The Loss of One Classy Republican
November 17, 2012 6:31 AM Subscribe
Helen Wallbank Milliken, former Michigan First Lady and strong supporter of women's rights, passed away late yesterday. Married to William Milliken, Republican governor of Michigan from 1969 to 1983, Helen Milliken was both a strong proponent of both the ERA and of abortion rights.
In 1980, she skipped the opening ceremonies of the Republican National Convention in Detroit -- of which Gov. Milliken was a co-host -- to attend a protest march outside the convention decrying the party's decision to remove pro-ERA language from its platform. She also was an ardent supporter of abortion rights, in 1987 describing "all other rights" of a woman of "limited value" without the right to choose when to bear children.
"She was a fearless leader in her own right," said Craig Ruff, another former aide. "Right before the 1978 election, the Legislature placed a bill on the governor's desk that would have prohibited Medicaid funding for abortion. He vetoed it, much to the consternation of his political consultants who thought it was much too dangerous a move. I saw her several days later, and she was just beaming. She was so proud of the governor, who had done such a politically dangerous move."
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