Thursday, September 14, 2006

Remembering Ms. Ann -- A great leader, an inspiring feminist, and a good ol' gal

By Nancy Jane Moore

Ann Richards died yesterday. We've all suffered a great loss.

I got to vote for her the very first time she ran for office in 1976 -- for county commissioner in Travis County, Texas. She won. And she did a great job.

In fact, that's one of the really important things about Ann Richards. She wasn't just a good politician with a gift for public speaking and great wit; she was also a very competent, hard-working public servant. Her records as Travis County Commissioner, Texas State Treasurer, and Governor of Texas speak for themselves.

There are a thousand funny stories about Ms. Ann. You'll find a bunch of them in the obituaries out there. I'm waiting to see which ones Molly Ivins will tell when she does a remembrance column.

But she wasn't just funny; she also stood for something. And she was a feminist who made sure other women got a hand up -- she was never just out for herself. I don't think it's any accident that her first political job was as a campaign manager and then administrative assistant to Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, when Weddington was in the Texas House of Representatives.

In the Austin American-Statesman's fine obituary, they include the following quote from Richards:
Naturally, I want it to be easier for women to get involved in politics. I want them to think of politics and public service as a good place for them, as something honorable and something worthwhile for them to pursue. And the way they are going to do that is to say, 'If she can do it, I can do it.'
I think she'd like to be remembered for that.

John Burnet of NPR did a great obituary on Morning Edition today. If you didn't hear it live, the audio will be available after 10 AM ET here.

The Washington Post also has a good obituary.

I won't link to The New York Times obituary, because it has at least one obvious error in it (hint to The Times copy desk: You don't have to look anything up; if you read the whole obituary, it'll be obvious that Richards wasn't a lawyer even if she did do some work for a law firm after she left office). But The Times does provide a transcript of her great keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1988.

The speech is pure Ann. Go read it and enjoy remembering her.

Note: The photo is from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. You can find a series of pictures of Richards on their website.


Diane Silver said...

I never met Ann Richards. I never lived in her state. I never once voted for her, yet I felt a great sense of loss when I heard this morning of her death. I think that's because as a woman, I felt that the outspoken, honestly spoken Richards was my governor -- no matter where I lived. She will be missed.

PunditMom said...

She was a great "dame" and an example for all of us. I love her line (which I blogged about today) about not wanting the only thing on her tombstone to be, "She kept a clean house!"

Clearly, no worries about that.