- - Friday, August 31, 2012

To listen to the pundits, Ann Romney is little more than a “corporate wife” (Fox News commentator Juan Williams), a sexist for “putting a sorority girl grin on a description of women’s lives” (Slate’s Amanda Marcotte), and a woman who “has never worked a day in her life” (Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen).

To most commentators, the wife of the impeccably coiffed co-founder of Bain Capital — with her penchant for country club tennis, horseback riding and other aristocratic pastimes — is the one percent, par excellence. During the primaries, she gave her critics fodder when she told a Fox News host, “I don’t even consider myself wealthy,” a gaffe that played into her image, fair or not, as an entitled and removed Stepford wife.

Car elevators aside, her husband’s net worth is pegged at around $200 million, and the financial assets are in her name. The Romneys are the one percent of the one percent.

What was remarkable about Mrs. Romney’s speech Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., was how it blew away these cliched caricatures. The reason her speech resonated so strongly with voters — Mr. Romney’s personal approval ratings jumped 5 points overnight in a snap poll in battleground states — is that she was able to humanize her husband and identify the Romneys with ordinary Americans.

She did this by appealing to the concept of family — specifically, of motherhood.

“Sometimes I think that late at night, if we were all silent for just a few moments and listened carefully, we could hear a great collective sigh from the moms and dads across America,” she told a packed audience at the convention. “And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men.”

The moms of this country, she said, are what hold it together.

Being a hard-working stay-at-home mom may not be a desirable or politically correct identity to media commentators, but it’s the identity that is most true to who Ann Romney is.

Isn’t it? Or is this image of a relatable, hands-on, often harried, mom who earned her spurs raising five rambunctious boys merely a politically expedient role Mrs. Romney is playing for the sake of her husband’s political ambitions?

If it’s all an act, it’s certainly a long-running one.

When Mrs. Romney was still an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, she decided to forego a career and postpone her studies in order to start a family. She married Mr. Romney in 1969, when she was 19 years old. They had their first baby in 1970. By then, she was living in Belmont, Mass., with her husband, who was attending the business and law schools at Harvard.

She finished her undergraduate degree by taking night classes at Harvard University’s Extension School. “I was taking exams with babies in my lap and nursing, but I finished,” she told the Boston Globe in 2002. By the time the year 1975 came to a close, Mrs. Romney was the mother of three boys — and an official college graduate.

Her decision to have children so young did not sit well with her family back home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., “My parents were questioning my choices, my peers were,” she told the New York Times earlier this summer. “But again, I was pretty resolute, pretty confident in what I was doing.”

With feminism on the rise, the professional women of Boston would “turn their noses down at me,” she said.

Feminists still do.

Story Continues →