Archive Events

Jun 20 – Book Launch! Professor Doreen Mattingly Discusses Her New Book About Midge Costanza

A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Years, and America’s Culture Wars, written by Doreen Mattingly and published by Oxford University Press

Midge CostanzaA feminist, an outspoken activist, a woman without a college education, Midge Costanza was one of the unlikeliest of White House insiders. Yet in 1977 she became the first female Assistant to the President for Public Liaison under Jimmy Carter, emerging as a prominent focal point of the American culture wars. Tasked with bringing the views of special interest groups to the president, Costanza championed progressive causes even as Americans grew increasingly divided on the very issues for which she fought.

In A Feminist in the White House, clubmember Doreen Mattingly, Professor of History at San Diego State University, draws on Costanza’s personal papers to shed light on the life of this fascinating and controversial woman. Mattingly chronicles Costanza’s dramatic rise and fall as a public figure, from her initial popularity to her ultimate clashes with Carter and his aides. While Costanza challenged Carter to support abortion rights, gay and lesbian rights, and feminist policies, Carter faced increased pressure to appease the interests of emerging Religious Right, which directly opposed Costanza’s ideals. Ultimately, marginalized both within the White House and by her fellow feminists, Costanza was pressured to resign in 1978.

Through the lens of Constanza’s story, readers catch a unique perspective of the rise of debates which have defined the feminist movement and sexual politics to this very day. Mattingly also reveals a wider, but heretofore neglected, narrative of the complex era of gender politics in the late 1970’s Washington – a history which continues to resonate in politics today. A Feminist in the White House is a must-read for anyone with an interest in sexual politics, female politicians, and presidential history.

Join us for a discussion with Professor Mattingly on the writing of this book and about Midge Costanza in San Diego.  Books will be available for sale. Author will sign upon request. Discount available for clubmembers.

Doreen MattinglyDr. Doreen J. Mattingly
Associate Professor, Department of Women’s Studies, SDSU
Arts and Letters (AL) 315
(619) 594-8033

Dr. Doreen Mattingly has a Ph.D. from Clark University in Geography, and has been teaching in the SDSU Women’s Studies Department since 1995.


“The biography is a fascinating and thorough look at the way second-wave feminism played out in the political arena, and highly relevant at this particular political moment.”

“I covered Midge Costanza for Newsweek, and the controversies described in this book give Midge her due as a principled advocate while raising questions about the appropriate role of a White House staffer. Drawing on a wealth of material, the author documents her subject’s increasing feminism and her clashes with the president who made history when he named her to his staff. In the end, each felt betrayed by the other and the reader will feel torn too knowing how the story ends.” –Eleanor Clift

“For anyone interested in presidential politics this book is a must read. The meticulously documented story of the life and career of Midge Costanza lays open the inner workings of the Carter White House at a time when the role of women was changing dramatically. It also sadly portrays how badly Carter was served by his top male assistants who sought to crush and marginalize the influence of strong loyal women throughout his administration.” –Peter Bourne, Former Special Assistant to President Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981

“The lessons learned from Midge Costanza’s life have informed the political path of the modern LGBTQ movement-even for those who didn’t know it. The seeds that were her passion, including uncompromising idealism, drive and political risk-taking have grown into a fierce forest of activism and change. A Feminist in the White House skillfully surfaces political and cultural tensions that we still see playing out today in the work for women’s equality and LGBTQ freedom. This should be required reading for anyone interested in how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go.” –Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

We’ll also have updates on 

  • Ballot measure proposal we submitted at City Hall last week
  • OB Street Fair
  • Pride Parade

and being our 2nd Anniversary – there will be cake! 🎉🎂🎊

Monday June 20, 6:30pm – Social Time from 6:30pm, Meeting starts at 7pm

Social Time
Members are encouraged to get together from 6:30pm before the meeting starts.
Please bring whatever light drinks/snacks that you’d like to share.

We meet at the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans – PANA
4089 Fairmount Ave, San Diego, CA 92105 (map)

The building is on the south-east corner of Polk and Fairmount, just north of University. Parking is also available at the adjoining Southern Sudanese and East African Community Centers on Fairmount Ave. Bus routes 7 and 13.

Call or email (619) 900-4751


6:30pm Social Time

Light snacks, and stories to share.

7:00pm Thank you for coming.

Welcome to guests. Please remember to sign in. Thanks to all renewing members.

7:05pm Introduction by Christa Wubbolding filling in for President Emily Bonner

7:06pm Approval of Agenda

7:10pm Introduction of elected officials and candidates

Any Democratic candidates running for election are welcome to address the club for two minutes each.

7:20pm Announcements and Updates, by Ramla Sahid

7:30pm Old Business, New Business

7:35pm Program: Book Launch! A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, written by Doreen Mattingly.

Doreen Mattingly is one of our club members, a Professor of History at San Diego State University, and tonight she is launching her book A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza.

7:55pm Q&A

8:05pm Adjourn

8:10pm Book Signing

Books will be available for sale. Author will sign upon request. Discount available for club members.

8:30pm Thank you for coming

Hope to see you all again in July at our next meeting!

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