Mother of the Moderates
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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The women were nervous as they drove down the dirt road to the farmhouse in Charlotte,Michigan, that summer day in 1982. Ten years of work for the Equal Rights Amendment had come up short of victory. And now the Republican Party had chosen a candidate for governor who loudly opposed them on every issue that was dear to their...
1. The Girl from New Berlin
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“If the Lord had known what a holy terror you were going to be,” an old woman once told the little girl, “He certainly would never have put you on His earth.” But, Peterson observed, “the Lord evidently didn’t know, so He put me here, starting me meekly and mildly in a small town in Central...
2. Hooked on Politics
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Meanwhile, Pete stayed in Europe, eventually serving as provost marshal of the Second Constabulary Brigade in Munich. There he helped set up the school that trained American military police for the occupation of Bavaria. Those two years, his wife believed, “were the best of his life.” He “lived high” and had German girlfriends. She still wrote to him, as did her family members. Pete, she believed, “continued to feel closer” to them...
3. A Chapeau in the Ring
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As she savored her first big statewide victories, Peterson was already reflecting on the progress that women had—or had not—made in Michigan. Writing for the state Chamber of Commerce’s magazine, she noted that women had outpolled men in Detroit for the first time in its history. Women, she said, were “invading” the fields of theology, engineering,...
4. The Reluctant Candidate
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Peterson returned home to some bad news for a candidate still trying to build her name recognition: the unions at Detroit’s two major newspapers had gone out on strike the opening night of the convention, so there had been no coverage of her speech in the state’s two biggest papers. They would not resume publication until after...
5. The Click Moment
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The morning after Election Night, Peterson woke up without a race to run or a job to do for the first time in seven years. It had been more than a year since she had lived anything close to a normal life in Charlotte. But she was fifty now and didn’t want to return to her old organizational work. She had made up her mind that in her political career...
6. Minding the Middle [Includes Image Plates]
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At mid-decade, that was not necessarily an impossible dream. A “Big City Committee” led by Bliss had called on the party to turn its attention to the cities. Between 1962 and 1966, Romney’s support among black voters had, in fact, increased from 10 to 34 percent; in the most recent election, the governor had also captured nearly 50 percent of the union...
7. Back to Washington
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It was time, she had decided, to move on. She would continue as national committeewoman from Michigan but would step down as state party chair after the convention in February. And George Romney was moving on, too—this time to Washington as secretary of housing and urban...
8. A Crisis of Conscience
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In his sermon, Peale addressed two problems that were “upsetting people generally”: dealing with stress and standing up to crises2 The message was well timed. Eight days later the president responded to the rejection of his first Supreme Court nominee from the South by naming U.S. Circuit Judge G. Harrold Carswell instead. Within days, newspapers...
9. A Path out of Exile
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In January 1971, Peterson finally did retire—this time for more than a month—as she and Pete took up a “self-imposed exile” on an island seven time zones from Michigan.1 “I doubt if I’ll ever be totally out of politics,” she told a reporter, “because I’ve been tied up with it so long.”Yet she confessed she would “enjoy being disorganized” for a change, traveling...
10. The Show
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As the Nixon administration’s dirty tricks and cover-up were revealed, it would have been easy for Peterson to have smugly said, “I told you so.” But there is little of that in her papers. Instead she observed in her memoir that the scandal had “a tremendously adverse effect on me. I had BELIEVED Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew could do a fine job of governing the country. I was devastated by their...
11. A New Crusade
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In 1976, the President Ford Committee couldn’t ‹gure out how to make the best use of a gray-haired matron with a national reputation for grassroots political organizing. Ironically, that was precisely what the mainstream women’s movement decided it needed. Nevertheless, ERAmerica turned out to be nearly as frustrating for Peterson as the Ford campaign, an experience tempered only by her...
12. The Turning Point
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Of her organization, Cotner added, “The original concept of ERAmerica, a political/lobbying coalition headed by politically recognized professionals—Liz Carpenter and Elly Peterson was the correct image for the issue. However, initially the financial support was not forthcoming in sufficient measure to promote the kind of activity that would have made Carpenter and Peterson totally effective...
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A year and a half after Blanchard’s victory, Peterson’s seventieth birthday provided an opportunity for old friends and political adversaries to gather for a “Tribute to Elly Peterson.” The dinner was billed as a benefit for the Republican Women’s Task Force; Blanchard’s office, for one, bought $1,280 worth of...
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Illustrations [Image Plates found in Chapter 6]
Page Count: 348
Publication Year: 2011