Elly Peterson was one of the highest ranking women in the Republican Party. In 1964 she ran for a Michigan seat in the U.S. Senate and became the first woman to serve as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. During the 1960s she grew disenchanted with the increasing conservatism of her party, united with other feminists to push for the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive choice, battled Phyllis Schlafly to prevent her from gaining control of the National Federation of Republican Women, and became an independent.
Elly Peterson's story is a missing chapter in the political history of Michigan, as well as the United States. This new biography, written by Sara Fitzgerald (a Michigan native and former Washington Post editor), finally gives full credit to one of the first female political leaders in this country.
When Peterson resigned in 1970 as assistant chairman of the Republican National Committee, David Broder of the Washington Post wrote that "her abilities would have earned her the national chairmanship, were it not for the unwritten sex barrier both parties have erected around that job."
Winner of the 2012 Book Award from the Historical Society of Michigan
Critical Acclaim for "Elly Peterson: 'Mother' of the Moderates"
"[Fitzgerald's] chronicle of Peterson's transformation into one of the first women to hold a national party leadership position is unrelentingly sharp."
"In this gripping biography we meet one woman who entered a male-dominated world and triumphed."
—Francis X. Blouin Jr., Director, Bentley Historical Library
"A superb and timely biography. It carries a message that deserves the wiedest audience as the nation struggles to find needed consnsus on critical issues amid poisonous political partisanship that has made it increasingly difficult for public officials to bridge their differences. I hope every American reads it."
--Pulitzer Prize winner Haynes Johnson,
from the Foreward
"An intense but subtle examination of the cultural milieu of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and the emergence of women's issues, all against the backdrop of a political world."
"Magisterially written, well-researched, informative, and entertaining."
—Dave Dempsey, author of William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate
"Fitzgerald's book is essential reading for anyone interested in how the Republican Party changed during the turbulent decades after 1960 and how women and women's issues shaped those changes."
—Kathryn Kish Sklar, Distinguished Professor of History,
State University of New York, Binghamton
"Elly Peterson will be a text to which historians and researchers turn for insight into the yin and yang of mainstream politics in the mid-century."
—Patricia Sullivan, past president, Journalism and Women Symposium
Fitzgerald "uses an impressive array of archival sources, interviews, and published material to reconstruct Peterson's life."
--Whitney Strub, Michigan Historical Review
"A fine book. In teling the life of one woman, it also reveals the real world of party politics--the kind of stuff that doesn't make it into
American government texts."
--Jo Freeman, author of A Room at a Time:
How Women Entered Party Politics
"[The book] can easily be called the best political biography of the year. . . . Every person who cares about what's going on in national politics should read this book and pass it on, especially to a young woman who more than likely has never heard of Elly Petterson."
--Bill Castanier, Mittenlit
"Splendid. . . . Fitzgerald's well-researched book is a gem for political junkies of all stripes, as well as for such serious folks as political commentators
--George Weeks, Traverse City (Michigan) Record-Eagle
Photo of Elly Peterson courtesy of Margaret Cooke
Preview of August 25, 2011 Speech at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum