Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where is our Good Queen Bess?


In a conversation with a colleague about Hillary Clinton I noted that it may have been easier for the British to elect the first female Prime Minister in 1979 than for Americans to elect the first woman President today because English cultural memory already has an example of a strong and respected female leader-- Elizabeth I-- as well as two successful later queens: Victoria and the present Queen Elizabeth II. Hereditary monarchy has a way of providing the occasional example of women who rule. And other countries have their own symbols of female leadership: France, for example, has Joan of Arc.

But America seems to lack an equivalent national symbol in our collective consciousness. We have plenty of admirable women in our history-- including Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks-- but they didn't rule the nation or lead it to military victory. We have Lady Liberty, but she is a statue, not a real person. And the English monarchs won't work so well for Americans-- we deliberately got rid of them.

So who, if anyone, would be the cultural equivalent for the American people of Queen Elizabeth or Joan of Arc? Myth and symbol are powerful things in American politics, indeed, in all politics. If there are no obvious candidates in the collective imagination, the first female President will have to forge her own cultural narrative of female leadership at the same time she runs for the Presidency; in the alternative, she will have to call on other leadership stories and symbols from our past and modify them in ways that are plausible to contemporary Americans. (The story of JFK as the first Catholic President is one such story). Or, even more likely, she will have to do both.


Edith Wilson??

(I quickly duck to avoid the incoming snark...)

Eleanor Roosevelt? Oh, wait. The UN is evil. So sorry.

Is amazing that various countries, including those like Israel where the military sphere was particularly important, seem more comfortable with a woman leader than many in this country.

Underlines that we should have a bit of humility respecting our advancement.

Electing a female Prime Minister might be easier simply because there is no direct election for Prime Minister. Instead, the people vote for a party and the party selects its leader. If the US only had a house, we would have a female Prime Minister today: Speaker Pelosi.

I suggest Dorothy Day, Shirley Chisholm *and* Barbara Jordan.

Tammy Wynette. Remember, Hillary was very unpopular (outside the faculty lounges) prior to the Lewinsky thing; that episode made her popular. I'm not sure how she can repeat the performance, but a psychodrama as the perpetual noble victim is what she needs, and it certainly suits her personality.

Maggie Thatcher would be be a good role model for any woman thinking about becoming US President. No nonsense and tough. The greatest barrier for voting for the first woman President, fairly or unfairly, will be whether she can hack being CiC.

Indeed, I believe Hillary's supporters have already attempted to make this comparison at the time she announced. However, given how "wobbly" Mrs. Clinton is over the war, she could hardly begin to stand in Mrs. Thatcher's pumps.

Jane Addams, founder of the U.S. Settlement House movement and winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.

Her 'Twenty Years at Hull House' is fantastic and still quite relevant today.

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Eleanor Roosevelt, definitely. Probably one of the very few Americans of really significant stature (also Lincoln, Martin Luther King, who else?)

Totally OT, but when I tried to access an old post in the archives, Blogger could not find it. How do we access old posts? Or are they lost?

Bart DePalma said...
given how "wobbly" Mrs. Clinton is over the war, she could hardly begin to stand in Mrs. Thatcher's pumps.

Don't you mean 'flip-flop'?

Really, if everyone who bought the bush admin fraud over Iraq gets the label 'wobble', 'flip-flopper' or whatever else the thesaurus can produce, that leaves very few in the clear.

bitswapper said...

Really, if everyone who bought the bush admin fraud over Iraq gets the label 'wobble', 'flip-flopper' or whatever else the thesaurus can produce, that leaves very few in the clear.

At least very few Democrats...

Mr. Giuliani, it seems, is made of sterner stuff:

"I think in a time of war, you don't talk about pulling out," said Giuliani..."The worst casualties occur usually with retreating armies. I don't know if it is productive to talk about timetables and pulling out. You just create more jeopardy for our troops."

In his speech, Giuliani attacked the debate in Congress over a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase in Iraq.

He added: "Presidents can't do nonbinding resolutions. Presidents have to make decisions and move the country forward, and that's the kind of president I will want to be."

As for the proper term for the folks which Mrs. Thatcher would call "wobbly," I prefer the term used by Thomas Paine:

These are times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

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