In 2000, Hillary was running for senator. While she ran around NY state campaigning, the wisecracking journalist and historian Gail Collins followed her. Collins wrote:
“The thing I remember most about those trips from Oneonta to Cooperstown to Horseheads — besides the tedium — was the intense reaction she got from middleaged women, who yelled and waved and begged for autographs,” says Collins. “They were the ones who remembered what it was like when the newspapers had separate ‘help wanted’ columns for men and women, who needed a male cosigner when they got their first car loans. I suspected that a lot of them, like me, still had credit cards in their husbands’ names because that was just the way things worked when they first began to charge stuff…
“…Hillary Clinton represented the possibility of a second act. The country was full of women who had come of age with the women’s revolution, who had tried to have it all, raising children while having good — but maybe not spectacular — careers.
Now there was the about-to-retire first lady, in her new persona, suggesting they might be able to start a whole new episode in life.
“Driving around through upstate New York, Clinton was in the home territory of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had broken the old rules about staying home, rearing the kids and then retiring to a rocking chair. Stanton (1815-1902) in particular argued that instead of the end, middle age could be a jumping-off point for adventure. You could do all the things you weren’t able to do when the children were young — you could travel, make speeches, start newspapers, lead rallies.
You could do things no women had done before in the public arena, because you looked mature and trustworthy and people could see you had paid your dues.
“The prospect was so exciting, women began writing paeans to menopause as a time for ‘superexaltation.'”
I enjoyed the underlying message of this book, that women have always been strong, broken barriers, forged new pathways. How wonderful and comforting to think women were discussing the possibility of midlife accomplishment in the late-eighteen hundreds in America.
As a Female-American in my seventh decade, I know from personal experience how far we women have come. I remember growing up in a sexist society, and am grateful it’s changing. But now, I’m pissed off that it’s ageist, and all my old buttons are being pushed.
Let’s fight ageism together. Instead of moaning about the ravages of old age, let’s celebrate our superexaltation. We “look mature and trustworthy” and people can see we’ve paid our dues. This can open a lot of doors.
I feel stronger now. I sense the possibilities, the new opportunity for the attainment of goals in older age, for the pursuit of dreams in the second half of life. It’s what our foremothers dreamed of and fought for. I want to make them proud. So I’m writing and learning piano and started a Writers’ Guild in my city. These are my dreams. What are yours? Are you pursuing them? Any progress to tell us about? Share your thoughts, so we can all be lifted up. Here’s to the dream, Sisters.