It's not often that I agree with Richard Cohen, but I believe that his observations about Barbara Bush's address at Wellesley College were on the mark {op-ed, June 5}.

Like countless other women in this country, I missed the live coverage of Mrs. Bush's speech because I was working. I work out of necessity. I'm a widow with three children, one of whom is a student at Smith College, ironically the very place Mrs. Bush left to marry the man who subsequently became president.

When Mrs. Bush dropped out of school, she did not put herself at financial risk. If something had happened to her husband, because of death or divorce, she would, of course, have been emotionally devastated. However, she certainly wouldn't have suffered any economic hardships. She would have continued to be an upper-class woman with plenty of money to educate her children, pursue her volunteer work and live the good life. Put another way, she was never in danger of becoming a displaced homemaker, a college dropout with no skills and no job experience.

Mrs. Bush is a woman of grace, style and wit. But she also was born, raised and is still living in the protected world of wealth and privilege. It is from that perspective that she speaks, acts and defers to the conservative social policies of her husband's administration, which say no to parental leave and pay equality.

Although I came of age at a time when mothers were expected to drop out of the work force to raise children, I feel more in step with the 150 Wellesley seniors who challenged the invitation to the First Lady to address their class, saying they would prefer someone who was more of a role model.

By all accounts, Mrs. Bush carried the whole thing off with charm and humor. Yet, it seems to me, when it comes to role models, I opt for those young women who voiced their opinions, who took a stance.


Richard Cohen's diatribe on Barbara Bush's speech at Wellesley showed his ignorance. It doesn't take a multimillion-dollar net worth to survive on one income. Yes, some women must work; others choose to or choose not to. What Mrs. Bush represents is one option in a woman's life. If a woman chooses to stay home, raise children and derive her status and social standing through her husband, who are we to condemn her?

I find it refreshing that Mrs. Bush proudly wears the mantle of wife, mother and grandmother instead of frantically justifying herself through countless visits with sharecroppers and forays into coal mines, a practice that made Eleanor Roosevelt the butt of many jokes and cartoons. WELMOED B. SISSON Germantown