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Bryant, Anita

BRYANT, Anita

Born 25 March 1940, Barnsdall, Oklahoma

Daughter of Warren and Lenora Berry Bryant; married RobertGreen, 1960 (divorced 1980); Charlie Dry, 1990; children: four

Anita Bryant's husband once remarked to his wife: "I don't think you had a childhood." Bryant's father was nineteen, her mother eighteen, when Bryant was born. They were divorced by the time she was two, remarried one another when she was three, and were divorced again when she was thirteen. Later both parents remarried others. Bryant and her younger sister were frequently uprooted as their father, a laborer in the oil fields, moved from job to job, and the family experienced periods of severe poverty.

According to her autobiography, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (1970), however, Bryant's singing talent was noticed early. Before finishing high school, she was appearing on network radio and she later dropped out of Chicago's Northwestern University because of heavy career demands. Bryant met her manager-husband, Bob Green, while promoting a highly successful record in Miami. Many of Bryant's works are coauthored with her husband.

Before 1977, Bryant was known as a wholesome and patriotic entertainer, a devoted wife and mother of four children, an author of religious books, and a promoter of orange juice for the Florida Citrus Commission. In January 1977, however, she became a highly controversial public figure, identified primarily as a crusader against homosexual rights.

The books Bryant wrote before 1977 are much like Christmas family newsletters, filled with photos, anecdotes, and news of the Green family. Loosely organized, chatty, and platitudinous, the books lack profundity, but are sincere expressions of Bryant's outlook on life and her personal understanding of the Christian faith. Bless This House (1972) presents Bryant's philosophy of Christian marriage and includes four chapters written by her husband. Fishers of Men (1973) tells of the Green family's efforts to spread their Christian faith; while Running the Good Race (1976) describes the family's efforts at physical fitness. In the foreword to her second book, Amazing Grace (1971), Bryant's publishers state Bryant "never considered herself an author" but was persuaded to write as one way to "witness to thousands … how the Lord had touched her life."

All of Bryant's books reflect her comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle and the particular conservative Christian subculture of which she is a part. Her writings indicate a dogmatic conviction that her view of life is the right way, the biblical way, God's way. If socialization agencies such as schools or the media are permitted to present alternative world views—especially on certain social issues—Bryant fears children may make wrong choices. Thus in The Anita Bryant Story (1977), Bryant, who believed God had tapped her on the shoulder and given her "direct marching orders," and her husband claim that an ordinance guaranteeing homosexual civil rights provides children with the mistaken idea "that there is an alternative way of life—that being a homosexual or a lesbian is not really wrong." Since Bryant admits before this time she had given no thought or study to homosexuality, The Anita Bryant Story contains a great deal of misinformation, sensationalism, and unsubstantiated generalizations about homosexuality, which Bryant hastily put together in the emotional heat of seeking repeal of the ordinance.

In At Any Cost (1978), coauthored with her husband, Bryant explains that at the outset of her involvement in the homosexual controversy, "there wasn't even time to try to inform myself," and claims since then she "endeavored to become more knowledgeable." The Greens felt they were misunderstood and mishandled by the media and thus wrote the book to tell their side of the story. The intent of At Any Cost is, apparently, to justify the political stance they have taken all along, to describe what they have "been through as a family" because of it, and to challenge others to "stand up" for what the Greens believe is right. Bryant describes homosexuality as "a cancer on the soul of society" and is convinced it was promoted (along with abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment) as part of a program of "revolutionary women" whose goal is to "destroy the social structure on which America rests." She characterizes the 1977 National Women's Year Convention held in Houston as being "antimale, antiwhite, antifamily, anti-Christian, and anti-American from start to finish." At the same time, Bryant writes that it saddens her to be accused of bigotry, adding, "I truly do love the homosexual, and all sinners for that matter."

Bryant writes with surprising candor. She does not hesitate to disclose the details of her emotional breakdown and the psychological help that enabled her to work through childhood resentments. Both Bryant and her husband freely speak of their hot tempers, and the ongoing struggles they have in following what they believe is the biblical model for marriage, i.e., male leadership and wifely submission.

At one point, Bryant considered supporting the ERA, but her husband and others convinced her that "the Equal Rights Amendment was not God's will for the women of America." Nevertheless, an unbidden feminist spirit shows up at various points in Bryant's writings. At the beginning of her marriage, time hung "unbearably heavy" on her hands until she left her full-time homemaker role to return to the entertainment world. Bryant's autobiography speaks of an "intense ambition and a relentless drive to succeed," and most of her books contain lengthy confessions of her struggle to be a submissive wife.

Bryant and Green's struggle for a biblical marriage ended in divorce in 1980, and Bryant remarried in 1990, to a childhood pal who told her he'd been in love with her for 40 years. A New Day was published in 1996, presenting a mellower Bryant than her previous books, especially those written with former husband Green.

Other Works:

Light My Candle (with B. Green, 1974). Bless This Food: The Anita Bryant Family Cookbook (1975). Raising God's Children (with B. Green, 1977).

Bibliography:

Melgaard, M. J., "The New Politics of Fear: The 1977 Dade County Gay Rights Referendum and the Regeneration of the Radical Right, 1969-1980" (thesis, 1992). Scot, D. C., Something in Orange (1978).

Reference Works:

CB (1975).

Other reference:

Anita Bryant & The Protect America's Children Campaign (Formerly Save Our Children) (1978). Playboy (May 1978). People (5 July 1999). Today's Christian Woman (Fall/Winter 1978-79).

—LETHA SCANZONI

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