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Politically desperate housewives: women and conservatism in postwar Los Angeles.

As Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower made efforts to liberalize relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, progressive Californians gestured warmly toward Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan during his unofficial visit to the United States in 1959. The trip represented one of several goodwill tours made by the premier as part of Khrushchev's initiative to establish economic ties with the United States and cool the cold war. (1) California's new governor, Edmund "Pat" Brown, greeted Mikoyan heartily, suggesting that the superpowers convene another peace conference in his home state under redwood trees. (2) Eric Johnston, president of the Motion Picture Association, hosted a dinner for Mikoyan that included distinguished Los Angeles civic leaders, business executives, the former editor of the Los Angeles Times, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and spouses. (3)

The welcome wagon greeting Mikoyan infuriated others. In New York and Los Angeles, Hungarian demonstrators met his plane to remind television viewers of Soviet atrocities committed against their countrymen in the failed revolution of 1956. (4) A group of conservative women in southern California, meanwhile, prepared to express their opposition in the more personal style they had cultivated from their living rooms. The Network of Patriotic Letter Writers coordinated a campaign against Eric Johnston's dinner guests. The secretary of one network cell tracked down their addresses and assigned each of her members to a different guest. Marie Koenig of Pasadena received instructions to send a note of protest to Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Brayton of the Brayton Ellis Company at their home in Hillsborough, California. (5)

The Pasadena-based Network of Patriotic Letter Writers was one of many activist groups that flourished in southern California during the 1950s and 1960s. Even as moderate civil rights forces gained ground and liberals won key offices throughout the region, the right thrived alongside the left. (6) Conservative activism took the form of study group formation, newsletter circulation, book publishing, lecturing, letter writing, and serious reading of the voluminous literature that proliferated. (7) By the 1960s, activists also opened more than thirty-five conservative bookstores throughout Los Angeles and its suburbs. (8)


Women became influential in the grassroots right. Mainly middle- and upper-class wives and mothers between the ages of thirty and sixty, they enthusiastically joined groups that vowed to stop communism. Although few organizations restricted membership by sex, many grew into women-only or women-dominated organizations by virtue of their schedules, priorities, and styles. Daytime meeting hours, a focus on children and the community, a tendency to operate in the background and emphasize their spiritual contributions to society, and orientation toward intensive grassroots activities such as canvassing, phone-calling, and letter-writing defined a female political culture on the right. Conservative men also participated in most of these activities, but women unintentionally created institutions friendly to their lifestyles and intellectual needs. Lack of professional status, moreover, forced them to work outside of established partisan channels and capitalize on their flexible schedules as their means of making an impact. (9)

The political work performed by conservative women during this era calls into question the meaning of the word housewife. Examination of their individual lives and organizational activity reveals that they became formidable activists who embraced the ideals of domesticity, familial togetherness, and social tranquility that elevated stay-at-home motherhood as a feminine ideal after World War II. Indeed, their affluence gave most of them the choice to become and remain full-time homemakers. However, most also enjoyed the privileges of education, society, free time, and access to cultural and political events in a major city--all of which exposed them to messages that competed with the domestic ideal. At cocktail parties, they met guests involved with blockbuster deals or massive construction projects for the aerospace industry. They read books and newspapers, which drew them into after-church and poolside conversations about political and economic affairs. Some worked part-time in education, business, law, public relations, or other fields before, while, or after raising their children. Upwardly mobile, they embraced the "housewife" ideal as represented by television's Leave It to Beaver mother June Cleaver, but they also aspired to realize much more for themselves, their families, their communities, and the world. (10)

This essay, excerpted from a larger examination of women's involvement in the state's cold war conservative movement, (11) explores the role of four southern California women as right-wing activists. Although their personal histories cannot stand for the careers of all conservative women, they do shed light on the step-by-step process of political consciousness formation that gave shape to their conservative outlook. Right-wing politics attracted conservative women by offering them opportunities to apply their educational backgrounds and to form meaningful intellectual bonds with others involved in the struggle for a conservative order. Past experiences--including clashes with radicals, marriages to staunch conservatives, and childhoods in segregated or all-white communities that fostered suspicion of civil rights efforts--committed them to the postwar conservative movement. "Politically desperate" to have their voices heard, they were by no means hysterical or pathological but rather approached their activist work with a fervor and an urgency that demand scrutiny.


Historic tensions and recent developments explain the efflorescence of conservative activism in southern California. Turn-of-the-century Fabian Socialists found camaraderie in their adopted home of Pasadena, but so did the conservative business elite that dominated downtown Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s. (12) By the 1940s, however, the WASP eastside establishment found its open shop economic order challenged by leftists ascending economically through the film industry. (13) Hollywood raged with labor radicalism and Communist Party activity as the decade progressed. (14) During and after World War II, Los Angeles experienced unprecedented economic expansion as the aerospace, petroleum, motion picture, apparel, and other industries drew migrants and spawned sprawling subdivisions. (15)


The social, economic, and demographic consequences of growth exacerbated long-simmering political hostilities while adding new sources of friction. World War II planted light industry directly into working- and middle-class suburbs, which promoted trade unionism and brought African American, Mexican American, and immigrant workers into closer proximity with the white American-born population. (16) Strongly represented among the latter were recent arrivals from the western South who fled the economic carnage wrought by the Great Depression and resettled in Orange County and the working-class suburbs of south Los Angeles. (17)

Opposition to communism, racial mixing, the New Deal welfare state, and labor radicalism mixed with the desire for Christian revitalization and patriotic fervor to breed a local conservative movement that reverberated nationally. By the time Anastas Mikoyan arrived in 1959, southern California had become a focal point of the emerging right as conservatives began seizing control of the state GOP from moderates and assisting with similar transformations in the national party. Californians would prove pivotal in securing conservative Barry Goldwater the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 and in launching the political career of their governor, Ronald Reagan, who by the 1980s would complete the national conservative revolution.


In this milieu, housewives forged an activist culture that took advantage of the mobility, prosperity, and access to power provided them by the economic boom. Numerous forces politicized the women, including a burning desire for stimulation outside the home, the need to establish intellectual bonds, nudges from trusted kin, outreach by talented and impressive activist women, concerns about children, and racial attitudes developing since childhood. Right-wing politics, moreover, provided mechanisms for reconciling the common but often contradictory impulse among middle-class people to move human society forward--to be progressive and modern--but still preserve ways of life that made sense and felt meaningful. When the anticommunist group Minute Women of the U.S.A. invited all women, regardless of "race, creed, color, or political affiliation," to join its national ranks, it truly believed that it was advancing a pluralistic agenda even though its homogenous white, middle-class membership included staunch segregationists. Southern California housewives embraced a conservative movement that accommodated conflicting racial impulses. (18)


The path taken into conservative politics by Marjorie Jensen resembles that of many women devoted to their families but possessed of the educational background and life experiences that made it difficult for them to remain exclusively focused on domestic responsibilities. Jensen launched the Network of Patriotic Letter Writers and started a local chapter of the conservative John Birch Society in her home. Her husband's well-paid job provided her with the time, a nice house in the right neighborhood for hosting parties, and the financial stability necessary for fulltime activism.

Born and raised in Iowa, Jensen was the daughter of a small-town banker and housewife-mother. She worked as an experimental cook with food researcher Belie Lowe for McCall's magazine after receiving a bachelor's degree from Iowa State College and prior to starting her family. (19) When she first became involved in politics, the Jensens lived on Linda Vista Boulevard in the western hills of Pasadena, one of the city's most affluent enclaves. (20) Her husband Vernon worked for the highly successful engineering and oil refining company C. F. Braun, which operated a plant in nearby Alhambra. (21) The company had recruited the Midwesterner, a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Illinois, as a mathematician.

Owner Carl F. Braun wrote and published numerous books on management and leadership in addition to building a multimillion-dollar empire. A strong believer in motivational techniques, he also encouraged his engineers to read broadly in classical literature as a means of understanding their personal role as innovators in the advancement of human progress. Along with an office and paycheck, Vernon Jensen received a good dose of pro-industrial ideology--a message so essential to the company's daily operations that Marjorie, like Vernon, could not have escaped its reach. (22)


As the family settled into Pasadena, Jensen found herself fully occupied with the demands of motherhood. She became involved in politics only after her son and daughter started attending school. She could have chosen to go back to work, entering the labor force with a growing minority of women in her environs (between 1950 and 1960, the number of employed women in Jensen's neighborhood grew from 22 percent to 30 percent, and by the end of the decade, 40 percent of women in Pasadena were paid employees). (23) Instead, at the urging of her friend Natalie Story, whose husband carpooled with Vernon to work, she became involved in Pro-America. The national Seattle-based organization, started in 1932 to rally moral opposition among women against the New Deal, had established a strong cluster of units in southern California by the early 1950s. (24) Before long, research, meetings, and newsletter publishing absorbed her. The college-educated mother of two had found a way to direct her intellect beyond the confines of her household.

Less than five miles away, Marie King also made the transition from worker to housewife-activist. In 1956, she married Walter Koenig and quit her job as an executive secretary at the libertarian Christian nonprofit, Mobilization for Spiritual Ideals, popularly known as Spiritual Mobilization. (25) Like Jensen, she was occupied with the work of raising a family, but quickly discovered that politics provided a needed stimulant to her life. No fan of housework, she claimed that she joined organizations because she "had to get out of the house." (26)

Koenig divided her time among different conservative groups, cultural organizations, and women's professional associations. Although she had decided to leave the labor force on the eve of her wedding, she took pride in her work as a legal secretary for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio during the 1940s and her job at Spiritual Mobilization in the early 1950s. She now sought to build upon her career experiences by parlaying her organizational skills into volunteer work. As an activist, she stepped forward eagerly to plan events, contribute to newsletters, and deliver speeches. She attended lectures at hotel ballrooms where she socialized and addressed political issues with the speakers.

In the late 1950s, Koenig served as public relations director for the anticommunist Catholic group American Public Relations Forum while also attending the meetings of Pasadena's Tuesday Morning Study Club and Republican Women's Club, where she discussed the volumes of conservative literature she consumed regularly. Up until her death in 2004, she maintained a professional resume that itemized paid jobs and volunteer commitments, evidence of a diverse career history. (27)

Politics offered Marjorie Jensen and Marie Koenig opportunities to apply their minds. Their backgrounds--migration, professional experiences, and educational histories--made them averse to sitting on the sidelines as history moved forward and shaped their self-narratives of striving and upward mobility, motivating them to reach beyond their roles as homemakers. The conservative movement, however, held another important attraction: exposure to stimulating people they respected. Through their political work, right-wing women formed intellectually fulfilling relationships--a need basic to the human experience--and derived excitement from the camaraderie that, along with the principles at stake, is essential to virtually all political movements.


Although history typically casts conservative women as followers and workers rather than as leaders of political movements, (28) the influence exerted upon them by others demands scrutiny. Female activists often deferred to the authority of their male cohorts, but the meetings of the mind that accompanied bonds of affection and feelings of mutual admiration--enhanced by personal connections made face-to-face, through the mail, and in their own households--sustained the political commitment of conservative women.

Many couples embraced the conservative movement as a common marital passion. The activism of Marion and Paul Miller in west Los Angeles and Jane and Joseph Crosby in Pasadena demonstrates how political couples pushed and pulled each other rightward. Although Paul's and Joe's conservatism preceded that of their wives, the task of deciphering who led whom at what point proves difficult.

The Millers offer a dramatic story of politicization: both husband and wife served as volunteer spies for the FBI before turning to the conservative movement as an outlet for their anticommunist fervor. Although Paul embraced counterespionage work first, he tended to cede the spotlight to his wife. Jane Crosby, on the contrary, eschewed the limelight. She preferred to organize behind the scenes while her husband sought a more public leadership role in the GOP, remaining deeply involved throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the conservative takeover of the Republican Party and other major conservative movement accomplishments in California. While marital relationships served as common ground in the Crosby and Jensen households, a core excitement for ideas shaped the political careers of all four activists.

Raised in Miami, Marion Miller grew up in a small, middle-class Jewish family. The only child of a haberdasher, she felt the financial instability of the Depression, but did not suffer as a result of it. A good student, she attended a local university on scholarship and worked as a primary school teacher. Miller flirted with radicalism by joining a Zionist organization during her student days, but she eventually became stridently anticommunist through her relationship with Paul, whom she met at a USO party in 1943 and married a year later. (29)


Not until after their wedding did Paul break the news of his espionage activity to Marion. After moving to Jacksonville in 1939, a member of the National Maritime Union had approached him about joining the Communist Party. Instead of dismissing the organizer, Paul, a Merchant Marine, went to the local FBI office and proposed that he infiltrate the party as a volunteer for the bureau. The Jacksonville office agreed. The news of Paul's espionage--including some life-threatening assignments--must have been unsettling. Marion, however, rallied behind her new husband. In her memoir, she described him as "a romantic" and "patriot," in time deciding to enter the counterespionage business herself.

Miller started her new career in 1950, six years after the couple moved to Los Angeles, when her son Paul Jr. was a small boy and daughter Betsy an infant. A letter from the Los Angeles Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born (LACPFB), which she judged suspicious, inspired the first step. The letter's "intemperate" tone seemed subversive and put both wife and husband on guard. "Paul read it aloud," Miller recalled, "underscoring the passages that had raised his hackles as the scent of danger will raise the hackles of a wary and veteran beast."

The letter summoned Marion to a conference on the recently passed McCarran-Walter anti-immigration act. She and Paul supported the legislation as a buffer against alien communist infiltration and read the tirade against McCarran-Walter as an effort to reopen channels of subversion. Marion could barely get her food down that night, so sickened was she by the propaganda's references to "fascists" and "concentration camps." She balked, though, at Paul's insistence that she offer to spy for the local FBI office, relenting only after he volunteered to help with the children and pressed upon her the importance of volunteer agents: "There's never enough [military intelligence]. The Bureau will tell you that." The local FBI office accepted Marion's offer and sent her out the door with red-scare-spiked adrenaline pumping through her. "The conspiratorial framework of what I was doing excited me, yes. But that wasn't the main thing. The main thing was that I did sense the aura of danger, real danger, from the outset."

Miller's commitment to espionage work deepened when she joined the Communist Party and became the secretary at the LACPFB's downtown office. Paul also re-registered as a communist and attended party meetings. Miller worked simultaneously for the party, the LACPFB, and the FBI. Covertly, she generated a fourth carbon copy of documents she typed to secret away for the bureau.

In April 1955, five years of taking notes, recording names, absconding with letters, and copying documents came to an end when Miller testified against the LACPFB at a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which she represented the main link between the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (ACPFB) and the LACPFB. The appearance cost the Millers numerous friendships after the Foreign Born committee blanketed their west Los Angeles community with a letter describing Marion's activities. However, one person's enemy is another's hero. Conservatives cheered Miller upon publication of her experiences, first as a series in Readers Digest and as excerpts in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, (30) and then as the memoir I Was a Spy: The Story of a Brave Housewife. Miller also appeared on the hit television program "This Is Your Life." Many members of Jewish community groups supported her, including the local B'nai B'rith chapter, which appointed her president, and Jewish anticommunist organizations, which made her a spokesperson.

Unlike Miller, Jane Crosby did not win recognition and media attention, but her name occasionally graced the pages of local newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. In addition to her numerous Republican Party activities, Crosby started one of the earliest John Birch Society chapters in Los Angeles County and established the South Pasadena Americanism Center conservative bookstore. (31) The Crosbys had been married for more than a decade and had two sons by the time Jane became politically active in the 1950s. Natives of the San Gabriel Valley, neither attended college, partly because they got married following their high school graduation and partly because of Joe's participation in the war effort.

As a new bride in 1938, Crosby worked for several years in the Pasadena school district until her children were born, when it became more convenient to earn an income through a small mimeograph printing business operated from the family's garage. The literature she printed, coupled with Joe's conservative influence, transformed her from a Roosevelt Democrat into a conservative Republican. (32)


Crosby started paying more attention to politics after she and Joe wrangled over the presidential elections of the 1940s. She wanted to vote for Roosevelt; he told her she should not. (33) The argument, however, planted a seed, for following the dispute, she read materials she printed for the League of Women Voters that she judged as too liberal. The pamphlet "Packaged Thinking for Women" (1948), placed in her hands by another female client, proved much more convincing, as her conservative husband had opened her mind to its message: feminists, together with the national media, had been spoon-feeding American women their political ideology since the 1920s. (34) Shortly thereafter, she joined the South Pasadena Republican Women's Club, became active in the Tuesday Morning Study Club, and lectured on communism. In the 1960s, she opened the bookstore, joined the John Birch Society, and helped launch the United Republicans of California (UROC), which became a conservative bulwark within the state GOP. (35) When Joe became UROC chairman in 1966, she ran its office. (36)


Together, husband and wife dove into the presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. The 1964 primary's voter drive was a highlight of Crosby's political career. Using relationships that she and Joe had cultivated with Republicans in Goldwater's home state through the family's fertilizer business, she organized a bus trip for Arizona volunteers who wanted to help their candidate win the critical battleground state of California. The out-of-towners helped South Pasadena campaign workers canvas neighborhoods and, at the end of the day, enjoyed a cookout at the Crosby's home. The Crosbys also joined several Republicans around South Pasadena who boarded guests. "We had a great big backyard," she recalled, "and they all went out and did precinct work, this whole busload from Arizona." (37)

As UROC chairman, Joe became friendly with Ronald Reagan, who consulted the couple when deciding whether or not to run for governor. Discussions with the future president over dinner at fundraisers convinced Jane that Reagan was "not a politician." He was different, she believed, because he sincerely wanted to trim government bureaucracy. His charisma also captivated her. "I just fell in love with that man," she remarked. (38)

Husbands influenced the political worldview of their wives, but so did many other individuals. Friendships formed the basis of activist networks just as activist networks formed the basis of friendships. Conservative organizations, moreover, served as institutions of empowerment, where female activists often pushed each other to go beyond their husbands' political commitments. Members joined, in many cases, because they admired the women in the organization and wanted to emulate them.

Part of Pro-America's appeal to Marjorie Jensen was its membership. Louise Hawkes Padelford, the locally celebrated benefactor of the arts whom Jensen described as "the most interesting person," (39) impressed her especially. The tall, lithe, well-dressed Pasadena woman with a Ph.D. from Columbia University hailed from the East, where her father had served as U.S. senator from New Jersey. (40) Padelford lived in a spacious mission-style home with her husband and children in the beautiful San Raphael hills on the west side of town, not far from the Jensens. (41) She also reveled in the sense of sisterhood cultivated by conservative women's organizations. Her house included a "portrait gallery of wonderful women," as Padelford herself described the space, so that visitors could "send out loving vibrations" to those she held in greatest esteem. (42) Among those who graced her walls beamed the visage of Lucille Cardin Crain of Washington, D.C., coauthor of "Packaged Thinking for Women," (43) who had become a good friend through Pro-America. (44)

Like Louise Padelford, Jane Crosby possessed a charisma that drew other women into the conservative arena. Intelligent and friendly, she projected an optimism and intensity that motivated others. Ginger Trowbridge, also of Pasadena, became an admirer. Busy with church activities, Girl Scouts, and room mother duties, Trowbridge never intended for politics to consume her. Since her parents had been active in the GOP, though, she accepted an invitation to join the local Republican Women's Club, where she met Crosby.

When Crosby opened the South Pasadena Americanism Center, Trowbridge signed up as a volunteer because Crobsy had so impressed her: "She was well informed; she was gracious ... she had her facts down pat. And she was quite a leader, an organizer." It did not matter that Crosby was a member of the John Birch Society, which Trowbridge deemed "a little wild-eyed." (45) She joined Crosby's center because it provided her with an intellectual environment she was ready to exploit.

Most of what her cohorts said made sense to her, and she could block out the John Birch Society-inspired conspiracy theories that she regarded as less than compelling.


While bonds of friendship, kinship, and marriage politicized women, experiences and choices of the past also steered them toward the conservative movement. The places they were raised, as well as events in the workforce, conflicts with leftists, and interracial encounters, or lack thereof, influenced how amenable they would be to conservative ideas once exposed to them. Some activists were born into probusiness worldviews and membership in the Republican Party, while financial success or negative encounters with leftists inspired conservatism in others. World War II, moreover, fueled a patriotic fervor that made many budding activists sympathetic to national loyalty purges.

Race attitudes formed over decades also found traction in the emerging right. Originating from biracial or all-white worlds in which they enjoyed majority advantages, most women activists never faced racial discrimination, took segregation for granted as a natural state of affairs, or failed to recognize their white privilege. As upwardly mobile middle-class people who relished their participation in national progress, however, they did not see themselves as racist. Their conflicting impulses about racial change--wanting to support progress but not supportive of the proposed formulas for that progress--found resolution in the conservative movement, which cast blame for racial discord on meddling government bureaucrats and radicals bent on fomenting social unrest. Although racism complemented political attitudes across the entire left-right spectrum, antistatism and anticommunism allowed conservatives much greater opportunity to act on their racial fears while denying that those fears existed. The steady accumulation of experiences and choices conditioned women to trust, incorporate, and eventually propagate the race ideology they encountered.

Marie Koenig's work for Spiritual Mobilization catalyzed her political career, but only after the labor movement had failed to do so. Her reluctant participation in a strike, as well as her enthusiastic participation in the war effort as a volunteer, prepared her mind for the seeds of conservatism that libertarian James Fifield would plant there a few years later.

As a legal secretary at MGM, Koenig was a member of the Screen Office Employees Union, part of the larger Conference of Studio Unions (CSU). (46) A 1945 studio-wide labor action hardened her against Hollywood radicals. Strike leader and CSU president Herbert K. Sorrell carried the fight to industry executives, demanding that they recognize and bargain collectively with a set designers local. (47) Many of CSU's leaders belonged to the Communist Party, and Sorrell brought the organization in line with party doctrine. (48)

When the union gathered for a strike vote, Koenig disapproved of the speeches delivered by Sorrell and other strike leaders. The "vituperative denunciations" against studio executives, she recalled decades later, made her uncomfortable. (49) Voting against the union's majority, and choosing not to join the other striking locals, she nevertheless participated in the industry-wide action on behalf of the set designers. The strike halted production at RKO, Fox Film Corporation (later 20th Century-Fox), Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., and MGM. Fifteen thousand workers participated. (50)

Koenig hated the way strikers enforced the picket and she empathized with scabs, deciding ultimately to cross the picket line herself. She took shorthand statements from workers who returned to their jobs, typed the documents, secured signatures, and handed them over to executives. She remembered a "... driver who had attempted to cross the picket line with his truck, but had it overturned by the mob with some attendant injury to himself." (51) The strike lasted 238 days. (52) On October 5, trouble broke out at the Warner Bros. studio in the form of tear-gas and fire hoses. Koenig grew increasingly disgusted as friendships languished while coworkers lost homes, cars, and savings. (53)

Union members again declared a strike in 1946 at Warner Bros., MGM, RKO, and smaller studios. "There were frequent confrontations, mass arrests, and trials of dozens of strikers on various charges," writes historian Kevin Start. "Hollywood became an industrial nightmare." (54) Koenig resigned in October of 1946 and spent the next four years working as a law firm assistant before joining Spiritual Mobilization. (55)

Koenig's discomfort with racial mixing also pushed her rightward. Later in life she described herself as a "Jeffersonian Democrat" who turned Republican after moving from the South to the West Coast. She joined the southern "Dixiecrat" congressmen who bolted the Democratic Party for violating Jeffersonian "states' rights" principles by advocating federal enforcement of a civil rights law. Like many conservatives within and outside the South, she opposed government-sponsored desegregation.

Koenig had moved to California from New Orleans, a region heavily populated by African Americans but deeply segregated and dominated by whites. Blacks represented about one-third of her hometown population. (56) Overwhelmingly-white Los Angeles, by contrast, grew more multiracial during the 1950s as Koenig rooted herself in the metropolitan region. Even though she rarely spoke about the color line directly, she believed that people of different races should not integrate. (Segregation had not represented a political priority for Koenig when she lived in Hollywood, perhaps because the demographics of her neighborhood remained stable throughout the 1940s. She had encountered people of color during her commute to work at the studios and to volunteer activities in Pasadena, but less often in her own backyard. (57))

Race matters could not be avoided, however, after the Warren court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, when Koenig was raising her children. By that time, she was deeply involved in the local anticommunist crusade and libertarian politics. In addition to her work at Spiritual Mobilization, she and her boss had launched a side project: the Foundation for Social Research, a nonprofit organization that published conservative literature. (58) During this time, the Koenigs moved to Pasadena, a historically wealthy, white residential community rapidly industrializing as light manufacturing companies, research laboratories, and engineering firms established themselves within its borders. (59) The city's population had eclipsed 100,000 after World War II, when working-class African, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese Americans moved there along with upwardly mobile whites. The black population of Pasadena grew from 3 to 12 percent between 1950 and 1960. (60)


Koenig was now so suspicious of centralized government that she confronted the racial transformations with a well-honed critique of state power. The literature she read by civil rights opponents who disavowed racism and proudly embraced white supremacy helped her to articulate her own position on segregation. Her writing about integration and intermarriage reveal sympathy with the ideas expressed in the many issues of Southern Conservative she accumulated during the 1950s. (61)

But conflicting ideologies persisted. One day she might read an article in the Southern Conservative by editor Ida Darden asserting that "... [m]ongrelization of the white race is one of the first requisites in setting up a one-world Communist government." (62) The next day she might attend a lecture at Reverend James Fifleld's Freedom Club, where speakers did not discourse openly about "mongrelization of the white race." (63) She also attended the meetings of American Public Relations Forum, where in 1952 a priest lectured its members on the evils of segregation and race discrimination in the South, (64) though at another meeting that same year, forum leaders suggested that members obtain copies of the anti-Semitic treatise "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." (65)

Despite these inconsistencies, Koenig remained a stalwart race conservative. Whether or not she shared Darden's fears about "mongrelization," she deeply admired Fifield to her dying day, even though she withdrew her family from his First Congregational Church in 1958. (66) She could not tolerate the pro-civil rights literature her daughter brought home from Sunday school. "It would be inconsistent for me," she wrote in a 1958 letter to the influential pastor, "to be writing letters against FEPC [Fair Employment Practices Commission] to Board of Supervisor members and the California Legislature, only to send my child to church to learn 'that civil rights and fair employment practice legislation are necessary because minority groups would get less than justice without them." (67) Although Fifield had spoken out vehemently in the past against state-sponsored desegregation, attacking the FEPC in particular, the Sunday school teacher's breach of political alignment proved too much for Koenig to tolerate even once. (68)

Marjorie Jensen similarly mistrusted the civil rights movement and denounced racial integration. Had she remained in her hometown of Winterset, Iowa, she would have encountered few African Americans, as only a handful of black residents entered the census rolls of Madison County between 1920 and 1940. (69) Like many states north of the Mason-Dixon line, Iowa might have been less rigidly segregated than the South, but by no means was it integrated. The Iowa Supreme Court had struck down a state segregation law in 1868 in the spirit of civil rights reform, but the decision failed to mandate integration of public institutions. As African Americans entered the region in greater numbers in the early twentieth century, Iowa communities freely enforced the color line. (70) Especially as economic opportunities brought multitudes of black migrants north during and after World War I, Midwesterners met the wave of newcomers only with segregated institutions, including schools. As late as 1946, Iowa's flagship institution of higher learning, the University of Iowa, continued to deny residence in its dormitories to African American students. (71)

Jensen and her family moved to the Los Angeles metropolitan area in the early 1940s, first to west Los Angeles and then to Pasadena, both white enclaves that edged communities experiencing rapid demographic changes. (72) Her background might have caused her to judge these changes with a flank openness, since she had had so little experience with people of color. At the time, however, she became more deeply involved with women who coached her to be wary of these transformations. In the early 1950s, her friends in Pro-America, along with a cohort of Pasadena residents, succeeded in pressuring a school superintendent, Willard Goslin, to resign his office under the threat of a state-sponsored, anticommunist investigation. In addition to pushing progressive education methods, Goslin had angered conservative parents by desegregating part of the school district. (73) Although Pro-America made little mention of "integration" in its anti-Goslin protests, members blamed the growing local civil rights coalition for inciting racial discord while accusing Goslin of using the school system to perform social experiments.

These arguments, which laid more blame on radicals than minority groups, proved easy for Jensen to swallow. Though educated and politically curious, she never appreciated the ill effects of racial discrimination and those she trusted did not encourage her to recognize the problems of segregation. Rejecting the civil rights movement as a bottom-up campaign for racial justice that benefited people of color, she denounced it as a top-down movement instigated by white radicals to incite revolution for the benefit of their own power. She later accused the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations of igniting the 1964 Watts riots and suggested that the desire for interracial marriage motivated civil rights activists. (74)

Jensen's and Koenig's political activism illustrates how conservative suspicion of centralized power and radicalism attracted adherents by affirming instincts. The emerging body of antistatist thought pulled numerous threads together, providing an ideological structure that helped conservatives see a forest through the trees. In fact, female activists from the 1950s and 1960s remember their politicization as a process of enlightenment, or awakening.

The conservative movement introduced women to people who could open their eyes--help them lift their heads from the minutiae of their everyday lives--to see how developments unfolding before them fit into larger social and political contexts. Such a development was the public education system, an exasperating source of frustration for Jensen, Crosby, and other women who were deeply involved in their children's schools. It was not until other conservatives provided the political perspectives necessary to formalize their objections to changes in the curriculum and to segregation that they were able to articulate their concerns.


Many historical developments propelled conservatism into a powerful movement in California after World War II, including unprecedented prosperity, expansion of the military-industrial complex, growth of the suburbs, and the influx of residents from other parts of the United States, Mexico, and the world. Historians must examine such transformative economic, industrial, spatial, and demographic patterns to understand the ascent of the right. Indeed, patriotic fervor, concern about national security, interest in reestablishing a spiritual and moral high ground, pursuit of upward mobility, and perception of racial disorder fomented conservatism. None of the common sentiments or aspirations that united conservatives can be understood without understanding the larger structural transformations they confronted.

History of the postwar right also demands close scrutiny of its activists: their everyday lives, the evolution of their thoughts, their families, their intellectual production, and their relationships with each other. Conservatives became powerful not only because people with means knew how to act in their own best economic interest by electing their candidates and advancing their policies. Conservatism grew into a recognizable movement with an activist base driven by a strong sense of righteousness. Where their opponents saw blind fury and insecurity in their hearts, they saw courage in each other. Examining the process of political consciousness formation shows how becoming a conservative activist felt empowering and stimulating. Conservative women saw themselves as loving, not hating, their way into politics.

Economic success shaped the political imperatives of housewife-activists such as Marjorie Jensen, Jane Crosby, and Marie Koenig, but they could have accessed other options for augmenting their family's wealth. All had worked at satisfying jobs at various points in their lives, and during the time of their activism, women in their communities increasingly sought paid employment opportunities outside the home. Koenig, moreover, might have landed on the other side of her political battles if she had formed strong friendships with Screen Office Employee Union organizers. Had she then gone to work for the Los Angeles Times in the midst of its transformation from a conservative to moderate-liberal newspaper and found inspiration in editor Otis Chandler rather than joining the staff of Spiritual Mobilization, might that have resulted in a very different activist career?

Legions of southern California women exploited the economic, political, civic, and cultural opportunities afforded them by the growth of metropolitan Los Angeles after World War II. Sororities, women's business and professional associations, neighborhood associations, junior leagues, Democratic Women's clubs, and PTAs filled the women's pages of the Los Angeles Times with announcements of meetings, fundraisers, and officer installations. (75) Like activists on the left, however, Marjorie Jensen, Jane Crosby, Marie Koenig, and Marion Miller felt moved by a deeply ingrained confidence in their convictions and identified with their willingness to push hard to realize justice. Conservative activism in California thrived due to the choices they--and other housewife-activists--made.


(1) Harrison Salisbury, "Mikoyan's Hectic Goodwill Tour Impressing Public and Him Too," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1959, 3.

(2) Harrison E. Salisbury, "California 'Peace Parley' Is Proposed to Mikoyan," New York Times, Jan. 12, 1959, I.

(3) Robert T. Hartmann, "Plan for Mikoyan Visit Here Mapped," Los Angeles Times, Jan. 7, 1959, I; W. Erdmay to Marie Koenig, n.d., Network of Patriotic Letter Writers/ Conservative Groups, Marie Koenig Collection, Huntington Library (hereafter cited as Koenig Collection).

(4) "Mikoyan Arrives in City under Close Guard," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1959, I; Peter Kthss, "Mikoyan to Meet Bank Group Here," New York Times, Jan. 13, 1959, 3.

(5) Erdmay to Koenig, n.d., Koenig Collection.

(6) Important Los Angeles liberals who came to power in the 1950s included Rosalind Wiener Wyman and Edward Roybal on the Los Angeles City Council as well as John Anson Ford and Kenneth Hahn on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. For more on liberalism and the moderate civil rights movement in postwar Los Angeles, see Shana Bernstein, "Building Bridges at Home in a Time of Global Conflict: Interracial Cooperation and the Fight for Civil Rights in Los Angeles, 1933-1954" (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 2003) and Daniel Wei HoSang, "Racial Propositions: 'Genteel Apartheid' in Southern California" (Ph. D. diss., University of Southern California, 2007).

(7) For the history of post-World War II conservative activism, see Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 200l), Jonathan M. Schoenwald, A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 200l); Donald T. Critchlow, Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade (Princeton, N]: Princeton University Press, 2005); Mary C. Brennan, Wives, Mothers, and the Red Menace: Conservative Women and the Crusade Against Communism (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2008); Michelle Nickerson, "Domestic Threats: Women, Gender and Conservatism in Cold War Los Angeles, 1945-1966" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2003).

(8) For more on conservative bookstores, see Michelle Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, forthcoming), appendix.

(9) Nickerson, "Domestic Threats," chapters 3 and 4.

(10) This study of conservative women in southern California joins a body of literature on female political activism in the 1950S that, collectively, demands a reconsideration of the iconic 1950S housewife. As these histories accumulate they further challenge popular understandings about women's engagement with domesticity, community, child-rearing, politics, and wage work while illuminating the complexity of women's personal, intellectual, and sexual relationships. See Joanne Meyerowitz, ed., Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994); Sylvie Murray, The Progressive Housewife: Community Activism in Suburban Queens, 1945-1964 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003); Daniel Horowitz, Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminist Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War and Modern Feminism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998); Gerda Lerner, Fireweed: A Political Autobiography (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Dorothy Sue Cobble, The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); McGirr, Suburban Warriors.

(11) Michelle Nickerson, Mothers of Con servatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, forthcoming), chapter 2.

(12) Kevin Starr, California: A History (New York: Modern Library, 2005), 159; David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (New York: Knopf, 1979), 268-27.

(13) Mike Davis, City of Quartz (New York: Vintage, 1990), 114-21.

(14) Kevin Starr, Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 288-90.

(15) Josh Sides, L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 58; Becky M. Nicolaides, My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 188.

(16) National Commission for the Defense of Democracy through Education, The National Education Association, The Pasadena Story (Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1951), 8; Clyde M. Hill and Lloyd N. Morrisett, Pasadena Faces the Future: Abridged Report of the Cooperative Study of the Pasadena City Schools (Pasadena, CA: Geddes Press, 1952), 28-29; Charles Wollenberg, All Deliberate Speed: Segregation and Exclusion in California Schools, 1855-1975 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 140-41.

(17) Darren Dochuk, "From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Southernization of Southern California," (Ph.D. diss., Notre Dame University, 2005), 14; Dochuk, "Evangelicalism Becomes Southern: Politics Becomes Evangelical: From FDR to Ronald Reagan," in Mark Noll and Luke E. Harlow, ed., Religion and American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 301-2.

(18) "Minute Women Band to Fight Reds and Pinks," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1950, Part I, 4, Koenig Collection.

(19) Marjorie Jensen, interview by author, tape recording, Pasadena, CA, July 15, 2002, (hereafter cited as Jensen interview), 2.

(20) Census records indicate that households in the Jensen's neighborhood reported the highest median income for most of Pasadena. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Los Angeles and Adjacent Areas: Characteristics of the Population, by Census Tracts, 1950 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1950), 40.

(21) "Multi-million Dollar Plant Ready for Research," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 1950, A-6.

(22) Carl F. Braun wrote at least nine books. Maurice L. Rider, "Engineers are Writers Too," College English, no. 5 (Feb. 1954): 292.

(23) U.S. census records for 1950 indicate that 166 of the 77[degrees] women in Jensen's neighborhood answered that they were "working" most of last week rather than "keeping house" on the questionnaire. Any of the 71 of those 166 identified as "private household workers" or "service workers" might have been live-in staff, however. These statistics suggest that 12 percent or more of the middle- and upper-class wives and mothers in Jensen's neighborhood worked in the paid labor force. However, when domestic and service workers are included as part of the neighborhood, 22 percent of women living in the Linda Vista section of Pasadena worked as paid employees. Ten years later, in 1960, 30 percent of all Linda Vista neighborhood women worked in the labor force. If private household and service workers are excluded, that number falls to 25 percent. Forty percent of women in Pasadena that year identified as employed. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Seventeenth Census of the United States, Census of the Population: 1950: Census Tract Statistics, Los Angeles, California and Adjacent Area (Washington, DC: GPO, 1952), 115; U.S. Census Bureau, History, 1950 (Population), questionnaire, of_questions/023311.html; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighteenth Census of the United States, Census of the Population and Housing: 1960: Census Tracts Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif. (Washington, DC: GPO, 1961), 514; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighteenth Census of the United States: 1960: Census of Population, Volume I, Characteristics of Population, Part 6: California (Washington, DC: GPO, 1961), 224.

(24) When the organization Pro-America formed, it called itself National Association Pro-America, National Organization of Republican Women, Inc. By the 1950s, it referred to itself as Pro-America. June Melby Benowitz, Days of Discontent: American Women and Right-Wing Politics, 1933-1945 (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), 16-17; Catherine Rymph, Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 61.

(25) Marie Koenig, interview by author, tape recording, Pasadena, CA, Apr. 5, 2001 (hereafter cited as Koenig interview), 2.

(26) Ibid., 16.

(27) Marie Koenig, "Curriculum Vitae--Marie Harriet King Koenig," personal collection of Marie Koenig, 1-4.

(28) As journalist Andrea Dworkin wrote in Right Wing Women, "The Right in the United States today is a social and political movement controlled totally by men but built largely on the fear and ignorance of women." Andrea Dworkin, Right Wing Women (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc, 1982), 34. Although recent scholarship refrains from characterizing conservative women as submissive and ignorant, histories of conservatism continue to insist that intellectuals led while activists followed. This model of politicization accepts elitist assumptions about conservatism at face value while perpetuating the entrenched notion that rightwing politics is necessarily male-dominated. See Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 63, and Jonathan M. Schoenwald, A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 6.

(29) Information about and recollections by Miller in this section are attributable to her memoir; Marion Miller, I Was a Spy: The Story of a Brave Housewife (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1960), 33, 36, 38, 52, 55-56, 61, 63, 78, 193, 199-200.

(30) Marion Miller, "Accepted as Card-Carrying Communist," Los Angeles Herald Examiner Sept. 28, 1960, B-8), Regional History Collection, University of Southern California, Doheny Memorial Library, Special Collections.

(31) Jane Crosby, interview by author, tape recording, San Juan Capistrano, CA, Feb. 26, 2001, (hereafter cited as Crosby interview), 12, 15.

(32) Crosby interview, 8, 9, 10-11.

(33) Crosby interview, 10.

(34) Lucille Cardin Crain and Anne Burrows Hamilton, Packaged Thinking for Women (New York: American Affairs Pamphlets, 1948), 8; Crosby interview, II.

(35) Gene Blake, "Birch Program in Southland Told," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 8, 1961, 2; Crosby interview, 6, 15.

(36) Crosby interview, 17.

(37) Ibid., I.

(38) Ibid., 3, 22.

(39) Jensen interview, 3-4.

(40) Ibid.; David Hulburd, This Happened in Pasadena (New York: Macmillan Co.: 1951), 58-59; "Louise Padelford, Patron of Education and Arts, Dies," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 26, 1979, B3.

(41) Jensen interview, 3-4; Hulburd, This Happened in Pasadena, 58-59.

(42) Louise Hawkes Padelford to Lucille Car din Crain, Jan. 30, 1951, Lucille Cardin Crain Papers, 1920-1978, Manuscript Collections, Special Collections & University Archives, Coll. 095, University of Oregon (hereafter cited as Crain Collection).

(43) Ibid.

(44) Jensen interview, 3.

(45) Virginia Trowbridge, interview by author, tape recording, Pasadena, CA, Feb. 15, 2001, 6, 10.

(46) Marie Koenig, "Attempt by Communists to Control California's Movie Industry," unpublished essay (1985), personal collection of Marie Koenig, 3-4.

(47) "A.F.L. Unions' Fight Paralyzes Studios," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 13, 1945, I.

(48) Kevin Start, Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 288.

(49) Koenig, "Attempt by Communists," 3.

(50) "A.F.L. Unions' Fight Paralyzes Studios," Los Angeles Times.

(51) Koenig, "Attempt by Communists," 4.

(52) Starr, Embattled Dreams, 287.

(53) Koenig, "Attempt by Communists," 5.

(54) Starr, Embattled Dreams, 287.

(55) Koenig, "Attempt by Communists," 5.

(56) Census records for Orleans Parish in 1940 indicate that 149,034 of the total population of 494,537 was African American. University of Virginia Library, Geospacial and Statistical Data Center, Historical Census Browser, Census data for Orleans Parish in 1940,

(57) To view homogeneity of Hollywood in 1940, see in Philip J. Ethington, 1940: Racial Majorities Los Angeles Counties, Census 2000 Race Contours Project, http:// ton_maps_40-00.htm.

(58) Marie Koenig to Linda Anne Hauser, 1956, James C. Ingebretsen Papers, 1941-1977, Manuscripts Collection, Special Collections & University Archives, Coll. 147, PH 079, University of Oregon.

(59) Clyde M. Hill and Lloyd N. Morrisett, Pasadena Faces the Future: Abridged Report of the Cooperative Study of the Pasadena Schools (Pasadena, CA: Geddes Press, 1952), 27-28.

(60) National Commission for the Defense of Democracy through Education, The National Education Association, The Pasadena Story (Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1951), 7-8; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Seventeenth Census of the United States, Census of the Population, Vol. II, Characteristics of the Population, Part 5, 1950 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1952), 5-101; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Eighteenth Census of the United States: 1960: Census of Population, Vol. I, Characteristics of Population, Part 6: California (Washington, DC: GPO, 1961), 6-139.

(61) In the mid-1960s, Marie Koenig gave lectures to parents groups against the progressive eighth-grade history textbook, Land of the Free. In the notes for her speeches she wrote: "I realize that Negroes have to have some identity, but racial tensions if there are any, will not be eased by intermarrying and causing more neurotics, who find it difficult to identify themselves with either the black or the white races.... Many individuals who are of mixed blood undoubtedly do become somewhat neurotic and then turn to movements of a radical nature to fill a void." Marie Koenig, "Land of the Free by John W. Caughey, John Hope Franklin, Ernest R. May," [notes for speech, ca. 1966/1967], personal collection of Marie Koenig, 35.

(62) Ida Darden, "'The First Point of Attack is the Brain of American Youth,'" The Southern Conservative (Mar. 1956), Ida M. Darden Collection, 1950-1961, MSS 0072, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, I.

(63) "Freedom Club Presents James W. Fifield, Jr., D.D. 'We Have Just Begun to Fight!'" Freedom Club Bulletin, May 20, 1958, I, Radical Right Collection, 1907-1982, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University.

(64) "American Public Relations Forum, Inc.," report of Aug. 15, 1952, meeting, Community Relations Committee, Urban Archives, California State University, Northridge, (hereafter cited as CRC), 3-4. The Community Relations Committee was a Jewish civil rights organization in Los Angeles that monitored right-wing and anti-Semitic activity.

(65) "American Public Relations Forum, Inc.," report of June 6, 1952, meeting, CRC, I.

(66) During her interview in 2001, when Koe nig was 82, she described James Fifield as a "... brilliant, marvelous, marvelous man." She failed to mention her decision to leave the First Congregational Church when its Sunday School taught literature to children that supported the Civil Rights movement, Marie Koenig interview, 13; Marie Koenig to James W. Fifield, Apr. 23, 1958, Koenig Collection, 2.

(67) Koenig to Fifield, Apr. 23, 1958.

(68) For more on James Fifield, see Kim

Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: Norton, 2009), 70-73.

(69) University of Virginia Library, Geospacial and Statistical Data Center, Historical Census Browser, census data for Madison and Polk Counties, Iowa, 1920, 1930, 1940.

(70) The 1868 Iowa Supreme Court decision Clark v. Board of Directors struck down an 1858 law that mandated school segregation. Although it did not outlaw segregation, it did prohibit the state from enforcing Jim Crow. Davison M. Douglas, Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle Over Northern School Segregation, 1865-1954 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 75-77.

(71) Richard Breaux, "'Maintaining a Home for Girls:' The Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs at the University of Iowa, 1919-1950," Journal of African American History 87 (Spring 2002): 236.

(72) Jensen interview, 2; for rapid demo graphic changes in West Los Angeles, see Philip J. Ethington, Census 2000 Race Contours Project, sppd/research/census2000/race_census/ racecontours/ethington_maps_40-00.htm.

(73) Hulburd, This Happened in Pasadena, 55-61, 67-85, 115, 153.

(74) "Sees Communism at Fault," Network of Patriotic Letter Writers (1965), personal collection of Marie Koenig; "Black and White Together," Network of Patriotic Letter Writers (1965), Koenig Collection, 2.

(75) In the four years after World War II, the Sunday Women's Section of the Los Angeles Times generally featured from forty to eighty short articles. About 40 to 50 percent covered women's club activities with the remainder of space devoted to wedding, engagement, or birth announcements, fashion, beauty, home management, and other issues (see chart below). For more on the Los Angeles Times Women's Section, see David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (New York: Knopf, 1979), 272-74.

MICHELLE NICKERSON is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Dallas. She holds a PhD in American Studies from Yale University. Her book Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right will be published by Princeton University Press in 2010.
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