What’s in a name?
According to recent history, Hillary Rodham changed her name, the name she loved and was determined to keep since she was a child, in order to help her husband win re-election to be Governor of Arkansas. This article from The Atlantic explains why she did it:
When The New York Times profiled the newly-elected Governor Clinton, it noted that he “is married to an ardent feminist, Hillary Rodham, who will certainly be the first First Lady of Arkansas to keep her maiden name.” The Arkansas Democrat reported, “Despite the fact that she keeps her maiden name, the wife of Arkansas’s new governor, Bill Clinton, claims she’s really an old-fashioned girl.” (I’m indebted to Karen Blumenthal’s forthcoming biography for these anecdotes.) Clinton himself later told The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck, “Hillary told me she was nine years old when she decided she would keep her own name when she got married. It had nothing to do with the feminist movement or anything. She said, ‘I like my name. I was interested in my family. I didn’t want to give it up.’”
Bill Clinton lost reelection in 1980, but decided to run to reclaim his seat two years later. That’s when Hillary Rodham decided it was time to take on Bill’s name, to assist the effort. Here’s how Bill Clinton explained it to Bruck:
“When she came to me and said she wanted to change, I could see in her eyes that she had made the decision to do it. And I said, “I do not want you resenting me. I would a lot rather lose the election than lose you.” She said, “I’m not going anywhere.” I said, “I know, but I don’t want you to resent this for the rest of your life. You made this decision when you were a child. I like it. I approve of the decision. I don’t care about it.” And she said, “Look, Bill, we cannot—this is stupid! We shouldn’t lose the election over this issue. We shouldn’t run this risk. What if it’s one per cent of the vote? What if it’s two per cent? You might win or lose the election by two per cent.”
Two paths in a golden wood and she took the one most travelled by when it comes to names. Were it not for Bill’s re-election, we would be electing President Rodham this year. With the decision to change her name, she tied her fortunes to his.
And this points to what I think is the last barrier between women and the White House. No one who has acceded to the Oval Office has defined himself in terms of another person. Hillary has been associated with Bill Clinton as his wife as much as she has as senator, Secretary of State and presidential nominee. This is what the Republicans and Donald Trump are counting on.
It’s too late for Hillary to change her name back but it’s not too late to reclaim her identity as a person of merit, accomplishment and dignity upon whose shoulders we can rest the heavy weight of the burdens and responsibilities of the most powerful nation of the world.
When she becomes president, it will be she alone who will have the authority and power. To break the last glass ceiling, she needs to define herself as her own person without reference to any man in her life.
She has the heart of a president, and a President of the United States too. This is the night to show it.