Kindred Spirits

I have said before that this has been an exciting week for me as Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and is now the Democratic Party presumptive Nominee for President of United States. 

I have also thought about the days when I worked on the Campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the women I worked with who laid ground work for this years ago but who will not see it.

Marilyn Heath was a political strategist and a journalist.  She taught me to read and listen to the news with my eyes wide open and to try to detect what the real story was. "don't stop with the front page - often you can tell the real story from a small connecting story on the back page".  I wonder what she would say about all the furor around these days with Donald Trump's antics and how Bernie Sander is a spoiler who keeps hanging on. What do you think is likely to happen? 

I don't work in politics these days and can only imagine what's going to happen based on things that happened in other days. And those days were before there was social media and the internet.

Wonder what Mariwyn would have thought about that and how she would think it best to watch and figure out the news.

Maybe she would have some advice on how to keep yourself from drowning in the dense and repetitive coverage on CNN.  I do wish I could talk with her about it.


Mariwyn Heath was a legend before I met her but I did not know it. She was a founder of ERAmerica and had devoted herself fully to passing the Equal Rights Amendment for seven years before I came to the League of Women Voters of the US in 1979 as their newbie ERA Campaign Director. Mariwyn took me under her wing. She taught me what I needed to know - even when I did not know I needed to know it - so that I could do the job and keep the League folded effectively into the ERAmerica national and state strategy.

She did that for me - just as she had done it for many before me and continued to do it for many more after that. I still read the newspaper by Mariwyn's rule - read between the lines, and read the back pages to see how those stories connect with what's on the front page. That's how you find out what's really going on.

Mariwyn was a born mentor. She was one of those gifted women who also helped other women find their own talents and strengths. Ask the women nationwide in Business and Professional Women (BPW) who revered her and named awards for her.

Mariwyn was a powerful woman, advising the White House and top State elected officials, but she wore her power lightly in a town that flaunts and covets power. She was not just about business. She was a wife and mother. She was an excellent cook who made time to bring delicious goodies to pot luck gatherings and staff meetings. She had busy hands - wielding knitting needles or stabbing at a needlepoint canvas.

She laughed that no matter how the campaign went she would have accomplished something with her time - sweaters, baby caps for all the pregnant staff , and a collection of needlepoint canvases covered with vibrant color. What a role model.

In 1980 the Democratic National Convention was held in NYC. I was part of an ERAmerica group that went to the convention to lobby for ERA. When we wrnt to the Democratic Convention in New York City in 1981 Mariwyn and I shared a hotel room and in our off-time one evening she taught me how to needlepoint. " Start with something small." she counseled. I bought an eye-glasses case. It was the first of four I made before the campaign ended - one for each of my daughters, one for my mother and one for Jim's mother. We also hashed over all that was going on on the floor of the convention.

A week after the ERA campaign ended and we had lost Mariwyn and I had lunch together at the Tabbard Inn on N Street. We talked over the campaign and our sense of loss. At one point she said, "You know, Ellouise, I consider you one of my successes."
"You do. Why?"
" Because when you proposed the National Business Council for ERA I thought it was a dumb idea that would never work - - but I did not discourage you."
"Discourage me - you helped me, encouraged me - I never had any idea you did not think it would work."
"And look what happened - - you did it! "

I have always remembered that conversation as a lesson in real leadership and mentoring.

I still have the eyeglasses case we started that evening. A lovely reminder of a very warm and caring woman who was the brains behind a national campaign for equal rights for women. A woman who will be remembered and missed by many.

Most of all I would like to tell her I have joined BPW so that I could find women who want to talk politics and who know the history that brought us to this chance to see a woman in the White House.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found the answer to my question, the accumulation of details to get the bigger picture. Back when most cities had two or more newspapers, we'd look at both to get an idea of the truth.
I, too, used to knit in meetings, still do. My YSA friends would joke that I was Madame Defarge, but no, I didn't "have a little list."