Poll of the week: Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows 47 percent of registered voters think their mom was more like Laura Bush and 21 percent think she was more like Hillary Clinton. Sixty-nine percent gave their mom an excellent rating.
Only 69 percent, huh? Wonder how many of the Bush and Clinton moms got less than excellent reviews?
My mother was a registered Republican and good joke-teller like Laura; but in moxie, she was pure Hillary. One of my most treasured souvenirs is a letter she wrote to Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, balling him out for the bad seats she and I were given at Ebbetts Field. On Sundays we would dress up and go to the games with my dad who always seemed to get box seats from pals. But during the week Mom and I would take the Flatbush Avenue trolley to the stadium on Ladies Day, when the seats were half price.
"Imagine my shock," she wrote to Rickey, "to discover the seats were behind a pole. I thought the point of Ladies Day was to encourage women and girls to come to the ballgame. Why does my husband never get stuck behind a pole ?" A couple of weeks later came profuse apologies and tickets (good seats) to games for the rest of the season.
My mother wrote lots of letters like that. Some were to important people like Franklin Roosevelt, who she warned was in jeopardy of losing her vote to Tom Dewey because my father was still in Italy fighting his war. But others were to department store or restaurant owners who hadn't lived up to their bargain with consumers. She let network executives know when she was unhappy that her favorite newscaster had been transferred and made my teachers aware when she thought they had not given her darling high enough grades. What impressed me at a very young age was how often those letters had impact. And brought results.
That may be why I was so surprised by the recent revelation of how few women are writing opinion columns in the major papers. Washington Post columnist Howie Kurtz has cited statistics showing only 10.4 percent of columns on the Washington Post's op-ed page in the first two months of this year were written by women, 16.9 percent of The New York Times' op-ed pieces, and 19.5 percent of the Los Angeles Times' opinion piece. Some of the commentary in the past few months has pointed to institutional bias. But some women writers like Ellen Goodman and Maureen Dowd have suggested that many women may be afraid to write strong opinions for fear of not being liked.
That is so far from my personal experience that it is hard to compute. I was raised by a woman of strong convictions who had no fear of expressing them and who had a husband who got quite a kick out of those opinions. "Your mother is writing another letter," he would tell me with an arched eyebrow and smile on his lips.
There is a colloquium in Washington next week commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the gender gap and the focus on women voters. When people ask me how I got interested in polling the opinions of women, the answer is quite obvious.
On a scale of excellent, good, only fair or poor, my mother was quite excellent. Happy Mother's Day to all you moms and don't be afraid to let people know what you think. They may even like you more. And even if they don't, you might get lots of free tickets.
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