We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Madame Chair

A Political Autobiography of an Unintentional Pioneer

Jean Miles Westwood

Publication Year: 2007

Jean Westwood called herself an unintentional pioneer. Although she worked hard to achieve what she did, she did not actively seek or expect to reach what was arguably the most powerful political position any American woman had ever held, chair of the national Democratic Party.

A Utah national committeewoman and member of the reform committee that reorganized the party, Westwood answered George McGovern’s call to lead his presidential campaign. In the dramatic year of 1972, she became “chairman” of the party, McGovern lost in a landslide, Nixon was reelected, and a covert operation burglarized Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate.

Westwood provides an inside account of a period that reshaped national politics. Second-wave feminism—“women’s liberation”—and the civil rights and antiwar movements opened the way. As a major player in political reform, Jean Westwood both helped build that road and traveled it.

Published by: Utah State University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (28.8 KB)
pp. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (90.1 KB)
pp. vi-vii

Jean Miles Westwood was one of the most unusual persons I have known. She was born in Price, Carbon County, Utah; her mother from a family called Potter, one of the pioneer families in the region, and her father, also of old Mormon stock, an employee of the U.S. Post Office. She went through Carbon High School, but did not get very far with her college plans when other things, including marriage, intervened. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.0 KB)
pp. 1-4

One day in July 1972, in Miami, Florida, I became a national symbol— the first woman in United States history to be elected to lead a national political party, and at a crucially important time. As I assumed office, questions abounded regarding the burglary of the suite of the Democratic National Committee (DNC ) in the Watergate Office Building. The ...

read more

1. McGovern Calls

pdf iconDownload PDF (194.5 KB)
pp. 5-29

Over the holidays—from December 15, 1969 to January 15, 1970—my husband Dick and I visited our daughter Beth and our son-in-law Vern Davies in balmy Hawaii. Our festivities included attending a New Year’s Eve party; and then, on New Year’s morning, the telephone rang. A voice said, “Hello, Jean, this is George.” ...

read more

2. Political Beginnings

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.4 KB)
pp. 30-40

While my children were young, I worked politics only at the local and county levels, mostly in the summer and fall of campaign years. The pull of that domestic role was strong. I felt I had neglected my family during the years while I was ill, and now I resisted putting them aside to fulfill my political convictions. I promised Laurel Brown, and others, that when ...

read more

3. Party Politics—and Parties

pdf iconDownload PDF (145.7 KB)
pp. 41-54

After the 1964 election I retired to the ranch to help Dick and our crew grade and pelt mink. During the late summer and early fall we had built a new shop and pelting building, adding modern equipment and a big office for Dick. I inherited the small office (about six by eight feet) at the end of the hall in our home, a space we previously shared. Now the mink ...

read more

4. Preparing for the 1968 Convention

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.4 KB)
pp. 55-66

The Democratic National Committee met in March 1968. By then the Tet offensive launched by the North Vietnamese had revealed our military weaknesses. An uneasiness about our nation’s involvement in Vietnam swept the country and was especially visible on college campuses. In the New Hampshire primary, Eugene McCarthy received 42 percent of the vote. In an abrupt turnaround, Robert F. Kennedy entered the ...

read more

5. The 1968 Campaign in Utah

pdf iconDownload PDF (111.7 KB)
pp. 67-76

We had been home from the convention for only two weeks when I received a telephone call from a midwestern highway patrolman. He said my name had been found in the wallet of a young man killed in an automobile accident and identified as David King Jr. Dave and Rosalie King represented the United States in Malagasy, and I often acted as ...

read more

6. Beginnings of Reform

pdf iconDownload PDF (89.2 KB)
pp. 77-90

I had served on the Democratic National Committee for only a few months when I attended the spring meeting to finalize convention plans. We met again in Chicago immediately before the 1968 convention and adopted the report of the special equal rights committee, chaired by Governor Richard Hughes of New Jersey. In part, the report stated ...

read more

7. Implementing Reform

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.8 KB)
pp. 91-103

As the 1960s jolted rather noisily into the 1970s, my life remained varied. Remembering the years between the 1968 and 1972 conventions, I saw how national politics colored and absorbed more aspects of my time until, by 1972, the politics of our nation became my main focus. Our reforms struggled into being at the Democratic National Committee beginning in 1969, while I tackled quite a different ...

read more

8. Call for the 1972 Convention

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.8 KB)
pp. 104-113

In February 1971 the Democratic National Committee met and adopted a preliminary call for the next convention to be held in Miami on July 19, 1972. This call speci ed the number of delegates from each state and emphasized selecting delegates in accordance with the rule changes. Most importantly, each state had to guarantee that the unit ...

read more

9. Convention by Committee

pdf iconDownload PDF (163.9 KB)
pp. 114-129

Much of a political party’s work takes place in committees preceding the convention. Before the elected delegates rolled into Miami with their hats and their hoopla, the most complicated issues hopefully would have been resolved in Washington by the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection in three major committees—Rules, Platform, and ...

read more

10. The Nominee—and a New Chair

pdf iconDownload PDF (125.9 KB)
pp. 130-142

As the convention progressed, I remember one more meeting of Senator George McGovern with the women’s movement leaders who wanted him to endorse abortion. I said no, he could not do that, so they went to actress Shirley MacLaine. Shirley came to me and said, “We’ve got to at least have McGovern meet with them just to calm them down.” So we pulled McGovern ...

read more

11. The Hatchet and the Race

pdf iconDownload PDF (198.0 KB)
pp. 143-156

After Senator Tom Eagleton left his meeting with presidential nominee George McGovern, in the Black Hills, he denied any serious health problem, saying, “George McGovern knows I don’t have a problem. He’s backing me one thousand percent.” I, too, proceeded more on bravado than substance; my task was to cobble a staff in Washington—with no money. Gary Hart and Frank ...

read more

12. To Chair or Not

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.8 KB)
pp. 157-171

One obvious issue for George McGovern’s campaign was the break-in and burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. Oddly enough, we could not spark any widespread media coverage or any real investigation. Since Larry O’Brien was presumed to be the target (a true assumption, we ...

read more

13. Conceiving a Charter

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.7 KB)
pp. 172-182

I thought, when we returned to Utah late in 1972, that I would settle down to being a wife and state politician. I brought all our accounts up to date, and then we visited Beth and Vern on Kauai, where Vern worked as an accountant on a sugar plantation. On our return, I continued to do a great deal of public speaking but not for a specific candidate. Alan Walker, of Program Corporation of ...

read more

14. The Sanford Campaign

pdf iconDownload PDF (120.2 KB)
pp. 183-196

Our instant circle of close friends in Phoenix also formed a cohesive group eager to work in liberal Democratic politics. Despite our ties to Utah, Dick and I focused on becoming “snowbirds” in Arizona—the local term for winter residents. My current political ties already were proving interesting. I had placed Sam Goddard, a former governor of ...

read more

15. Rounding Out a Career

pdf iconDownload PDF (186.0 KB)
pp. 197-214

Arizona truly had become our home by 1980, and I spent a great deal of my time working on Bruce Babbitt’s campaign to become governor. In 1982, he won an easy victory. Soon after Bruce settled into the governor’s office, an Arizona Republic reporter, Joel Nielson, called and asked for an interview. Bruce had told him that he consulted an informal “Kitchen ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (66.9 KB)
pp. 215-216

In about 1990 we took on an abnormal lifestyle—very few commitments of a political, business or social nature. I guess for most people, one could say we began a normal life. Dick finished his book. I kept on at Pinewood but never had my old zip. In 1991 an MRI cat scan showed my tumor, which I thought was gone, had started to grow again, so I had to stay in ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (186.7 KB)
pp. 217-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780874216660
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216615

Publication Year: 2007