Politics & Policy

Wellesley Women Spin

Hillary and her sisters.

Hillary Clinton received a mash note on the front page of the New York Times this weekend. Reporter Tamar Lewin was writing about Hillary’s Wellesley classmates, who all seem to just adore their Hillary. According to Lewin, the 400 members of the Class of 1969 “have winced at her struggles over how to be a modern first lady and her marital humiliations, rejoiced with her election to the Senate, puzzled over how her guarded and cool political persona is so different from the warm, funny and outspoken woman they know. They still see her as the thoughtful friend who called every week after a husband died, or wrote a charming note about the birth of a grandson.” Yes, the treacle was laid on that thick.

Oh, sure there were some complaints about Hill, but not the complaints that you might expect. According to classmate Nancy Wanderer, now the director of the legal research and writing center at the University of Maine’s law school, her only problem with Hillary was when she got a smidgen too glam. Nancy complained, “When she came to Maine, campaigning for Bill the first time, she was very stylish, very blond, very thin. It was like she was in a Halloween costume.” I guess blond and thin and stylish is just not the Wellesley way.

Hill’s classmates are also very peeved at attacks at Hillary for being too “strident “ or “shrill,” and they bemoan that she no longer has the “boundarylessness” and “boldness” she had her senior year at Wellesley when she was writing her thesis on radical Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky and giving a commencement address urging a “more ecstatic mode of living.” That thesis was locked away during the years of the Clinton presidency at their insistence. It is now available in the archive room of the college.

But the classmates maintain that those “shrill” and “strident” attacks on Hillary are not really attacks on her own chilly persona or policy-wonk style, but “is very indicative of how society reacts to smart women.” They may regret her long-ago boldness has been tempered but forgive her “because if you spend all your adult life in the public eye you necessarily have to create some kind of protection.” Besides, “she had to be in the shadow of Bill,” who certainly wasn’t shy about seeking a “more ecstatic mode of living.”

No doubt, many of Hillary’s classmates are raising money or volunteering for her campaign but couldn’t Tamara Lewin find even one or two Wellesley classmates who are not so enamored of Hillary, past, present or future? One who has, dare I say, a different take on this “brilliant charismatic woman.” Can all Wellesley women, class of 1969, walk in such lock-step? Or is this just part of the familiar Spin Sister spin that all women, just because they are women, must feel the same liberal way about social and political issues and are thrilled at the thought of a female president, no matter who she is or what she believes.

All female voters may not feel that way. On Saturday Hillary had a going-over by a woman less than enamored by her and her wobbly stance on the war. At a New Hampshire town meeting, the woman asked if Hillary had read a report in 2002 about intelligence and the Iraq war. Hillary said she had been briefed. The woman responded “But did you read it?” Their exchange went back and forth for several minutes with Hillary, witnesses say, growing more and more uncomfortable. Finally the woman sat down and Hillary said, as usual, that if she knew then what she knows now she would not have given the president authority to wage war. She also added she thought she was giving the president authority to send U.N. inspectors to Iraq! You mean, unlike every other senator authorizing the war, she didn’t know what she was voting for? Don’t you think even her most slavishly loyal classmates would have to admit that was a kind of dumb explanation from the smartest girl in the class?

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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