PERSONAL: Female. Education: Graduate of Williams College and Harvard University.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—U.S. News and World Report, 1050 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, Washington, DC 20007.
CAREER: U.S. News and World Report, Washington, DC, senior writer.
Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class, Wellesley '69, Times Books (New York, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Miriam Horn's Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class, Wellesley '69 is a study of the 420 members of former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's graduating class at the prestigious liberal arts college. She writes about the characteristics of these women, how their years at Wellesley shaped their character and politics, and what happened to them after 1969, based on her interviews with individual members.
Hillary Rodham is the most well-known graduate of her class, and Horn writes not only of her life at and after Wellesley, but also of her relationships with her classmates. She writes of other women who "have dropped acid, cheated on their husbands, had abortions, struggled to get pregnant, run away with the stableman, run away to be a Buddhist nun, made fortunes, lost fortunes, taken Prozac, started menopause, pushed a stroller through their twenty-fifth reunion parade." She also comments on those who have become respected doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, wives, and mothers, and, of course, on the one who became wife of a president and, after the book's publication, senator from the state of New York. Horn notes the significant social changes that have occurred in these women's lifetimes. While at Wellesley, they were taught how to stay physically appealing, talk to their husband's boss, gracefully exit a car's back seat while wearing heels, and how to pour tea. And, of course, they were taught that white gloves were mandatory when socializing after dinner. The idea of sex before marriage was associated with social ruin, and questions about sex and orgasm went unanswered. Although a Wellesley education at the all-woman college was top-notch during the late 1960s, the school was, in many ways, a finishing school.
Rodham spoke at graduation, discarding her prepared speech to urge her classmates to make a difference in the world, to protest and "question basic assumptions." She received a seven-minute standing ovation, after which classmate Nancy Wanderer told her mother that Hillary Rodham "will probably be the president of the United States someday."
Wanderer was the first in her class to marry and have a child. She later became a lawyer and had a female life partner. Kris Olson became the first U.S. attorney in Oregon, a Clinton appointment. While living in her Wellesley dorm, Martha McClintock observed that the menstrual periods of women who lived together tended to synchronize. She became a behavioral scientist and researcher. Janet McDonald, one of only five black members of the class, became a consultant and married Yale football player Calvin Hill, who later played for the Dallas Cowboys. Their son, Grant, became a National Basketball Association rookie of the year and played for the Detroit Pistons. Advertising executive Chris Osborne, who supported draft resisters during the Vietnam conflict, has smoked dope every day since 1965 and supports legalization. Lorna Rinear is the classmate who ran off with the stableman, divorced, raised her family, and earned a Ph.D. in women's history. Several of the women did become full-time mothers.
As Horn told Bob Levey in an interview for the Washington Post Online, "when they entered college in 1965, the women of Hillary's class were, like their parents, mostly Republican conservatives. By the time they graduated, most were liberal Democrats, and most of them have remained both. Very few entered business school or professions in the corporate world; most are in teaching, medicine, or law, and even the lawyers are often involved in public advocacy. Only a few subscribe to conservative politics today, and I would guess that applies to fiscal policies as well."
One third of the women in Horn's group portrait admitted that they have had abortions, and an equal number claim to have been sexually harassed. Eighty percent identify themselves as feminists, and the women of their generation had fewer children than any previous generation. Twenty-three percent have none. Of those who married, forty-two percent provide half or more of their household income. Jill Abramson noted in the New York Times Book Review that Horn's book mirrors "the struggle of a generation to test-drive a new set of gender and cultural road rules."
Carolyn G. Heilbrun wrote in Women's Review of Books that Rebels in White Gloves "is an excellent example of the effect of the modern women's movement on so-called privileged women—Virginia Woolf called them the daughters of educated men—because, unlike so many other group studies, it combines an intelligent presentation of the revolutionary forces at work in 1969 with a skillful use of interviews and individual case studies. Miriam Horn has read the books this class read, and studied later interpretations of female identity and feminist politics. . . . She "has used personal stories with great discretion, making their different parts relevant to the cultural dilemma she is portraying."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, June, 1999, Wendy Kaminer, review of Rebels in White Gloves: Coming of Age with Hillary's Class, Wellesley '69, pp. 134-137.
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 1491.
Entertainment Weekly, June 18, 1999, Gillian Flynn, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 72.
Library Journal, May 15, 1999, Julie Still, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 113.
New York Times Book Review, May 23, 1999, Jill Abramson, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 12.
People, May 17, 1999, Francine Prose, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1999, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 67.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), June 20, 1999, Dayna Harpster, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. D7.
Women's Review of Books, May, 2000, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, review of Rebels in White Gloves, p. 8.
Washington Post Online,http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (June 1, 1999), Bob Levey, "Q & A with Miriam Horn."*