy.
But what’s most remarkable, right now, is simply hearing Meghan say it all in her own words. For years, others have called out her press coverage as racist—but last night was the first time she said it herself. She corrected the record on a few relatively minor royal scandals—corrections she wasn’t allowed to make under Buckingham Palace’s rules. And to Oprah’s big question—”Were you silent or were you silenced?”—Meghan answered, “the latter.”
Even for those who were already skeptical of the institution’s treatment of the duke and duchess, these revelations are shocking. All of this has implications for the future of the monarchy (the Queen was the only one to come out relatively unscathed), but I’ll leave that discussion to the experts. And, in Harry’s words, “race made [what Meghan went through] different” from struggles with the stifling situation or press coverage that any other members of the Royal Family have experienced.
For now, it’s clear that Meghan wasn’t given the support she needed to thrive—or even survive—in such a complicated, controlled, and difficult environment. Meghan and Harry clarified that with such support from the monarchy, they never would have chosen to leave, which reminded me of the International Women’s Day-themed actions the couple suggested through their foundation, Archewell. (Today is IWD, by the way.)
With the title, “Women deserve recognition—but also support,” the duo recommended some concrete steps like supporting Black girls and women seeking therapy and ordering from women-led restaurants, alongside some vaguer ideas like helping “a woman be her best at a crucial moment in her life” and supporting safe spaces for women. I’ll admit, when I first saw these calls to action, I thought a few were a bit corny—but it’s clear now why these prompts would resonate with Meghan. For years, support was all she was asking for. Now, it’s what she hopes to give to others who are struggling by sharing her own experience of making it past the lowest point in her life.
Meghan herself provided the almost-too-perfect analogy for her experience, describing watching The Little Mermaid on TV when she was confined at home, not allowed to leave the Palace grounds. The woman who loses her voice when she marries a prince—but “by the end she gets her voice back.”
You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- Happy couple. MacKenzie Scott, one of the world's wealthiest women who over the past several months has redefined billionaire philanthropy, recently remarried. Scott, whose ex-husband is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, married Dan Jewett, a Seattle science teacher. Jewett signed onto Scott's Giving Pledge commitment, which promised to give away her fortune over her lifetime. Wall Street Journal
- Partisan package. The Senate, on partisan lines, passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. The legislation, which is now headed to President Biden's desk, includes a one-year child allowance of $3,600, distributed as a monthly payment to parents. The $15 minimum wage hike didn't make it into the bill, however, after some Democrats, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema with a widely-criticized thumbs-down, voted against the measure. NBC News
- Sage decision. In her new role in the Biden administration, former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice now runs the Domestic Policy Council. She's redefining the usually low-profile position, working to make it a more visible part of the White House. One of her first orders of business? Burning sage in her new White House office, which was last inhabited by Trump adviser Stephen Miller. New York Times
- Fight on. Claressa Shields is an undefeated champion in women's boxing. And she's frustrated that TV networks have largely declined to air women's fights over the past year. "They’re always yelling equality, equal pay, equal opportunities, but they don’t mean it. Because all they have to do is say yes," she says. Her next fight will be the first women's headlining pay-per-view event since 2001. "I’m taking my career into my own hands," Shields says. New York Times
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Axios reporter Alexi McCammond will be the next editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. GoPuff hired former Quibi corporate communications lead Eva Behrend as head of communications.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- Consequences of a protest. In Senegal, thousands of mostly male demonstrators this week protested an allegation of rape brought by a masseuse against opposition leader Ousmane Sonko; the demonstrators believe that Soko, who has denied wrongdoing, was framed, accusing Senegal's president of targeting political rivals with false charges. But the atmosphere has led to harassment of the masseuse who brought the allegation and a climate that could discourage women from coming forward with experiences of sexual harassment and violence. Washington Post
- Calls for justice. India's chief justice, Sharad Arvind Bobde, hearing a case about a man who allegedly repeatedly raped and stalked a 16-year-old distant relative, asked the accused if he would consider marrying his victim—seeming to pose that option as a solution to the case. Thousands of women are now demanding that Bobde resign as head of India's Supreme Court. New York Times
- Closed, but not gone. Kiki Aranita, like so many other chefs, had to close her restaurant, Poi Dog, during the coronavirus pandemic. But she's kept the beloved brand alive through a new line of business: Chili Peppah Water, a popular condiment at her establishment, now sold through online retail. "It’s a way of carrying on the relationships that I made, the friendships that I made, by running Poi Dog," she says. Fortune
- Chew on this. Gummy vitamins have long been popular—but gummy vitamins, specifically for PMS? Startup founder Brianna Bitton is creating the category through her new brand Flo Vitamins. Fortune
ON MY RADAR
Hilaria Baldwin and the strange allure of celebrity fertility New York Times
Biden endorses female generals whose promotions were delayed over fears of Trump’s reaction New York Times
Child allowances could save working families. ‘Promoting marriage’ definitely won’t Fortune
"I love a witch, I really do."
-Kathryn Hahn, on WandaVision