Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sarah Palin and Barney Frank at the Gridiron Club

Last night was the annual winter dinner for the Gridiron Club in Washington, and Sarah Palin and Barney Frank were the featured Republican and Democratic speakers. The New York times Caucus blog reported on The Comedy Duo of Palin and Frank. Apparently the evening was open to the news media - the Gridiron Club usually requires that the dinners be off the record.

This made me think again of the fact that my grandfather, Richard Lawson Wilson, was very involved with the Gridiron Club, which only admitted women as members in 1975. See this highly entertaining account of how women were finally admitted thanks to the feminist movement:
....the women in Washington turned their sights on another institution, the Gridiron Club, once described by Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times as “an assembly of troglodytes.” Nonetheless, it held a dinner each year, then as now, spoofing national leaders and attended by many of those leaders. But women were shut out. After several years of picketing, the women decided to hold a Counter-Gridiron Party. In 1974, they rented the gym at nearby Mount Vernon College and got big-name people like former Attorney General Elliott Richardson to participate. The highlight was Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell and notorious for her late night phone calls. For $5 and the cost of the phone call at the Counter Gridiron event, Mitchell would make one of her calls to whomever you asked. Most recipients didn’t believe it was really Mitchell calling. In 1975 the Gridiron Club voted to admit women. Fran [Frances Lewine] and UPI’s Helen Thomas were first female members.
My grandfather loved the Gridiron Club (and that other bastion of Washington establishment journalism, the Washington Press Club, which only admitted women in 1971), and it's hard to imagine how his conservative and proper psyche would have reacted to a double bill of Sarah Palin and Barney Frank. Politically, he was a Republican, but certainly not from the populist, ignoramus wing of the party, so he probably wouldn't have approved of Palin appearing as the Republican representative. I doubt he could even have imagined an out gay man as a Congressional Representative, much less a major speaker at the Gridiron Club.

Sometimes the frustrations of the present day blind us to the changes that have been made in a fairly short time, historically speaking.


  1. Fun fact -- this post is right at the top of "google blogsearch" right now. Congrats!

  2. I guess because it's a hot (and amusing) topic.

  3. Good One