Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy, happy home

The Minnesota Legislature which was just elected will have 70 women out of 201 members of both houses (53 D’s, 17 R’s), which is some sort of record. The state has also elected its first female US senator, Amy Klobuchnar. (Correction: its first elected female US senator. Hubert Humphrey’s wife Muriel was appointed to serve out the remainder of his term when he died in 1978.)

I’m too lazy to look up how many women Minnesota is sending to the US Congress, but I know that the first was Coya Knutson, elected 1954 after a term in the legislature. Knutson got into politics in part to get away from her drunken, physically abusive husband, who sabotaged her second re-election campaign in 1958 with an open letter entitled “Coya, Come Home,” which begged (and indeed, commanded) her to quit politics and “come back to our happy, happy home.” I just had to search for my clipping of her 1996 NYT obit to find a sentence about that letter which is mysteriously missing from the online version (Times Select): “Then, as Mrs. Knutson and the nation discovered, hell hath no fury like a jerk.” The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party backed away from her, and she narrowly lost to one Odin Langen, whose not-at-all-condescending slogan was “A Big Man for a Man-Sized Job.” Coya did not come home, divorced the jerk, who drank himself to death, but her two attempts to return to Congress failed.

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