There were six of us pages for our state, photocopying and stapling and running around with stacks of speeches and programs.
I was the youngest page out of 150 at this big Miami Beach shindig, according to my hometown paper, the Lancaster New Era, a fact I had forgotten until I recently found a box of Ann-obilia my mother had saved.
There is extensive news coverage of adventures of me as a page — front-page photos, lengthy features — and I cannot explain why my town’s two daily newspapers needed to flood the zone with these exploits except to say that I was a local girl made good, I guess.
My three children choked with laughter as they read parts out loud, and accused me of being like Tracy Flick, the maliciously ambitious anti-heroine in the movie “Election.” Which I would like to stipulate is, unequivocally, untrue.
It's right there in the papers! I was a “bubbly teen,” “a bubbly miss” and “a blond-haired enthusiast.”
What’s also right there is a snapshot of women’s roles and rights under revision in society — we called it “women’s lib” back then — and the Republican Party’s response to the change underway. I went back through these clips and others as much to learn about the party’s identity shift as to learn about my emerging voice. I’ve been trying for 18 months now to report an answer to this persistent question: “Why are we still talking about birth control and abortion in 2012?”
On the one hand, in the Lancaster Intelligencer, here is a large photograph of a guest of honor at a Republican women’s event. She is “looking pert and pretty” in “a two-piece double-knit pink ensemble accented with a gold necklace” and remaining “poised and cool as she weaved her way among the crowds . . . to answer questions about her family.” She is Mrs. John Eisenhower; her first name is never given.
On the other hand, here is a former Senate candidate, Mrs. Lenore Romney, whose son will accept the RepublicanParty’s presidential nomination Thursday night, applying pressure — genteel, ladylike, white-gloved, yes, but pressure — as part of an effort to get a plank in the platform calling for legal abortion.
Among the pounds of paper I distributed was the platform that did pass, and the 700-word separate section on “equal rights for women” is startling to read now:
“The Administration will . . . continue its strong efforts to open equal opportunities for women, recognizing clearly that women are often denied such opportunities today,” it begins, and then pledges to support passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, fight against sex discrimination and for equal pay, and appoint women to positions of greater power, including to the Supreme Court.
For the GOP in 1972, these were not just promises: The ferment and bra-burning of the 1960s were consolidated into real change in the ’70s. The executive and legislative branches already had written historical gains for women into policy and law, and the Supreme Court the next year would make equal job access and the right to abortion the law of the land.