1973

The year of the Senate Watergate hearings, the battle for states’ ratification of the ERA, the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision, and the end of Americans fighting in Vietnam.  Seismic events all.  

It’s hard to adequately convey how riveted Americans were by Watergate—the piece-by-piece unearthing of the Nixon administration’s political dirty tricks and exploitation of presidential authority.

How in 1973 we hung on every broadcast, every hearing, every newspaper report.

How ripped apart we’d been by Vietnam;  the Grand Canyon-wide “generation gap” it wrought that split families;  how callous we were to our returning veterans. 

How the nation, especially our youth, still reeled from the horrific assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, both in 1968, just five years earlier.

How threatening a woman in a miniskirt, having a choice, having an opinion, and wanting a career seemed to be.

And how telling the truth—or demanding it—could somehow be divisive.  

1973 was all that.  A wild maelstrom that technically ended August 8th, 1974, when Nixon resigned the office whose power he had abused, and Gerald Ford, his calming replacement, announced: “Our long national nightmare is over.”

And yet, here we are in 2024, in similar storms.  

You’ve heard the adages about history.  That it “rhymes” and “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." They swirled in my mind as I wrote this novel. Those and Gloria Steinem’s statement: “The truth will set you free—but first it will piss you off.”

Amen. 

In the history of 1973 and its tipping points lies an irony, both inspiring and unnerving:  truth finally prevailed during Watergate.  Eventually, the nation listened to facts, put country and ethics over party or individual ambitions, and saved itself from men bent on retaining power by any means—coercive, illegal, and subversive of our democratic election process.  During the very same months, however, hyperbole, fear-mongering propaganda, and flat-out lies took hold about the Equal Rights Amendment, that somehow guaranteeing equal rights to women would destroy the American family.  

It was clear this docudrama novel had to be about both things, as much about the fight for women’s freedoms as the fight for fact and decency in our politics. And the questions about us as a people they raised.'

At first, I worried combining two such enormous and separate political groundswells, albeit simultaneous, would seem contrived.  But I soon found women who were legitimately connected to both and/or whose professionalism made them personifications of feminist goals (rather amazing women, I might add...read more about them in the tab section: The ERA & Women of 1973). They became my linchpins, and my protagonist a teenage Senate page, since 1973 was also only the second year that Congress even accepted girls as pages. Caught in the middle of this explosive time, my fictional Patty Appleton has very personal reasons for wanting to get at the truth of both Watergate and America’s definitions of womanhood. She became a 1970s everywoman of sorts, since in those days political revelations often brought personal epiphanies and caused floodgates to open.

I was a young teen myself during Watergate, growing up just outside Washington, DC. Like many journalists my vintage, I’d been glued to the Senate hearings and ended up deciding my life’s calling—choosing between music and writing—because of my admiration for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s unyielding pursuit of truth, vividly showing how critical to democracy a free and responsible press corps is.

Although I did not become an investigative daily beat reporter, I was a staffed magazine writer for two decades, focusing primarily on “women’s issues” and what in the 1980s and ‘90s were almost taboo topics—domestic violence, sexual assault, and mental health. All past reporting that informed and enriched (I hope with empathy), my portrayal of Patty and the challenges she faced given the constricting societal attitudes about women that held firm throughout the 1970s despite feminist protests.

I am not an expert on Watergate, Second Wave Feminism, or the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment—just a reporter of bare-bone factual details and political/cultural milieu that would prod and buffet an idealistic, trusting, and eager-to-please, traditional teen like Patty. There are many books, memoirs, documentaries, and historical docudramas that explore those topics in compelling and comprehensive depth. Please see below for a few selected sources:

Books:

Bernstein, Carl and Woodward, Bob. All the President’s Men. New York: Warner Books, 1974.

Conkling, Winifred. Ms. Gloria Steinem: A Life. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2020.

Dean, John, W. Blind Ambition. New York: Open Road Media; Reprint edition, 2016.

Ephron, Nora. Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women. New York: First Vintage Books Edition, 2012.

Gonzalez, Darryl, J. The Children Who Ran for Congress: A History of Congressional Pages. California: Praeger, 2010.

Graff, Garrett, M. Watergate: A New History. New York: Avid Reader Press, 2022.

Griffith, Elisabeth. Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality 1920-2020. New York: Pegasus Books, 2022.

Levine, Suzanne and Lyons, Harriet, editors. The Decade of Women: a Ms. History of the Seventies in Words and Pictures. New York: Paragon Books, 1980.

Povich, Lynn. The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. New York: Public Affairs, 2016.

Sims, Marcie. Capitol Hill Pages: Young Witnesses to 200 Years of History. NC: McFarland & Co., 2018.

Spruill, Marjorie J. Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s rights and Family Values that Polarized American Politics. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

Steinem, Gloria.Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Picador, 2019.

Wine-Banks, Jill. The Watergate Girl. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2020.

Documentaries: 

CNN Original Series. Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal. Herzog & Company, 2022.

American Experience: Nixon, PBS/The Presidents Collection, 1990.

Watergate. History Channel, 2018.

Slow Burn: WatergateAmazon Prime, 2017.

Dick Cavett’s Watergate. PBS, 2014.

Movies/TV Mini-Series (PG-13):

Good Girls Revolt. Amazon Prime Video, 2015.

Battle of the Sexes. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2017.

Frost/Nixon. Universal Pictures, 2008.

White House Plumbers. HBO/Max, 2023.

All the President’s Men. Warner Brothers, 1976.

Gaslit. Starz, 2022.

The Post.  20th Century Pictures, 2017.

The Glorias. Roadside Attractions, LD Entertainment, 2020.

Mrs. America. FX/Hulu, 2020.

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