Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 8:34 pm | Fair 44º


Jamie Stiehm: Hillary Clinton Gets Stuff Done the Midwestern Way

As we know from prairie pioneer diaries, hardy Midwestern women could not get faint on a summer day. They had no time to admit weakness when there were quilts to sew or pies to bake for their little houses with wolves on the wind. And Mary just went blind.

Meet the Midwestern Protestant work ethic. Forget the Puritans. I mean a mighty force in the 2016 presidential election, but known to few.

Hillary Clinton lives and breathes this strand of Americana, as a daughter of Illinois. Her friends and foes know it: She is a hard worker, harder than any man running for president.

“Sorry” was never a vocabulary word on the prairie.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder books, based on her family, color Ma as a capable, practical woman who keeps her cool amid hardships. Laura became a schoolteacher in her teens and had to face down the big, bad boys.

How plucky, crossing Main Street in a blizzard — because if you missed the other side, you were lost on the open prairie. There was no other choice to get home.

That’s the sturdy stuff Hillary Rodham was made of as a girl growing up in a Republican family in a Chicago suburb. That’s what made her fly around the world, setting a new record for meeting heads of states, as Secretary of State Clinton.

Stoic Midwestern Protestants are not emotive. It’s hard for them to talk much about themselves in the Southern porch style. Unlike fellow Americans on the East and West coasts, they don’t write urbane novels or make movies celebrating themselves.

We the people need to read Clinton’s Midwestern character appropriately. Then we’ll all sleep better at night.

Yes, the media are scolding Clinton for a lack of “transparency.” So what?

As a journalist who knows Midwest Protestant culture, my Wisconsin girlhood steeped in it, Clinton adds up to me even as she rankles reporters who expect her to be open and to hang with them. That will never happen, though she protests she’s not “that bad,” as she put it in 2008.

After all she’s been through with her husband’s White House trials, we are like the wolves, or the locusts, or the Indian tribes Ma feared out on the prairie.

A key distinction: I am not saying Clinton is shy or reserved. Like many Midwestern Protestant women, she’s verbally forthright and often blunt to a fault.

Her strong-minded kind were not raised to mince words, nor were they trained to beguile or flirt to “catch a husband.”

When the former senator and first lady speaks freely among friends, her candor is a bit too bracing — as in her recent “​deplorables” snafu. Clearly, she was pushing herself through exhaustion and (now we know) pneumonia.

If she were a man, she’d be praised for her grit.

When young Hillary went east for her education, she took that trait with her. Another ambitious Chicago girl did, too: Michelle Robinson Obama, a hard worker who left little to chance.

Midwestern Protestant women are amazingly strong and resilient, more so than popular culture knows.

Think of the girl stricken with polio who, as a teenager, flew off the village ski jump. Her good friend at West High School in Madison, Wis., was inspired to be first resident to plant a prairie garden in the village — where the Heiden Haus is named for her son and daughter, Olympic speed-skating medalists Eric and Beth Heiden.

My grandmother worked on her family’s Kansas ranch in the summer, making grub for a lot of men at light of day.

Consider Chicago. The city was burned to the ground in an 1871 blaze while the Ingalls family lived on the frontier.

Yet, Chicago got busy and rebuilt itself quickly — not of wood, but of a clean slate of steel. The first skyscraper was built there, an architectural paradise.

You hear about “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow” as the spark, but they don’t complain or boast. Chicagoans love their city’s story and big shoulders.

Clinton was top of her class, too, just like her boyfriend, Bill. Hers was the very first women’s college class — and Yale Law School class — to catch the career trains the women’s movement created as engines of advancement.

That’s why the confident, Midwestern girl took the country by storm.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. The opinions expressed are her own.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >