Her party had made her a non-person, left her with a fancy title but no duties to perform. She was distressed over the party's drift away from support of the Equal Rights Amendment, so suspicious of her enemies that she thought they might be bugging her office.
But Mary Crisp, co-chairman of the Republican Party, had one last chance to say her piece and she took it today providing one of the few moments of genuine drama in a week of maneuvering before the GOP national convention.
"Although our party has presented the outward appearance of vibrant health, I'm afraid we are suffering from serious internal sickness," she told a shocked Republican National Committee in what amounted to a farewell address.
Republicans, she warned, risked losing in November for failing to endorse ERA and for clinging to a rigid, anti-abortion stance.
"Our party has endorsed and worked for the ERA for 40 years," declared Crisp, who is not seeking reelection to her post because of opposition from pro-Reagan forces. "Now we are reversing our position and are about to bury the rights of over 100 million American women under a heap of platitudes. Even worse is the fact that our party is asking for a constitutional amendment to ban abortions."
"I personally believe that these two actions could prevent our party from electing the next president of the United States," she added. "I feel compelled to do whatever is within my power to prevent these two tragedies from occurring."
To make matters worse, Crisp whose term as the party's second highest ranking official ends next week, hinted she might not even support Ronald Reagan, the GOP's all-but-certain presidential nominee. She stopped short of a making an out-and-out endorsement of independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson, a Republican congressman, but came about as close as anyone could to doing so.
"I've said as a co-chairman of the party, I would support the nominee of the party," she told reporters. "Of course, I won't be co-chairman after July 18."
At a news conference in Jerusalem, Anderson called on Crisp to join his independent presidential campaign.
Anderson called Crisp a "dedicated fighter for women's rights" and said he was not surprised that she would not try to continue as co-chairman of the GOP National Committee, the Associated Press reported.
["She is exactly the kind of woman that I would frankly like to see actively involved in my campaign," he said.]
In California, Reagan said: "Mary Crisp should look to herself and find out how loyal she's been to the Republican Party for quite some time."
Although Crisp has been the center of controversy for more than a month, her speech caught the committee completely off guard. Her words received a polite, but unenthusiastic applause -- mostly from women in the audience. When the committee approved a pro forma resolution of appreciation for her 3 1/2 years in office, tears appeared in her eyes.
"That was the most electrifying thing that has happened in my three years on this committee," said Iowa GOP Chairman Steve Roberts, one of several moderate party leaders who embraced Crisp as she left the podium. "For someone who started out as a Goldwater Republican, she sure did not go out quietly."
Republican National Chairman Bill Brock was clearly embarrassed by Crisp. "Mary feels very strongly on the ERA issue as do people on all sides of it," he said, weakly. Later, he added, "I'd be astonished and perhaps worried if there was no controversy at this convention."
Crip's words had little effect on the day's events here. But they reflected a deep division between moderates and the increasingly dominant conservative forces in the party over women's issues -- divisions heightened by actions of its platform committee this week.
Brock and others who have been working to broaden the party's appeal were openly concerned over the anti-ERA atmosphere here."As you know I've been lobbying for a more positive statement," he said in an interview.
It was Brock who moved to trim Crisp's duties after news accounts appeared in which she praised independent candidate Anderson as a "good Republican who has given firm leadership in Congress." He canceled all her public appearances and completely froze her out of any role in the party's convention. Her name doesn't even appear on the party's program, which carries the headline "Together . . . A New Beginning."
Crisp, who started out as a volunteer licking envelops in Arizona and worked her way up through party ranks, stirred controversy last month when she called in electronics experts to search for bugging devices in her office. Today Brock claimed he was unaware that Crisp's name didn't appear on any convention literature. He said he had canceled a reception that was to be hosted by Crisp because we felt it was inappropriate for a major party official to make favorable comments about John Anderson."
"It's the real world of politics," Crisp said in an interview. "I don't like it but I accept it."
In other action today the GOP national committee decided to deny seats to the convention to delegates elected as Anderson supporters from Massachusetts. Paul W. Walter Jr. and Leonard Scott were replaced by challengers who were not Anderson suppporters.
Walters, a delegate to the 1968 convention, expressed outrage at the action. Anderson, he said, had carried his congressional district by more than 10,000 votes. "They just stole these votes from the people," he said.