masthead-highres

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hillary Clinton's Feminist Tale

Hillary Clinton must be dumb as a post. Either that, or she spins fiction.

An October 8 Newsday story about Hillary Clinton's induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame begins:
Inspired by Alan Shepard, the first American to journey into space, a 14-year-old from suburban Chicago wrote a letter to NASA in 1961 asking what she needed to do to become an astronaut.

Back came a curt reply: Girls are not being recruited by the nation's space program.

"It had never crossed my mind up until that point that there might be doors closed to me simply because I was a girl," recalled the letter writer, better known today as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The rejection stung her to the core, opening up the teenager's eyes to sexual stereotypes, career barriers and discriminatory practices that soon came under assault from landmark laws beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"We have made so many advances in the last 40 years that are really unprecedented in the history of the world," said Clinton, one of 10 women inducted Saturday in the National Women's Hall of Fame...
It simply would not be possible, unless one were in some form of isolation, to spend one's girlhood during the 1950s and not notice that there were some "doors closed" to women. I was born in 1959 and knew it by kindergarten.

Either Mrs. Clinton is, or used to be, dumb as a post, or she made the story up.

As it happens, Mrs. Clinton doesn't always tell the letter-to-NASA story the same way.

As she was inducted in the the National Women's Hall of Fame this weekend, Senator Clinton said the young Hillary Rodham was 14 and inspired by Alan Shepherd's 1961 trip into space when she wrote to NASA.

But in this transcript of a May 2005 commencement speech by Senator Hillary Clinton, archived on Senator Clinton's own website, the young Hillary Rodham is 12 when the incident occurs: "I wrote off to this new agency called NASA, and asked how a twelve-year old girl could become an astronaut..."

And in this bio on the website of the National First Ladies Library, for which she, along with the other living current and ex-first ladies, serves as an honorary "chairperson" (apparently the title "first lady" can imply gender but not the title "chairman"), Hillary Rodham is an adult when she applies to NASA: "Occupation before Marriage: As a young woman, Hillary Rodham worked as a babysitter both after school and during her vacation breaks, sometimes watching the children of migrant Mexicans brought to the Chicago area for itinerant work. She applied to NASA and was stunned when she was told that girls were not accepted for the astronaut program..."

Mrs. Clinton's story contains some truths, however. NASA was created when Hillary Rodham was 12 and Alan Shepherd did go into space when she was 14.

As to the Women's Hall of Fame: Amusingly, of the four living women inducted into the "the National Women's Hall of Fame" on Saturday, two made it to fame and fortune through their husbands -- both of whom are Democratic Party politicians.

Consistency, thy name is feminism.

A list of the 217 women inducted the National Women's Hall of Fame can be reviewed here. Leftie political activists Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug, who promoted the Equal Rights Amendment, made it in -- but not rightie political activist Phyllis Schlafly, who defeated the Equal Rights Amendment.

To the victor goes no spoils.

Mrs. Bill Clinton, Mrs. Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt made it in, but not Mrs. Jerry Ford nor Mrs. Ronald Reagan nor Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower nor Mrs. Richard Nixon (I hardly needed to tell you no Nixon would be in) nor either Mrs. George Bush.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of Democratic President John F. Kennedy and founder of Special Olympics and a leader in the field of helping people with disabilities made it in while Betty Ford, wife of Republican President Jerry Ford and founder of the Betty Ford Center and a leader in the field of treating people with addiction is not in. (I'd make some crack about this but the women in the Kennedy family have been treated so badly by the men in the Kennedy family that I have a personal rule not to pile on.)

The lesson of the National Women's Hall of Fame: When bias isn't sexism, its okay.

Fortunately, a woman needs a Hall of Fame the way a fish needs a bicycle.

P.S. Husband David tells me I shouldn't doubt Hillary Clinton's veracity: He says a woman named after Sir Edmund Hillary would never tell a lie.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:26 PM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research