The Braden Files
Curiosities of mathematics, history, parachuting, etc……

Sex and the Sissy

She was born in Russia, fled the pogroms with her family, was raised in Milwaukee, and worked the counter at her father’s general store when she was 8. In early adulthood she made aliyah to Palestine, where she worked on a kibbutz, picking almonds and chasing chickens. She rose in politics, was the first woman in the first Israeli cabinet, soldiered on through war and rumors of war, became the first and so far only woman to be prime minister of Israel. And she knew what it is to be a woman in the world. “At work, you think of the children you’ve left at home. At home you think of the work you’ve left unfinished. . . . Your heart is rent.” This of course was Golda Meir

Another: She was born in a family at war with itself and the reigning power outside. As a child she carried word from her important father to his fellow revolutionaries, smuggling the papers in her school bag. War and rumors of war, arrests, eight months in jail. A rise in politics — administering refugee camps, government minister. When war came, she refused to flee an insecure border area; her stubbornness helped rally a nation. Her rivals sometimes called her “Dumb Doll,” and an American president is said to have referred to her in private as “the old witch.” But the prime minister of India preferred grounding her foes to dust to complaining about gender bias. In the end, and in the way of things, she was ground up too. Proud woman, Indira Gandhi.

And there is Margaret Hilda Roberts. A childhood in the besieged Britain of World War II — she told me once of listening to the wireless and being roused by Churchill. “Westward look, the land is bright,” she quoted him; she knew every stanza of the old poem. Her father, too, was a shopkeeper, and she grew up in the apartment above the store near the tracks. She went to Oxford on scholarship, worked as a chemist, entered politics, rose, became another first and only, succeeding not only in a man’s world but in a class system in which they knew how to take care of ambitious little grocer’s daughters from Grantham. She was to a degree an outsider within her own party, so she remade it. She lived for ideas as her colleagues lived for comfort and complaint. The Tories those days managed loss. She wanted to stop it; she wanted gain. Just before she became prime minister, the Soviets, thinking they were deftly stigmatizing an upstart, labeled her the Iron Lady. She seized the insult and wore it like a hat. This was Thatcher, stupendous Thatcher, now the baroness.

Great women, all different, but great in terms of size, of impact on the world and of struggles overcome. Struggle was not something they read about in a book. They did not use guilt to win election….Instead they used the appeals men used: stronger leadership, better ideas, a superior philosophy. You know where I’m going, for you know where she went.

Hillary Clinton complained again this week that sexism has been a major dynamic in her unsuccessful bid for political dominance. One wants to be sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton at this point, if for no other reason than to show one’s range. But her last weeks have been, and her next weeks will likely be, one long exercise in summoning further denunciations. It is something new in politics, the How Else Can I Offend You Tour. And I suppose it is aimed not at voters — you don’t persuade anyone by complaining in this way, you only reinforce what your supporters already think — but at history, at the way history will tell the story of the reasons for her loss.

Full story here.

Peggy Noonan

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