1970s -- The Unhappy, Trouble-Making Housewives
In the early 1970s, Exponent II, a modest feminist group in the Mormon community, began publishing materials examining women's issues and concerns. Amanda Winkler (Washington Post) reported, that, Suffolk University professor of government, Judy Dushku, claimed Mitt Romney (then a leader in the Mormon Church) "encouraged his friends to tell their wives not to participate. She went on to say that Romney made it clear 'he didn't want the women behind the publication holding meetings on church property.'"
Barbara Taylor, a former president of Exponent II, told The Washington Post, "He [Mitt Romney] thought we were just a bunch of bored, unhappy housewives trying to stir up trouble."
1994 -- Run For the Senate And Strong Stand For Abortion Rights
In 1994, Janet Jeghelian, a well-known former Boston talk-radio host wanted to run for the U.S. Senate. Romney, who was then an executive at Bain Capital, also wanted to run for the Senate - but not against a woman. Aided by the state GOP establishment, Romney "helped ensure that she wouldn't even receive a spot on the primary ballot." Steve Kornacki (Salon.com) explained, "Jeghelian's own shortcomings, of course, were the main reason for her collapse. But it still irked many women to watch her use her convention speech to literally beg for a chance to run - and then to be denied."
Very early on in his the gubernatorial race campaign, Romney declared his support for abortion rights -- despite a long history of pro-life religious beliefs. His political positions continued to evolve throughout his campaign to comply with voter demands:
- Initially opposed Medicaid funding for abortion, later positioning for states' rights to decide;
- Endorsed the legalization of RU-486, the abortion-inducing drug,
- Ann Romney donated $150 to Planned Parenthood at a fundraiser event in which her husband took place.
Denying the Romney's had ever taken any other position than a woman's right to choice, Romney said that his political positions conflicted with religious values because they believed in "a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion ever since the October 1963 death of his brother-in-law's sister, Ann Hartman Keenan, from complication following an illegal abortion."(3)
March 2002 -- The Run For Massachusetts Governor
After helping to organize the Winter Olympics Romney returned from Utah to Massachusetts to seek the governorship. Despite offering previous endorsement to friend and then governor, Jane Swift, Romney withdrew his support. Kornacki reported that Romney, aided by the state GOP establishment "engineered a coup … One by one, prominent state Republicans stepped forward to call for Swift's exit" and pledge support to Romney … within days Swift - the state's first female governor and the first governor in the country to give birth while in office - dropped out of the race, forced to pretend that 'family obligations' would keep her from running."
Democrat Massachusetts state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien debated Romney, trying to pin him down on his position on pro-choice matters. Refusing to state his position and explain his previous flip-flopping, he finally "bore in, pointing his finger and telling his female opponent that 'your effort to continue to try to create fear and deception here is unbecoming.'"
Although Romney's finger pointing antics were repackaged and repeated over and over by the media, male voters did not seem to understand the insult to women -- but The Globe's Joan Vennochi did: "Any female who has ever been accused of unbecoming conduct knows that is 'Leave it to Beaver' code for saying she is not 'ladylike.'"