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A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the president, Costanza championed progressive causes even as Americans grew increasingly divided on the very issues for which she fought. In A Feminist in the White House, Doreen Mattingly draws on Costanza's personal papers to shed light on the life of this fascinating and controversial woman. Mattingly chronicles Costanza's dramatic rise and fall as a public figure, from her initial popularity to her ultimate clashes with Carter and his aides. While Costanza challenged Carter to support abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, and feminist policies, Carter faced increased pressure to appease the interests of emerging Religious Right, which directly opposed Costanza's ideals. Ultimately, marginalized both within the White House and by her fellow feminists, Costanza was pressured to resign in 1978. Through the lens of Constanza's story, readers catch a unique perspective of the rise of debates which have defined the feminist movement and sexual politics to this very day. Mattingly also reveals a wider, but heretofore neglected, narrative of the complex era of gender politics in the late 1970's Washington - a history which continues to resonate in politics today. A Feminist in the White House is a must-read for anyone with an interest in sexual politics, female politicians, and presidential history.


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A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the A feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the president, Costanza championed progressive causes even as Americans grew increasingly divided on the very issues for which she fought. In A Feminist in the White House, Doreen Mattingly draws on Costanza's personal papers to shed light on the life of this fascinating and controversial woman. Mattingly chronicles Costanza's dramatic rise and fall as a public figure, from her initial popularity to her ultimate clashes with Carter and his aides. While Costanza challenged Carter to support abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, and feminist policies, Carter faced increased pressure to appease the interests of emerging Religious Right, which directly opposed Costanza's ideals. Ultimately, marginalized both within the White House and by her fellow feminists, Costanza was pressured to resign in 1978. Through the lens of Constanza's story, readers catch a unique perspective of the rise of debates which have defined the feminist movement and sexual politics to this very day. Mattingly also reveals a wider, but heretofore neglected, narrative of the complex era of gender politics in the late 1970's Washington - a history which continues to resonate in politics today. A Feminist in the White House is a must-read for anyone with an interest in sexual politics, female politicians, and presidential history.

39 review for A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    I actually had never heard of Midge Costanza, but I picked up this book because it sounded interesting. It turned out to be a very informative read and I did enjoy learning about Constanza and her experience in the White House. It was also an enlightening take on President Carter’s administration and the challenge of campaigning vs. the reality of political trade-offs as president. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars on this one. While the content was solid, the writing style was not my favorite. T I actually had never heard of Midge Costanza, but I picked up this book because it sounded interesting. It turned out to be a very informative read and I did enjoy learning about Constanza and her experience in the White House. It was also an enlightening take on President Carter’s administration and the challenge of campaigning vs. the reality of political trade-offs as president. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars on this one. While the content was solid, the writing style was not my favorite. The author seemed intent on proving that this book was well-researched, employing the “tell the reader what you’re going to write about, write about it, then tell what you wrote about” structure, which made some chapters a little laborious. On a separate note, the book (Oxford University Press) was also very poorly proofread—there are numerous typos and I’m 99% certain the photo identified as Barbara Boxer is actually Nancy Pelosi!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yana

    You can fin a copy of this review at: https://thequidnuncblog.wordpress.com... Doreen Mattingly championed various topics in her work varying from equal rights for women and gay and lesbian rights, to abortion rights. She chose to portray not only a feminist, but also a friend and did successfully so. Mattingly showed sides of Constanza that led me to both admire her for her ethics and efforts while at the same time I was angered by a political system, embodied in this case by Carter's administrat You can fin a copy of this review at: https://thequidnuncblog.wordpress.com... Doreen Mattingly championed various topics in her work varying from equal rights for women and gay and lesbian rights, to abortion rights. She chose to portray not only a feminist, but also a friend and did successfully so. Mattingly showed sides of Constanza that led me to both admire her for her ethics and efforts while at the same time I was angered by a political system, embodied in this case by Carter's administration, that puts what is right or wrong on a back burner behind political expediency. I often found myself flooded with bits and pieces of information most of which is still up-to-date and was left at the back-burner for decades now. I have to admit I found myself smitten with this remarkable woman, who struggled to do her job and fought fearlessly the remarkable men of her remarkable time. I wouldn't be lying if I call this a powerful and influential read, especially if you are a strongly convinced feminist at heart. Late 1970s were painted by the shades of a complex shades of gender politics, sexual politics and of course the feminist movement. The events that occurred then still resonate today, therefore I find it a must to read this profound book about being a woman.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars by Doreen Mattingly is an eye-opening account of Costanza's time in President Carter's White House and the political beginnings of debates that continue to the present. I had heard Costanza's name but was not really familiar with any aspects of what she had (tried) to do under Carter. Through Mattingly's account readers will both admire Costanza for her ethics and efforts while at the same time be angered A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America's Culture Wars by Doreen Mattingly is an eye-opening account of Costanza's time in President Carter's White House and the political beginnings of debates that continue to the present. I had heard Costanza's name but was not really familiar with any aspects of what she had (tried) to do under Carter. Through Mattingly's account readers will both admire Costanza for her ethics and efforts while at the same time be angered by a political system, embodied in this case by Carter's administration, that puts what is right or wrong on a back burner behind political expediency. While most of us know that not all issues can be tackled at once and that some end up pushed aside because of "popularity" it is still frustrating to read about what this woman went through while simply trying to do her job. There are a lot of very interesting bits of information here about how some talking points that still exist originated in high level meetings. Most important, I think, is placing Midge Costanza front and center as an early activist in many of today's popular culture wars. A remarkable woman during a remarkable time. Definitely for those interested in sexual and gender politics as well as the working of the presidency. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Bier

    Doreen Mattingly explores the life of a woman whose life was defined by "a constant struggle to define herself while surrounded by stereotypes that denied any possibility of being the person she was." A compelling look at a woman who took on "the power dynamics underlying the very process of definition itself."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leann

    Midge Costanza appeared to be a dynamic powerhouse and an important part of our feminist history. Yet, Doreen Mattingly's telling Midge's White House years left a lot to be desired. It was a rather dull read and didn't live up to the personality of Midge Costanza.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alan Jones

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  8. 4 out of 5

    Allison

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    Mark Ehlers

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jan

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    Jill Ortner

  12. 4 out of 5

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  13. 4 out of 5

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  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  15. 4 out of 5

    Francie Grice

  16. 5 out of 5

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    Nadia Chait

  21. 5 out of 5

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    Katie Meyer

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    BoxerLover2

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jen

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    Dale Kemp

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  38. 5 out of 5

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  39. 4 out of 5

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