Politics & Policy

Women We Love

In praise of a few ladies.

Who are the women National Review Online types love? That’s a tall order. Maybe just a list of “Women Who Make the World Better,” including, of course, NR’s Kate O’Beirne, would be a good enough start.

We asked some (male) bloggers, writers, and other friends who tops their list besides family and true love (that’s my keep-him-out-of-the-doghouse-alert). Even with a wife/mother type disclaimer, this list is far from all-inclusive, but it’s a start, and, perhaps most importantly, highlights some women who don’t always get a moment in the spotlight.

Eric Cohen

Women we esteem is more like it, and these two estimable women belong together: Gertrude Himmelfarb and Amy A. Kass. Gertrude Himmelfarb is one of the greatest historians and public intellectuals of our age, a woman of disarming grace and wit, and (I say this from experience) quite a bit intimidating to those meager minds who have had the privilege to share in even the briefest conversation with this intellectual giant. On every subject she has written about–and there too many to mention–her work is perhaps the definitive guide. From Darwin to John Stuart Mill, from the road of the Enlightenment to the end of the Victorian age, she helps us see our own times with a little greater clarity, a little more objectivity, a little more sobriety. For her mind–and her great dignity–we should all be grateful.

Amy Kass is our generation’s greatest teacher, a gift to all those who have been fortunate enough to be her student. For decades, her courses at the University of Chicago have invited young, searching souls to ask the deepest questions–about love and marriage, war and peace, aging and death, nobility and grace. And if lives changed is the mark of a life well-lived, then hers is worthy of the highest esteem–with much work left to do! At present, she is at work on a new venture–shaping the souls of philanthropists in the true art of giving. In a culture filled with so many things to worry about, the work of Amy Kass is reason to be a little more hopeful.

But perhaps what sets these two remarkable women apart–and what binds them together–is not only their public achievements but their lives as friends and wives and mothers. They are, to all of us, models of excellence, and worthy of that love called admiration.

Eric Cohen is editor of The New Atlantis and a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

John Derbyshire

I nominate He Qinglian (pronounced “HUH CHING-lee-en”). A google on her name will supply details.

I nominate Ms. He with some reservations. My only meeting with her was…not a success. A strong Chinese nationalist, she took ferocious exception to some things I had written about the Chinese occupation of Tibet and East Turkestan. She is prickly and difficult–a true-born member of the Awkward Squad. Further, there is in her writings an occasional whiff of nostalgia for the China of her childhood, when all (except, of course, the Party elites) were equal in poverty and subjection. Politically, she is in fact what the Chinese used to call “half-bound”–a term that referred to women in the 1920s who had had their feet bound as infants, but then had them unbound before the full crippling effect had set in.

Ms. He none the less deserves the attention, and qualified approval, of NRO readers for her fearless campaigns against the rottenness and moral emptiness of post-Mao Chinese society, and for her life-endangering outspokenness, in the finest old Confucian (and therefore, in Chinese terms, conservative–whatever you think of Confucius…) tradition. She spoke truth to power, in a place where doing so is no mere vapid conceit of pampered media darlings, but an act of the highest courage and integrity.

John Derbyshire is an NR and NRO contributor/columnist/icon. His most recent book is Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics.

Rod Dreher

Is there a braver woman on the planet than Ayaan Hirsi Ali? If the Somali-born Dutch parliamentarian emerged from her police-protected hideout and walked out onto the streets of Amsterdam, she would likely have her head chopped off by a radical Islamist. Her crimes? Speaking out against the ghastly treatment of women throughout the Islamic world, from which she fled to escape a forced marriage; and, more broadly, warning the West of the danger presented by fascist elements within contemporary world Islam. This 35-year-old black African woman puts Euroliberals and others to shame with her full-throated defense of Western values like free speech and women’s dignity. Hirsi Ali’s speech last week in Berlin explicitly connected resistance to Islamism in this generation with resistance to Communism in the previous one. She told the crowd:

The dissidents of Islamism, like the dissidents of communism, don’t have nuclear bombs or any other weapons. We have no money from oil like the Saudis. We will not burn embassies and flags. We refuse to get carried away in a frenzy of collective violence. In number we are too small and too scattered to become a collective of anything. In electoral terms here in the west we are practically useless.

All we have are our thoughts; and all we ask is a fair chance to express them. Our opponents will use force to silence us. They will use manipulation; they will claim they are mortally offended. They will claim we are mentally unstable and should not be taken seriously. The defenders of Communism, too, used these methods.

Berlin is a city of optimism. Communism failed. The wall was broken down. Things may seem difficult and confusing today. But I am optimistic that the virtual wall, between lovers of liberty and those who succumb to the seduction and safety of totalitarian ideas will also, one day, come down.

This indomitable and prophetic woman stands in proud company. She is a Solzhenitsyn, a Sharansky, a Havel for our time.

Rod Dreher is author of Crunchy Cons, out next Tuesday.

Robert P. George

There are three women–each beautiful in every way–from whom I have derived inspiration as a scholar and a teacher. Each is notable not only for her brilliance, but also for her bravery. Each has been willing to make herself unpopular with the academic establishment by standing up for principles that are regarded as heretical among liberal intellectuals. I speak of Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard Law School, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese of Emory University, and Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago. They are women I admire and love. In many ways they are my teachers and role models. I owe each of them an enormous debt of gratitude, and in this I am far from alone. They have been blessings in the lives of countless students in their classrooms, readers of their works, and young scholars around the country (and the world) who have been instructed by their wisdom and inspired by their courage. Their bold and unflinching public witness in defense of the child in the womb, the institution of marriage, and the security of the nation in the face of terrorism has been invaluable and exemplary. They are national treasures.

Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Scott W. Johnson

After picking up degrees in business and law, Katherine Kersten set about slaying dragons in her spare time. When Minnesota’s state board of education proposed a metropolitan desegregation plan featuring racial quotas, Kathy wrote a 100-page study demonstrating that the plan was a recipe for disaster. She stopped it dead in its tracks. When the state board of education then proposed a “diversity rule” with a Marxist curriculum and more quotas, she raised a ruckus in one of her biweekly opinion columns in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This time she not only killed the rule; she also put the board of education out of its misery. In a stunning sequel to the controversy she had instigated over the “diversity rule,” the Minnesota legislature abolished the board.

Kathy is now a metro columnist for the Strib. Last week she addressed the paper’s handling of the cartoon controversy: “[M]any newspapers[] insist that the cartoons violate their standards. The Star Tribune described them as ‘purposefully sacrilegious’ and has declined to reprint them. Many Christian readers will be watching to see if standards differ the next time a cartoonist turns his sights on evangelical Christians or the Catholic Church.” Don’t you love her too?

Scott Johnson blogs at Powerline.com.

Matt, from Blackfive

This Valentine’s Day message is about a different kind of love story. It’s about a woman named Patti Patton-Bader, who started an organization called Soldiers’ Angels.

Patti’s son Brandon was part of the Iraq invasion in April of 2003. He knew of many soldiers who never received a letter from home. So Patti began a program for ordinary Americans to “adopt” a soldier. It was a huge success. Patti’s organization blossomed and became the umbrella non-profit for many other smaller groups. Possibly, the most amazing aspect of Soldiers’ Angels is their ability to help our wounded recover. Bear with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

Imagine that you were a Military Policeman (MP) in Iraq. The convoy that you are protecting is hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). You are hit. The medics put you into a drug induced coma to stabilize you. That’s the last thing you remember.

Now imagine that you are that MP’s mother: the Army has notified you that your son has lost both legs and his right arm, that he is barely alive. Your son is being moved from Iraq, through Germany, to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Virginia. You live in North Carolina. Your MP also has a fiancé in Texas. You have to tell her what’s happened. Your son hasn’t awakened yet and doesn’t know that he’s lost three limbs. The doctors won’t wake him up until he arrives at Walter Reed. You have a mortgage, car payments, bills, a job…

Your son will be at Walter Reed for a year, minimum.

Because of the recent assault on Fallujah, there are a lot of wounded, and, therefore, the free housing for wounded soldiers’ families is full. You would have to figure out a way to pay for your stay in Washington, D.C. (not exactly the cheapest place to live).

What would you do?

This, unfortunately, is a true story. It’s about Sergeant Joseph Bozik who was wounded in Iraq.

Soldiers’ Angels not only helped the family with paying for lodging and food, they were the ones who picked up Joey’s mom from the Airport and stayed with her for days at Walter Reed. They made sure that Joey’s fiancé could be there for him when he woke up. They made sure (and continue to make sure) that the family won’t lose their house while they take care of Joey in Virginia. By all accounts, their efforts have made the difference in Joey’s recovery.

This kind of “love” story has been repeated hundreds and thousands of times over the last few years. Whether by sending care packages to those in combat with no one back home, or getting voice activated laptops to help those with wounds to their limbs use e-mail to stay in touch with loved ones, Patti and her Angels have made a difference in so many lives.

For those of us who have worn the uniform, Patti Patton-Bader is an angel to us all.

Blackfive.net is the military blog (milblog) of a former soldier with experience in Special Operations and Intelligence. It was named the best military blog in the 2005 Blog Awards. This blogger, who is known only as Matt, says he is “on a mission to highlight the good that our military men and women do every day.”

John J. Miller

Conservatives know Linda Chavez as one of the smartest women on the Right–an author of books and columns, a commentator on radio and television, and the leader of a small but influential think tank. I know her as one of my first bosses in Washington; we worked together for five years, first at the Manhattan Institute and then at the Center for Equal Opportunity. I could not have asked for a better mentor. She schooled me in the ways of D.C. and encouraged my ambitions to be a writer. About two months into my job, I had an idea for an op-ed. Rather than telling me to quit dreaming and get back to work, she called an editor at the Wall Street Journal and pitched the piece. A little while later, it appeared under my name, in what was a big moment for me professionally. This kind of generosity characterizes everything she does. I dedicated my most recent book to her, but in truth I can never really pay her back–I can only follow her example, and hope that one day I’ll be as good to a young writer as she was to me.

John J. Miller is national political reporter for National Review and the author, most recently, of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

Chris Muir

Chris Muir is the cartoonist responsible for “Day by Day.”

John J. Pitney Jr.

Susan Swain is executive vice president and co-chief operating officer of C-SPAN. She often does on-air interviews with political figures. I’ve been watching C-SPAN for many years, and I’ve worked with her a few times–and I don’t have a clue about her political leanings. That’s the point. She embodies the C-SPAN mission: “To provide elected and appointed officials and others who would influence public policy a direct conduit to the audience without filtering or otherwise distorting their points of view.”

She asks questions that are illuminating but not leading. That’s hard to do, but she makes it look easy.

She’s never gotten into a shouting match with a political figure. She has never teared up at some perceived outrage. She has never tried to make herself the story. In fact, she has never uttered her own name during a broadcast.

Thanks to her and her colleagues at C-SPAN, conservatives have a fair shot at getting their views across.

John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Ron Robinson

Michelle Easton is the woman I love. She is currently the president of the Clare Boothe Luce Institute where she is leading the struggle to keep St. Valentine’s Day from becoming Vagina Monologue Day (“V-DAY”). I met Michelle at the Young America’s Foundation office in Greenwich Village (a National Review subscriber offered the space after Bill Buckley made a plea for YAF in NR) in 1972. Two years later we were married in Rye, New York, and we worked together for Frank Donatelli at YAF until I succeeded Donatelli as YAF’s CEO in 1977. Michelle went to work at the National Right to Work Committee until she joined the Reagan Administration in 1981.

Commentators now say that the total woman is a myth, but they have overlooked Michelle. She worked twelve years for President Reagan and President George H. W. Bush, winning Senate confirmation during the years the Democrats controlled the Senate. She was the president of Virginia’s Board of Education under Governor George Allen where she enacted Virginia’s tough Standards of Learning reforms. Michelle and I were blessed to have four children, and she is an awesome wife and mother. Even now she is trying to rearrange our schedules so we can be at our son’s, Thomas, parents’ weekend at Hillsdale College in a few weeks. Michelle is an attorney, author, speaker, and is always ready and willing to mentor an emerging young conservative woman.

Michelle was a principal care provider during the years when her mother, our next door neighbor, suffered from Alzheimer’s. Michelle has attended to her father every evening in the nearly three years since he became a widower. She is a super-star. What’s not to love? Michelle Easton is the ultimate compassionate and passionate conservative.

Ron Robinson is the president of Young America’s Foundation.

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