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."
posted by still_wears_a_hat (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
ERA = Equal Rights Amendment.
posted by Mitheral at 6:34 AM on November 17, 2012

posted by SNACKeR at 6:35 AM on November 17, 2012

posted by arcticseal at 6:41 AM on November 17, 2012

posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on November 17, 2012

posted by clavdivs at 7:18 AM on November 17, 2012

posted by gaspode at 7:22 AM on November 17, 2012


for a fine, brave woman who makes me proud to be a Michigander.
posted by Chrischris at 7:24 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have to admit I didn't recall her activism and advocacy as much as I recall him as the last of the great moderate Republicans in Michigan. (The state, my beloved state, has faltered not just because of past disastrous auto industry management but because of R strangleholds on the govt. )

But we really had some incredible "political wives" in MI. (Jane Hart being another.)

posted by NorthernLite at 7:38 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

My grandmother admired her. My mother admired her. I admired her.

posted by MaritaCov at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2012

Milliken, like Pere Romney, was a pretty great governor despite being a Republican. Strong on consumer protections, moderate on social issues.
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on November 17, 2012

Yep. Young voters don't realize that at one time there were rational caring Republicans.

posted by notreally at 1:33 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by the young rope-rider at 1:57 PM on November 17, 2012

Mitheral: "ERA = Equal Rights Amendment."

Wow, it wouldn't have occurred to me that you'd have to explain what that meant but you're probably right. Sad.

posted by octothorpe at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's less obvious to non-Americans.
posted by Mitheral at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2012

Sure but it made me realize that even though it was a big deal when I was young, it's been dead for thirty years now and that even Americans younger than forty probably aren't familiar with it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:33 PM on November 17, 2012

posted by BlueHorse at 6:32 PM on November 17, 2012

posted by hydropsyche at 6:29 AM on November 18, 2012

She (and her husband) were held up to me when I was a child as an example of why we shouldn't hate Republicans, despite Nixon.
posted by QIbHom at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2012

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