Friday, June 27, 2008

Elly Peterson

The NY Times had an obituary earlier this week about a woman named Elly Peterson, who was a moderate Republican from Michigan. She's one of those women who had talents that didn't match the opportunities available to her at the time she lived. She was apparently quite an organizer. She started out as a secretary for the Michigan Republican party, and six years later was the assistant chairwoman of the national party. Unfortunately, that was as far as she could go, because she was a woman. But she did run for Senate on her own. Also unfortunately, she ran in 1964, which was a terrible year for Republicans, and lost.

She's a great example of a time when there really were moderates in the Republican party. Try to imagine someone from the GOP doing this today:
Outgoing and energetic, she proved to be a superb saleswoman for the party, whose reach she tried to extend to new constituencies. In Detroit and other cities, for example, she established party offices and service centers in black neighborhoods.
A white Republican woman in the era of Leave it to Beaver doing outreach in Detroit. That's gutsy. It's not inconceivable for me; my grandfather, who was a lawyer in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, was a similar kind of moderate Republican - he was, so my mother tells me, a member of the Urban League. I like to think that maybe my grandparents knew this woman.

Equally fascinating is her passion for feminism; she campaigned for the ERA. I can only imagine her disillusionment with the current state of the Republican party. I do know, however, that she was disappointed in it. This year, she supported Hillary. A woman of principles to the end.

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