Second-wave feminism focused on many issues. Sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights were some of them. Feminists knew this particular wave for its issues and its key players. However, some key players didn’t necessarily get the recognition they deserved. In fact, not many people know who they are. Enter: Margaret “Midge” Constanza and Jean O’ Leary.
This article is in honor of Pride Month!
Top Assistant Margaret “Midge” Costanza
Margaret Constanza was a powerhouse in politics. She became Assistant to the President for Public Liaison during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Many people nicknamed Margaret “the President’s window to the nation,” because she was able to communicate with all different kinds of groups. Margaret focused on gay and lesbian groups.
As a top assistant to President Jimmy Carter, Margaret took it upon herself to invite fourteen National Gay Force Task leaders and gay rights activists to the White House. This happened during Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign (a severely homophobic campaign). Margaret was one of the first politicians to argue on behalf of the task force even though she was closeted.
Margaret worked alongside Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug. She advocated for the inclusion of lesbian and gay rights in a conference agenda for the National Women’s Conference. Midge continued to advocate for gay rights throughout her life.
You can learn more about Midge here
Activist Jean O’ Leary
Jean was an important gay rights activist. She was co-executive director of the National Gay Task Force. Later, Jean founded National Coming Out Day.
She worked alongside Midge during the National Women’s Conference. Because of Jean, the members of the NWPC included a “sexual preference” resolution on the conference agenda. Jean proposed this at the women’s conference.
Jean was an activist who made history. She led the first-ever delegation of gay activists to the White House. They all met with President Jimmy Carter’s staff. Jean achieved great accomplishments for gay rights.
Learn more about Jean here
Midge and Jean’s Relationship
Midge and Jean were lovers. They felt forced to hide their relationship from the public and other people. They continued their secret relationship for many years, before revealing it. Midge and Jean were even together during the National Women’s Conference.
Sweetly, Jean wasn’t bothered that Midge was closeted. She didn’t mind that the pair had a secret relationship. In fact, she supported Midge. In an interview with Making Gay History, Jean discussed her relationship with Midge.
“[Midge] knew, at least for much of her career, that she could never have done what she did, could never have been Jimmy Carter’s adviser, and could never have invited gay activists to the White House if anyone knew that she was gay.”
So, both women did what they had to do during their era.
All in all, Midge and Jean are goals! They deserve credit for all of their advocacy and accomplishments for gay rights and the LGBT community.