The six of us sat in the Thai restaurant eating dinner while discussing our current book selection “My Name is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. It is a well researched fiction about a young midwife determined to break the barrier against women in medicine. During the Civil War she practiced as a doctor and you should read this passionate, riveting novel. I don’t want to give it away.

Eating seafood pumpkin curry and about six other scrumptious dishes, we discussed highlights of the book. Each one of us contributed something about the passion and dedication Mary Sutter possessed to be who she was and who she became. We recognized the sacrifices experienced to learn her craft, and her passion for healing.

It is refreshing to speak with this group of educated, articulate women. All of us are or have been successful career women. Many of us are mothers. I enjoy this monthly meeting, sharing viewpoints, and I usually depart with more knowledge than when I arrived.

However, this particular evening was different. It went something like this:

Book Club Question: “Women’s rights have greatly expanded since Mary’s time, but do you believe that women are still limited by prejudice as to what they can or should do professionally? Do you believe men and women should have different roles or responsibilities within society? “

“What women in today’s world can compare to Mary Sutter?”

Silently we sat, sipping water (some of us drank wine), looking at each other as we searched our brains for an answer.

“Of course, we shouldn’t have different roles,” firmly stated the woman seated at my left. “Indira Gandhi. Gawd that was one ugly lady” another stated.

Cringe: The first and only female Prime Minister of India and that’s all that can be said. But while I know she overcame many obstacles and eventually died for them, I could not recall any of her accomplishments.

“Mother Theresa” the sweetest woman in the club said. We all folded our hands and nodded in agreement.

Lastly, and the point of this article, one of us asked: “What about Hillary Clinton.”

“Have you seen her lately? She looks tired,” blurted the woman on the right end of the table.

“Uglier than Indira?” (I kept that remark to myself.)

“She is the most traveled political figure. She recently had a health scare….”

“She looks old and tired. She should really do something,” wink, wink.

Here, where least expected, women were evaluating a strong female political figure on her looks. If Hillary is going to be judged, let it not be on her age, looks, and wrinkles; and let us not forget her hairstyle. It must be on her experience, achievements, ethics and tenacity; the same yardstick we use to measure her male counterparts. “Negative stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning.”

Disturbed by my silence and inaction, I immediately set upon researching everything Hillary. This was not only about Hillary; it was about stereotyping a woman who has earned the right to be remembered for more than her looks.

Hillary has been involved in politics as early as 1964 when she campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. She was inspired to become more involved with public service after hearing a speech by Rev Martin Luther King. She became a democrat in 1968. From that time on she has worked on committees with then Senator Walter Mondale; campaigned for George McGovern. She was a member of an impeachment inquiry during the Watergate Scandal. She has relentlessly pursued human rights, women’s rights, health care reform. This “It Takes a Village” author is a passionate children’s advocate.

My panties get twisted when I hear she is too old. Ten men were in their 60s when they were President of United States. Vice President, Joe Biden, is 70. World leaders such as the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and Raul Castro, President of Cuba are in their 70s. Again, disagree with their politics if you please, but discrediting them because of age is discrimination.

Along with age comes experience. Hillary is the only political figure that can claim she was First Lady (1993-2001), US Senator (New York 2001-2009), Secretary of State (2009-2013).

Impressive resume, don’t you think?

She is not without controversy. Name any government figure with 45 years experience that is not. It cost $60 million to investigate Whitewater. Riddled with conflicted information and intense media coverage, Ken Starr and his counsel could not find sufficient evidence linking the Clintons with criminal intent, therefore, they escaped formal charges. The year was 1998 and the name Lewinsky changed politics and cigars forever. I do not condone affairs, but what presidents and their families have paid this high price for having affairs while in office? Unfortunately, we all know at least one woman whose husband has had an affair. However, I cannot name one that has been so criticized for “standing by her man”. Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy come to mind. Like our heroine and protagonist, Mary Sutter, Hillary has dared to breach the political barrier and shatter the glass ceiling.

Listening, while eating my dinner, could be perceived as acceptance. I firmly believe negative stereotyping such as this was is ignorant and damaging. Like the N word, which is the apex of hatred and ignorance, these words are not acceptable.

So what do I do now? I take my pen in hand to spread the word and make a personal vow not to be so passive in the future. I (we) don’t need to get on a pedestal with fire and brimstone. Neither, do I (we) need to accept this injurious banter.

Data from bio.true story, “Hillary’s Choice” by Gail Sheehy, Wikipedia

Leave a comment


  1. Excellent job, Maryanne. This is a commendable post. I can tell you put a lot of work into this and the wait was worth it. And I agree with everything you said here. I have admired Hillary Clinton for all of her humanitarian work. She is much more than a politician. She is a woman of high class in my book. The only thing that could make her better…get rid of those damned pants suits.

    • Obviously you have given this as much thought as I have. Thank you for your comments and appreciate the pant suit humor. Personally, when I was working, …..loved the pant suit!

  2. As you so rightly detail, Hillary Clinton is one admirable woman, even if you don’t like her politics. I dread her Presidential campaign, however. She has become a lightning rod. As you again rightly illustrate from the conversation with your friends, she is associated in too many people’s minds with militant feminism to make her campaign easy. Still, early Republican contenders seem to be equally militant, except on the right, so who knows? You remaining silent was no shame. Clearly, several people in your group have their minds made up and aren’t going to be budged. Indira Gandhi, by the way, fought the old ruling classes and worked to institute social democracy, helped establish the independence of Bangladesh, won the war in Pakistan, improved agriculture, worked out a peace deal with the Soviets, and nationalized the banks. No shrinking violet!

    • Good to hear from you..thank you for your comments. Because of this article, I did read about a great many women who change our lives and deserve to be remembered for more than their looks. Indira was one. As you said in your blog “We can make a difference”. It will be interesting to see where Hillary goes next.

  3. Maryanne, I finally got to read your post. It is excellent! JB, above, is right though, that remaining silent in that situation was not necessarily a shameful thing. If you had not yet thought out your reasons for and reasoning behind objecting to such talk, your objections would not have led to any kind of useful dialogue, but would have been inflammatory, instead. Taking the time to think them out, research things, and compose a thoughtful, informed, intelligent post about them, as you have done, will be far more useful than trying to argue off-the-cuff.

    I have never agreed with Ms. Clinton’s politics, but she has amassed a great deal of experience and I do applaud her efforts and tenacity in opening the higher echelons of political service to women. I feel she will very likely be our first female President, though I dread the day because of her politics. But not because of her path. I applaud her path, her striving to work toward what she believes in and trying to build a better world, and achieving as much as she has despite the discrimination against women. I applaud her for that.

    Thank you, again, for a very well-thought-out post.

  4. di

     /  August 8, 2013

    Longislandpen, Kick butt – don’t always agree with Hillary but she is a dynamic, strong individual. Learned much from reading your article…will continue to follow.

  5. We reach for the stars, aim high, and then bitch on the lowest common denominator. Go humans!


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