When Womenwinning - then the Minnesota Women's Campaign Fund - organized the first of its renowned annual fundraising luncheons 29 years ago, the thought that a Minnesota woman might someday be a major-party contender for the presidency was a remote dream.
That dream came true Monday with Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's candidacy declaration - but it seemed more like a nightmare to the 1,200 women "and a few good men" who assembled Tuesday at the Milwaukee Depot to fatten Womenwinning's coffers.
Bachmann's brand of social conservatism is anathema to an organization founded by both Republicans and DFLers in 1982 with the express purpose of recruiting, training and financing female pro-choice candidates for every level of elective office.
"I'm Minnesota's other congresswoman, the one born in Minneapolis," DFL U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of the Fourth District said. The allusion to her Sixth District neighbor, who has been making much of her Iowa roots, evoked titters and groans.
Through three decades, Womenwinning has helped boost the number of women in elective offices throughout the state.
But to the chagrin of some of its loyalists, the organization's successful efforts at changing the way voters view female candidates likely also indirectly aided some who do not share the organization's support for women's reproductive rights.
Featured speaker Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, said that the goal for feminists ought not be 50-50 gender equality in society's leadership positions.
"It's being at a place where we have a critical mass - where everyone stops counting, and where women's voices are every bit as valued as men's," Myers said.
The Womenwinning feminists may not like it, but the 2012 candidate who appears best positioned to test whether that goal has been achieved in a national political party is anti-choice Bachmann.
Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.
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