I find myself utterly un-thrilled at the prospect of the First Woman President that is Hillary Clinton. Her team presents her as if she's the fulfillment of a lifetime of hoping and dreaming — an especially deep and lovely feeling for older women (like me), whose life stretches back before the successes of the women's movement, who grew up in an America where young girls were not yet encouraged to go for great power and wealth... other than through marriage to a great man or a good enough man that she could make great.
I'm not surprised that a woman with Hillary's talents chose to be the woman behind a man and to support and assist him as he attained greatness. That was the convention, and many women did it. It's what I thought I was modern to reject, circa 1970, when I came of age. The woman could make it on her own, in her own right, in a way that was new and different from the age-old patriarchy.
I remember Ella Grasso:
Former Gov. Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut, the first woman to be elected governor in her own right in the United States, died here today. She was 61 years old....That's the NYT obituary, dated February 6, 1981. You see the key words: in her own right.
When she was elected Governor in 1974, Mrs. Grasso drew national attention as being in the vanguard of a new era in politics.... [S]he was the first woman to be elected governor who was not the wife or widow of a governor....There were women governors before Ella Grasso. There was Nellie Tayloe Ross, elected governor of Wyoming, in 1924, after her husband the governor died. And there was Miriam A. Ferguson — Ma Ferguson:
After her husband's impeachment and conviction, Ma Ferguson sought the Democratic nomination for governor, and was elected to office. She told voters that she would follow the advice of her husband and Texas thus would get "two governors for the price of one." A common campaign slogan was, "Me for Ma, and I Ain't Got a Durned Thing Against Pa." Against the odds, Ma Ferguson was elected governor, becoming the first female chief executive of Texas.That happened in 1924.
But the one we really thought about, back in the 1970s — when it felt so important to use that phrase "in her own right" for Ella Grasso — was Lurleen Wallace:
Lurleen Brigham Wallace (September 19, 1926 – May 7, 1968)... was the 46th governor of Alabama from 1967 until her death in 1968. She was the first wife of Alabama Governor George Corley Wallace....
The 1966 [gubernatorial election] results showed that George Wallace, strengthened at the time by his opposition to desegregation, could have easily won a second term had he been constitutionally eligible to do so. In Alabama (as in most southern states at the time), governors were not allowed to serve two consecutive terms...
When Wallace failed in 1965 to get the constitutional ban on his candidacy lifted, he devised a plan in which Mrs. Wallace would run for governor while he continued to exercise the authority of the office behind the scenes....Oh, wait, that's the wrong picture.
So you see what I'm saying. Bill Clinton is term-limited out of the presidency. His wife, a woman who rose to prominence behind him — who even said "two for the price of one" like Ma Ferguson — now runs to reclaim the office for the twosome.
Some day, some other woman whose husband did not build the platform for her will get elected President and we will be able to say about her: She is the first woman to be elected President in her own right.