Yes #ImWithHer

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It likely comes as no surprise to anyone that I support Hillary Clinton for President. I can still be a little perplexed by certain assumptions about my endorsement of her candidacy. For the record, I am a “Nebraska Nice” homegrown feminist who found myself battling gender stereotypes throughout most of my adult life. I never had much success in these strategic engagements, but I am proud of my persistence and courage. I never gave up my personal political and social agenda or willingness to fight for others and causes I support. I accept that I have walked a fine line between activist leader and dilettante. I hope I have demonstrated some commitment, knowledge and intelligence avoiding the latter category. I cannot deny that I ran for 3 political offices mostly because I had a social agenda. I knew I had virtually no chance of winning these races. It was a daunting challenge. The “Year of the Woman” in politics had been declared in 1992. Not seeing much action in Nebraska by 2002 – 2003, I was willing to step up. Whether I even accomplished my personal goals is yet to be determined. For the record, my agenda was to encourage more Nebraska women to run for political office and help them win.

My personal “Herstory” reflects why I admire Secretary Clinton so much. She doesn’t give up. She fights for underdogs like me and causes I believe in. Most importantly, she is so much better at it then I ever was or could be. She truly is the champion I aspired to be. She was identified as a woman leader for my generation at her college graduation – before she even met the former American President who shares her journey!


Hillary Clinton chose to work and learn from a giant in a field I advocated for and followed for decades. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, is a accomplished women I greatly admire. Her association with Hillary spoke volumes to me when I first decided to even like the aspiring First Lady. 

One of the bedrock principles I have figured out is that you cannot cherish children by disparaging or dismissing the women bearing so much responsibility for their lives. Hillary Clinton gets that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and she has spoken to this reality forcefully and tirelessly throughout the years.

For a lot of reasons, our American political landscape is depicted to emphasize differences over shared values. Hearing “Women’s Rights” unfairly translates and is reduced to a narrow reproductive focus in some circles. This was the dark alley detour of the 20th Century feminism I lived.  It was unavoidable because women do have certain rights that society failed to recognize. Rights that apparently still need to be defended. The U.S. Supreme Court is often the decider of the competing interests. This process can be generational. Along the way, wedge issues erect roadblocks on the path to equality and fairness.

I see “Women’s Rights” as central to the social work and juvenile law cases I pursued. I still want to advocate against domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. These social plagues arise in family and societal settings. Hillary Clinton is my candidate because she prioritizes this policy. She doesn’t just orate on it, she has made the welfare of women and children a central focus of her life’s work. She clearly has vast knowledge and experience in other areas; i.e., foreign policy. Importantly, her policy agenda includes the global struggle for women’s rights. Now that is a revolution I can believe in.

In politics, I perceive a laundry list of unconscious motivations I project onto others. I feel guilty about this, but continue the exercise because it helps identify problems and solutions. For now, I will just remark it has been my experience that successful women are held to a higher standard of achievement. It’s unfair and totally unnecessary; discouraging and sometimes very hurtful. It takes a champion to face setback or defeat and move on. Hillary is the gold standard of resilience and fortitude. She will do everything in her power to get the work done and make our lives better.

If you seek more information or persuasion, and you probably should, I encourage you to visit this website:

There is also a film series MAKERS: Women Who Make America (PBS 2013.) Watching any part of Season One will give you a superpower to see the political world through my eyes: 


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Magna Carta & Me

Magna Carta

King John of England signs Magna Carta at Runnymede 1215.

I am reflecting on the celebration of a historical event that took place 800 years ago. Why you ask? Because it is another thread that weaves through a Nebraska life’s journey I call my “Herstory.” As always, it connects first to 1950s entertainment I watched as a child in Blair, Nebraska. One of my favorite T.V. shows (and there were so many) was “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Richard Greene. Apart from the dashing male lead and his storied romance with the lovely Maid Marian, this show introduced some notions of populism and insurgency into my young life. It also launched my life long interest and later study of English History, and some bonus research into my ancestry.

Robin HoodThe lessons I learned in viewing this series boil down to: humans can and often will resist and even take collective action when their government exploits and demeans their existence. 

Robin Hood and his band of “Merry Men” were legendary champions of common folk around Sherwood Forest. The locals were being overtaxed and terrorized by the forces of a villainous Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff enforced the decrees of Prince John who was running England in the absence of his brother, the ruling monarch, Richard I “the Lionhearted.”

Richard was apparently busy elsewhere in “The Crusades.” (Without digressing too much, Christian military campaigns had been organized to “rescue” Jerusalem and other holy places in the Near East from Muslim domination. A REALLY long story, if you are interested, Google it or visit a library.)

Focusing on my ruminations this week, the Prince John in the Robin Hood tales later became King John. He was defeated by a rebellion of his Barons at Runnymede. They insisted he sign a charter that came to be known as Magna Carta. This document recognized some rights for some people; i.e., most specifically the Church and his victorious noblemen. The charter memorialized that His Majesty, who had been led to believe his right to rule came directly from God’s will, would no longer be above certain laws. In addition, the rights at issue could be determined in legal proceedings. This has been conceptualized as “the rule of law.” This may not sound like a lot by modern standards. At the time, it was a huge deal. It was such a historic shift in power that John asked the Pope get him out of his agreement. The Pope jumped to his defense, but the arguable”reprieve” was short-lived and did not settle the matter. Needless to say, people were very excited and inspired by the opportunities presented.

Quantum Leap “Quantum Leap” to Nebraska 8 Centuries later

Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States followed the new path taken in Runnymede 800 years ago. We the People of the United States now understand that we have rights enforceable under laws. Attending elementary school, I learned and patriotically recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Through much repetition over the years, I came to appreciate and depend upon our collective oath to “Liberty and Justice for All.” This small town Nebraska girl took much comfort in the notion that Americans always stood for freedom as a guiding principle. This is one reason why I get so discouraged. We see politicians and community leaders working hard to deny or limit legal rights. The persuasion methods used by these advocates can certainly bother me. Images from a yesteryear of grifters and snake oil sales professionals come to mind. Finally, the continued success of such transparently reactionary forces regrettably tempts me to judge fellow citizens as ignorant and/or gullible. The latter assessment may be true in some cases, but it is not particularly helpful to focus on it.

Some comparisons to Prince/King John, the legendary Sheriff of Nottingham and The Crusades are troubling me today. I can think of elected leaders here in Nebraska who either lack understanding of the law, or see themselves as above the law. They promote partisan campaigns seemingly to ignore the trending of history toward democratic principles of Liberty, Justice and Equality. Some of these advocates may earnestly believe they are on a Divine mission to hold the line. They certainly still voice support for their freedom, public order and unrestrained wealth accumulation. What they fail to accept is that all these principles depend on “the rule of law.” We cannot keep legal protections for ourselves and deny them to others.

Nebraskans sometimes stand on the sidelines because we do not see our own rights immediately threatened. We may compliantly jump on a political bandwagon because we are too busy, angry or fearful to see the social and personal cost. Alternatively, we can stand up for ourselves and others; respecting “the rule of law.” This is the legacy our ancestors gave us to oppose tyrants. Can we resist self-absorbed, scornful and misguided politicians? It would seem to be the best choice. Will we avoid the antagonistic rhetoric, and do our part to promote civil discourse and responsible governing? Our Heartland state will be so much better if we do.

220px-Joseph_McCarthy United States Senator Joseph  McCarthy

As a little girl in Blair, I saw a political demagogue named  Sen. Joseph McCarthy brought down and his followers humbled when responsible Americans stood up for important values like fairness and decency. His methods of reckless allegations and public character assassination turned the tide of political opinion. This moment in my lifelong T.V. viewership became a textbook lesson in how power can be used for good or evil. Sometimes, I feel a longing or nostalgia for those earlier decades when life seemed less complex and stressful. It may be human nature to cling to recollections and sensibilities of past years. If we stay in this “comfort zone” too long, however, we risk forfeiting our future progress and growth. For what it’s worth, I am endorsing the platform of mutual respect and civic responsibility today. Reflecting on “the rule of law” is a very good place to start.

Here are some topical musings on the Magna Carta to further illustrate the reasons we celebrate.

CNN blog “rule of law” and “due legal process”

NPR – horse of due process out of the barn

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2 Wrongs

I adored my father. He died somewhat unexpectedly and suddenly 33 years ago. I was blessed to share a restaurant meal with him in College Park, Maryland, earlier in the evening on the night he left us. Harold Robert Stewart reached the age of 64 years looking forward to retirement once the Social Security he paid for over 40 years kicked in. One of the first political instructions “Daddy” shared with me was that Social Security was the salvation of a working poor man like himself. He said that was why he was and would always be a Democrat. Harold had been a child in the Great Depression, losing his mother at age 3 to childbirth. As a young child, he was sent to live with his father’s sister until his “Dad” remarried. Happy to reconnect with his father, he faced some normal challenges in his adolescence adjusting to a new step family. His parental reunion was then tragically cut short. Fred C. Stewart died suddenly at work one day when his oldest son was 15 years old.

Fred & Bertha Stewart 001   Fred C. Stewart and Bertha Tams Stewart

Dad and Janny Harold and “Janny” Stewart

Losing his parents early in life left an indelible imprint on Harold who became a soft hearted and devoted family man. He worked very hard and enjoyed a “few” beers at home in the evening. He wanted and needed to be at home with his family, particularly when his children were young. He was always the parent whose unconditional love I never doubted even when my behavior or life direction disappointed him. He was a man of few words, and this may be why I remember every moral lesson he ever gave to me. His guiding life principle, which he shared with me throughout my life was: “2 wrongs do not make a right!” In my specific case, “Janny, 2 wrongs do not make a right.” Later I heard, “Jan, remember 2 wrongs don’t make a right.”

This simple and profound parental guidance has helped me resolve many moral questions I have faced or pondered on my life’s journey. It has joined some other wise teachings discovered in adulthood.”Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama.


Society poses some difficult questions needing policy resolution. This is always an opportunity to find consensus or discover a compromise that divergent interests can agree to accept. In such matters leadership really matters. In our politically polarized and special interest funded nation, we struggle with this.

The Death Penalty is one issue that comes to our government policy makers on a regular basis. The Nebraska Unicameral is considering legislation now. A lot of reasons to abandon the Death Penalty naturally present themselves; moral, practical, economic, legal, etc. Our state, however, still appears to be very divided on the issue. Anyone who is interested, and I do think we all could try to be, can find countless sources of information, analysis and discussion. My own ruminations certainly consider if rationality and logic alone point humanity towards a “tipping point”abolishing this form of punishment.

As always, I reflect on the personal journey that brings me to this crossroads. The Protestant denomination of my upbringing has advocated for abolishing the Death Penalty for over 50 years. Not surprisingly if you have been reading this blog, I only discovered this fact 2 years ago. One of the practices I really admire in the Episcopal church is the content and tone of the sermons. The sermons I experienced have not been at all preachy. They did not focus or lecture on politically divisive moral issues. It seems to me that the congregation is free to study and reflect as individuals. We can read The Bible and Book of Common Prayer, and clergy is available to counsel parishioners who struggle with spiritual choices.


My first introduction to the Death Penalty arose on June 25, 1959. Charles Starkweather, age 20 years, was executed by electric chair in Lincoln, Nebraska. He had been convicted of First Degree Murder having killed eleven people during a road trip/killing spree with a teenage girlfriend. The couple were arrested on January 29, 1958. Until the very day he was executed, the story of his violent crimes, trial, appeals, etc., had not really registered on my childhood radar screen. (My parents were pretty careful not to discuss disturbing information in the presence of their 2 daughters.) When the news of the execution came over the radio, I was surprised to hear some cheers in a home where I was visiting. My surprise is likely explained by feelings of cognitive dissonance. I had learned of The Ten Commandments; most likely through a synergy between Charlton Heston and Vacation Bible School. Celebrating the death of another human being just seemed in conflict with my almost10 year old understanding of morality.

I have previously explained, in some detail, how my values are closely connected to movies and T.V. entertainment watched in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. My parents both worked in a small town movie theater in Fairfield, Iowa, where our family lived for 2 years. My younger sister and I watched a lot of movies while Mom and Dad were working. One specific memory connects to the Death Penalty.

Actress Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for a 1958 movie “I want to Live!”  This film was based upon a true story of Barbara Graham who was executed in the California gas chamber in 1955. Coincidentally, this film was shown on cable this past week. I also noted a documentary airing on Nebraska public television. I have these recorded on DVR to watch later. It’s intriguing how these “coincidences” occur. When I was younger I suspected I was clairvoyant. Now, I more maturely understand that when I am reflecting on issues of the day, other entities are doing the same. Anyway, I vividly remember that the Hayward movie trailer left troubling impressions before I even experienced the film sometime in the 1960s. A few things caught my attention. I was shocked to see a woman behaving in the indecent, unscrupulous and aggressive manner portrayed. The possibility that a woman could be executed for a crime honestly stunned me! Socialized gender roles of the day sort of assumed that a “lady” would not commit the various crimes depicted. Furthermore, I clearly understood that “gentlemen” should never strike a woman, much less execute her. Men were seen fighting and punishing others in movies and T.V. all the time. Apparently this was expected. Needless to say, I have since learned otherwise in many respects.


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Accidental Feminist Part 3


As I coasted to college graduation, I uncharacteristically spent some time considering the future. My spouse suggested I look for a job. Seriously? That was certainly not my top priority. I tried an employment agency. An undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1971 meant nothing, even if I was one of the top students.  I was offered 2 jobs as a Property and Casualty insurance underwriter at the disappointing salary of  $400 – $450 a month!  I suspected I might have done better if I had been a male graduate. Being a lifelong night owl, I was unwilling to get up early and to work by 8 a.m. for that amount of money.

Graduate school seemed an alternative until I discovered a new direction for my life’s journey. I really did not have the math skills to succeed in a graduate program in Economics. This was in a time long ago before personal computers or electronic calculators. My manual calculation skills matched my dreadful typing ability. What should I do?


The Young Lawyers 1969 – 1971.

Once again, a television program became the compass I used to set my course.  There was a show running about young lawyers helping the poor. It was sort of a “Mod Squad” with young lawyers instead of police. I watched it occasionally and noticed there was a streetwise woman lawyer in the mix. So …the idea of going to law school was born. It is helpful to recall that this was undiscovered territory for me.  The adults in my family never attended college. I did not know a single lawyer. I had watched Perry Mason for years. My working class parents, still absorbing my unexpected graduation from college, were incredulous when I reported an interest in law school.

I spent a gap year working the night shift at Hilton Reservation Service. I liked the work and learned about faraway places to visit. I am still working on that bucket list.

I applied to 2 law schools, University of Iowa and Creighton University, and was accepted at both. My enrollment decision was made when my husband extended his college graduation again. There was no Vietnam War reason for his delay anymore. (His Draft lottery number 6 had already been resolved by a 4F classification.) His plans of attending the Masters of Fine Arts program at Iowa were definitely slipping away. At the time, I was not as appreciative of his willingness to support me through law school as I could have been. I regret this now. Anyway, Creighton Law became the plan.

I was noticeably alarmed to learn that my Creighton scholarship would only pay for 1 semester’s tuition or books. The Student Finance office introduced me to the harsh reality of Student Loans. The process was streamlined. Getting myself in the Schoolof Law door was the easy part.

I knew nothing about law school, and did not think to look into it. I naively assumed it was a continuation of college with a focus on “The Law.” Of course, I was one of the students who arrived the first day not knowing I had missed almost 200 pages of assigned reading. We were then assigned seats alphabetically in all classes. Really? This was a bad omen.

The professors did not lecture or share much concrete information about the various Law courses we studied. They did challenge students ; i.e., verbally abuse us, with questions. I became aware that this vacuum of information was “The Socratic Method.” These drills did mirror press interview experiences I faced later in politics. The interrogator asks a series of questions until you embarrass yourself, and then noticeably smirks at your deficiencies. This “communication”style always conflicted with my mother’s earnest guidance on manners.

There were 14 women in my freshman class at Creighton Law – roughly 10% of the total students. One of the women students dropped out before 2 weeks. I often wondered if she made the wise choice. My own rationale for staying was dubious. I had suffered the worst 2 weeks of my life, and it would be for nothing if I did not get a law degree!


Law School Entertainment Therapy

I was blessed with great friends during my Creighton years. We bonded around our stress and deflated egos. We felt collectively vindicated by the movie “The Paper Chase” that proved to the world that we were all being disrespected and victimized. We were good students and graduated at the top of our class. I became a mother 3 weeks into to my senior year. My close friends were very supportive. Most of the faculty pretended not to notice that I was barely able to squeeze into my classroom seat and then absent for 3 weeks.

I became a Feminist in spite of myself. There were several guideposts on this leg of my journey.

I had read a book titled “The Feminist Mystique” by Betty Friedan in my gap year before Creighton. This book resonated with me to an extent I had not experienced up to that point and have not felt again. It explained the underlying low grade sadness I had seen in my mother’s life. It also evidenced some of the obstacles I faced in my own personal goals and relationships. It revealed my current situation in a light I might never have discovered on my own. I am not sure the book would mean so much to a woman of the Millennial generation today. It was the Rosetta Stone for Baby Boomers like myself.

Constitutional Law was a freshman requirement. I was an devoted student of History so I enjoyed this course more than most. At some point in the year, we received a pocket part insert for our already too heavy Con Law casebook. It had a “hot off the press” Supreme Court opinion Roe v. Wade. I learned much later that this case was apparently a really big deal. In typical Janet Elizabeth Stewart fashion I had no clue. I had literally heard nothing about the case before it became assigned reading. I am going to share my personal evolution on reproductive rights, at some point. This particular post will focus on another revelation that solidified my identity as an “Accidental Feminist.”  A defining moment in my political evolution emanated from “The Equal Rights Amendment.”

I had an unbelievably uninformed understanding of the Feminist movement. I belatedly noticed that I gave up my maiden name unnecessarily, which I instantly regretted. Otherwise, I kept some distance from the few so-called “feminists” I encountered in my later college years. These young women seemed to have more interest in my husband who held court in the UNO student center playing Bridge and opining on the issues of the day. One of these women actually scolded me over the telephone for my resistance to her efforts to marginalize my marriage. Apparently, I was too possessive with some lingering Middle Class values. I really did not appreciate the competition or criticism.

One day, I was approached by a Creighton classmate who revealed that several of my law student peers would be travelling to Lincoln to witness the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature’s reconsideration of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was another historical moment that had passed under my personal radar screen. I had not become aware of its passage, the ratification process underway in the States, or that Nebraska had been one of the first states to ratify the amendment to the United States Constitution. Having a mountain of reading assignments, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to join in the pilgrimage. I became a Feminist true believer in Lincoln, Nebraska, the next day.

Arriving at the Unicameral, I witnessed our democratic process firsthand. A line of yellow school buses had transported groups of spectators on both sides of the issue. We crowded into the gallery and watched the spectacle unfold below on the floor of the Legislature. The orchestra appeared to be conducted by a Senator named Richard Proud who, in my memory after some 40+ years, exhibited a smarmy demeanor opposing women like me just seeking some fairness. Some snazzy woman from out-of-state had been brought in to fluff up the egos of male legislators and explain how they had been sold a bill of goods by some of their women colleagues.

Nebraska had actually ratified the ERA quickly having been swayed by the opportunity to “make history” by being the first state legislature to do so. (The half-baked decision making process is something I have seen on more than one occasion at the Nebraska Unicameral.) Hawaii, having a time zone advantage, beat Nebraska to the prize, which was a hard pill for some state senators to swallow. After the fact, groups opposed to gender equality had the opportunity to feverishly protest the outcome. Nebraska rescinded its prior ratification of the ERA – not the first or last time a reactionary public policy decision was swayed by ignorance and fear in the Cornhusker State.

I was heartbroken by what I saw on the Unicameral floor that day. When my group dejectedly returned to Creighton Law, we endured the comments of previously admired professors who patiently explained why the Equal Rights Amendment was not needed. My professional and political life since is a reflection of their mistaken and insulting Conventional Wisdom and legal prophesy espoused on that day. Nebraska legislators and legal scholars abandoned me and other women just when we needed their understanding and support the most. 

For more information about the history and current status of the ERA you can visit:


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Accidental Feminist


This post will seem too personal and anatomical to some. My motive is not to offend or generate controversy. I just realize that it is probably necessary to share more childhood memories to put my political journey into perspective. I am usually discrete and demure so I am sure my reflections will be pretty harmless, at least by 21 Century standards. This chapter continues my explanation of why I became Another Accidental Feminist.

The easiest “secret decoder” for my personal history and social perspective is to remember that I was born 5 months and 166 days before the 1950’s came into existence. My early childhood years were lived in an Eastern Nebraska town with a U.S. Census population of 3815 growing to 4931 by 1960. My parents were Midwestern Protestants only a generation removed from the latter Victorian Era. The only reliable mention of sexuality before my Puberty was a little booklet I received in 5th grade at the public school I attended. Actually, a neighbor boy had mentioned something a few years earlier but it all sounded preposterous. His understanding of the anatomy was actually somewhat mistaken. This could have been confusing if I had given any credence to what he was saying. Anyway, the 5th grade “reveal” was a jolt to my understanding of gender. One afternoon near the end of the school year, the teacher announced that the boys in my class were to report to the gym. To this day, I have no idea how the boys spent the segregated time afforded to their group.

On the day in question, the girls watched a short black and white film strip. We were then sent home with booklets. The official nature of this communication process was both exciting and embarrassing. My sister and I had not been especially encouraged to initiate conversations with adults in our home. I was not even that good of a listener back then. Because I am somewhat compliant by nature, I did show my mother the booklet and briefly reported the surprising class room segregation and film screening. I would describe my Mom’s reaction as pretty compassionate. I had a sense she knew this all was coming. Mom basically confirmed the truth of the information I had been given without going into detail. She explained that this was a natural part of being a woman. The information I had just been given was generally known by grown ups living in the United States, presumably including my Father. I was not really sure about that circumstance since the boys at my school had all been excluded from the teaching. I have since asked a few adult male friends what they learned on that same occasion. Perhaps, they were also given some pertinent information? To date, no specific recollections have been shared. Guys look honestly perplexed by the question. I guess it was not a such big deal or worthy of note in their lives. Maybe they just went out for ice cream?


This is a 1957 publication but my recollection has more “pink” around the edges.

Mom encouraged me to read the booklet, which I did several times. There were some diagrams of reproductive organs. I had a younger sister, but had never heard anything about biology related to her birth. When the reality of the female process described set in, it all sounded messy, embarrassing and inconvenient. There was apparently a direct connection to pregnancy and motherhood. It was a bit helpful to get this information. The booklet mentioned that fathers also had some role in the reproductive process. This was the official explanation given in a nutshell. I continued to ponder whether the boys in my class were told anything at all. I certainly would not be asking any of them or my Father for details. I had exhausted what my Mother wanted to say. Maybe she knew more. I formed an impression that I would be married some day and my husband might update me on the specifics.

Spin & Marty


My prepubescent self deduced that at some point in the not too distant future, boys and girls would develop more interest in socializing. I got a sense of what this might look like from watching “The Mickey Mouse Club.” 1950’s T.V. had several boy characters in my age range, but I lost my heart to the older Spin Evans of MMC’s “The Adventures of Spin and Marty.” The Marty character was a rich kid, but Spin was cool and shared working class roots with me. The first year of this serial focused on horses and the evolution of a youthful rivalry into a friendship between the title characters. The next cycles of “New” and “Further Adventures” introduced the lovely Annette Funicello into the mix. Some rivalry came back into the picture. The suggestion that 2 boys would compete for the affection of a girl seemed pretty appealing. Of course, I was no Annette, but who was? Later programs featuring Annette depicted 2 girls competing for the attention of the same boy, which was more congruent with information I had gleaned from entertainment exposure. I experienced both of these basic scenarios as I lived through the 1960’s. The remarkable thing about my own adolescence was that between the 5th grade booklet and high school, I received little authoritative scientific information on human reproduction. I did surreptitiously read a relative’s Encyclopedia Britannica one Summer, but the information was sketchy at best.

SHS girls


Without going into too much depth, the additional information I received on this topic from my family was minimal. The basic goal was unequivocal and easy to remember. Mother just mentioned that she and my Father assumed I understood that a girl should not get pregnant before marriage. This “conversation” occurred sometime while I was in high school, possibly my Sophomore year. There was also a special co-ed Hi-Y group meeting announcing this same guidance. The implication was that self control would be the key to compliance. Of course, the particulars on how one would actually get pregnant or avoid it in a particular situation were never disclosed.  I had picked up some rudimentary information, but it was hardly comprehensive. Sexual behavior and contraception were not suitable topics for discussion even among my best girlfriends.

Contraception was not an option for girls like me. My financially challenged family really had no money for routine health care. I had to wait 2 years to get glasses. My medical examinations and dental care was sporadic and only scheduled when specifically needed for school enrollment. I received 50 cents per school day for lunch. I never gave much thought to any of this. The truth of the matter is I did not hear much about birth control until I married in college. I followed some T.V. news in my high school and early college years – Civil Rights, even Vietnam caught my focus, but the whole reproductive health planning deal did not come to my attention. The FDA approved the Pill for contraception in 1960 and the United States Supreme Court affirmed a married couples’ right to use contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). These developments did not even get on my personal radar screen.

Some of my classmates faced the consequences of teenage pregnancy. Dropping out of high school was pretty much a given back then. I heard tales of teenage marriages with new dads having to work at low wage jobs providing little opportunity for their family’s future. Celebrity Ricky Nelson from “The Adventures of Ossie and Harriet” seemed to work it out following some initial scandal. He was a rich kid and had resources my peer group lacked. Unplanned pregnancy was risky business for a working class teen in the 1960’s.

Anyone perusing this story for a contrite confession of teenage transgressions will be disappointed. My lack of information on human reproduction did not present any problems for me. I was blessed with one pregnancy in my life that surprised me 5 years into my first marriage and halfway through my law school education. I share all this TMI to introduce a topic central to my political “Herstory.” I lived my early Nebraska life in a bubble of 20th Century naivete and ignorance that did not prepare me for adulthood, gender relations, or political engagement. How then did I evolve into a Nebraska Democratic Party “personality” associated with Feminism?

This is where the story gets a bit interesting, if not fascinating to me. I will get into it more in PART TWO and future blogs, but for now let’s just say it concerns my experiences as a young wife, university studies, Law School, my legal career, Nebraska Democratic Party activists and a certain Lincoln Journal Star reporter.

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Women for Women?

Before launching into a discussion of this topic, let’s just say I do not attribute my own electoral results to a lack of support from other women. I do think I share a life experience, perhaps, similar to other Nebraska women and it could be productive to look at that journey. When I was a young girl growing up in small town Nebraska, I heard “mixed messages” about supporting other women. My homemaker Mom usually had 1-2 close women friends and their support of each other was something I noticed and envied. On the other hand, 1950’s television, motion pictures and magazines left the strong impression that women were competing with one another and there was a limited number of rewards to be won. For me, that translated into attention and commitment from males and societal and familial recognition for any special attributes or achievement. I did not see that I would have much in the way of personal resources to bring into this competition.

ME & MICKI 001

1950’s Micki and me.

My early Elementary School years were not that helpful. I was a painfully shy child who daydreamed a lot. Sitting in a classroom was excruciating for me. I had a running mental picture of more interesting diversions. My youthful fantasies were fueled by what I learned watching T.V. and movies, and also reading comic books. We are talking The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Sky King, and also grown up offerings like My Little Margie, I Love Lucy, Our Miss Brooks, Leave it to Beaver, The Bob Cummings Show, The Jack Benny Program, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and The Ed Sullivan Show immediately come to mind. My first celebrity crush was Howdy Doody closely followed by Peter Pan. The debut of The Mickey Mouse Club was one of the most thrilling days of my young life. The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was one of my favorites, and I think I know why. George Burns watched his wife and neighbors get into wacky situations and “broke the fourth wall” sharing his observations directly with the audience. This theatrical device always intrigues me to this day. Also, George Burns seemed to truly love his wife Gracie and she conveyed some wisdom apart from the wacky escapades.

On the comic book front, I habitually read Archie, Betty and Veronica, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. My favorite superhero was The Flash, I do not recall any reason why. I owe my comic book exposure to my best cousin Micki who was my childhood mentor having lived a year and few months longer than me. My parents did not buy comic books but Micki had a large collection that came to me in bulk for Summer binge reading.

I am sure there is a lot of research on the gender role socialization that evolved from ALL this entertainment. I have read some of it. Needless to say, the expectations I formed for my own existence were pretty limited by my perceived deficiencies. Movie Star was on the top of the aspirations, but it was hard to really see that as a promising goal. Teacher was not so appealing because I suffered through most of my own schooling. Nursing and Secretarial skills seemed pretty difficult and challenged my perceived abilities. Homemaker seemed possible, but I was not sure it was my own mother’s and her close friends’ first choice. Maybe she and her friends knew something I could not see. My Mom’s title for her full time job was always “house wife.” My childhood view of this career was obviously at bit romanticized. In my mind, the major appeal was you did not have to go to school. You stayed home during the day, spent some time on the phone chatting with friends, and you could watch some T.V. The cleaning, cooking, sewing, and laundry duties seemed doable because I did not appreciate the skill and science involved.

But somehow my journey did not go down the path I imagined in my childhood. What happened? I have some thoughts…

Virgin Mary 001


When I was in possibly the 3rd Grade, my parents made a switch from the Methodist to the Episcopal Church. This was probably wise because the congregation membership was less and we could be bigger deals and have more fun. St. Mary’s was just across the street on my block and we had to walk way around the corner and then cross the street to First Methodist. The Episcopal Church was cooler because you had to kneel, wear a hat or scarf, and you could go up to the altar for blessings when your parents took Communion. I earned a few special little medals for learning dogma like the Nicene Creed. Anyway, one year I noticed that a pretty blonde girl was selected to portray St. Mary at Christmas. I obviously did not fill that bill. Then one year, my Mom came to me to announce I had been cast as Mary and that she would coach me on the lengthy Bible passages I would have to memorize. Forgetting for the moment that there was no reason to think I could master this assignment, I immediately understood a few things. My Mom was really into this challenge and her ego would be riding on my performance. Also, when it came to memorizing, my not blonde or particularly pretty self had a shot at the prize. I remember getting through the performance and my Mom did say she was proud. I probably got another little medal. The lesson I learned that day was that I could be smarter than some other little ladies. If I applied this new talent at school, I might get some attention and rewards. This is a aha moment in my “Herstory.”


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That Janet Stewart

Who is that Janet Stewart anyway?

I guess at this point in my life, I would describe myself as a “Nebraska Democratic Party personality.” I am 65 years old and mostly retired from my profession and politics. I am married, the mother of a 40 year old son and we have 4 grandsons. I have just one sibling, a sister 4 years younger who lives and works in Florida. She has one daughter who also lives in Florida. I am now the proud Great Aunt of 2 adorable identical twin girls who are approaching their 1st birthday.

I have two 3 ½ year old Lhasa Apso doggies named Sam and Sid. I suspect I will be posting lots of family pictures.

IMG_20130613_184205_271 croppedMy Life.

I am a child of the 1950s, a native Nebraskan who spent my early childhood in Blair. During my early childhood, my Father owned a small Radio & TV repair business. My parents moved to Omaha in 1963 and I became a “SOG” or South Omaha Girl. I have now lived in Fremont with my husband Richard Register for the past 23 years. This Eastern Nebraska environment greatly influenced my personality and perspective.

Over the years, I came to value what I perceived to be the strength and strong values of Nebraskans. I like to think I am thoughtful and independent in my views. I am also proud of my persistence. I worked very hard over the past 40 years to complete my education, raise my child, and pursue a challenging career. My first grownup job was in state government. Insurance claims and litigation was then the focus of a corporate law practice for the almost 27 years. I have degrees in Economics, Law and Social Work. I thought my academic background and life experience would give me a broad background from which to tackle important work in politics. In retrospect, this view was pretty naïve.

I ran in three races for political office over the past decade. I was a Congressional candidate in 2004, and pursued Nebraska statewide offices in 2010 (Secretary of State) and 2014 (Attorney General.) My community service over the past two decades has been primarily in the fields of child welfare, domestic abuse and mediation.

Janet19 originalMy Perspective.

As I travel throughout Nebraska speaking with people, the most common question I am asked is why I decided to run for office. Most politicians get this question. I invested a decade of my life and campaigned not once, not twice, but 3 times. I have to tell a bit about my family history to begin to answer this question. My parents Harold and Elaine Stewart were married at the end of my father’s service in the army during World War II. Elaine was a very bright woman who passed on a college scholarship to start a clerical office job in Washington, DC. She found her 1940s working and social life very rewarding. Once my Father was discharged and they returned to Nebraska, a decision was made that Elaine would stay home and raise a family. Society did not fully value or fairly compensate the important work our mothers did in the home. While my mother fulfilled her role, even as a child I sensed that she had some regrets about the independence and tangible rewards she lost along the way.

Mom 001revBlair crop 1950’s Mom and Me.

I am part of a generation of women who have seen our traditional roles change in very significant ways. I believe this experience is the greatest strength of my public engagement. The evolution in my own development gave me a different perspective from career politicians and government bureaucracies currently dominating the political scene.

I spent my entire adult life competing in fields that males traditionally dominate. I learned how to survive on my own terms. My experience was that as more women entered my fields, cultural beliefs and the rules of engagement evolved in mostly positive ways. I strongly believe government and our traditional political party system have benefited and will continue to benefit from this type of change. Our political institutions could have a broader perspective more representative of our nation. The reason I ran for political office was really because I thought “it’s time.” I was eager to put my education, training and life experience to work. I wanted to honor the contribution of our mothers and grandmothers, helping make their dreams of equality and a better society a reality.

 Smartphone download 186 Smartphone download 309 The Time is Right 2014

I believed voters would be ready to support a qualified woman candidate for higher office. I still believe this and we have seen some recent validation of this premise. For a number of reasons my own campaigns crashed and burned. Sharing some of this “Herstory” might be interesting and certainly could be a productive process for me. At least I hope so. My goal will be to share my personal journey and reflections with as much honesty, kindess and empathy as I can. One of my middle aged priorities is to promote manners. The importance of good manners was stressed by my Mother throughout the 1950s and 1960s. I did not always heed Elaine’s advice at the time. Now it honestly perplexes me that, as a society, we do not optimize the use of these social tools that cost nothing and make such a difference.                                                                                                                                                            

My personal political agenda can be charted somewhere on the feminist scale. I understand that the Democratic Party might have a demographic advantage in some elections if we could persuade more Nebraska women to vote. I did not come upon this understanding myself, but from reading a lot of research and campaign plans of groups focusing on women voters, e.g., The Voter Participation Center’s Women’s Voice Women’s Vote. Current voter registration in Nebraska reflects close to a majority of Republicans. A Democratic candidate could still win with support from Non-Partisan voters and some Republicans. A lot of Republicans tell me they “vote for the person, not the party.” I really do not know how true this is or ever was, but I do know a number of Nebraskans who espouse this old chestnut. In many ways, I believe the Nebraska Democratic Party, and its various constituencies, have forgotten how to nurture and build the coalitions needed to win in the 21st Century. I do not have all the answers, but I have reengineered a slogan: “If it’s broken, why not at least try to fix it?”

I met a lot of people on the campaign trail who are discouraged or angered by politics. My answer has always been that if we want our democratic society to work we must share the responsibility. Finding fault and opting out of the political system will never get us where we need to be. No elected official or political party will solve the challenges that face us as a nation. I do think respecting and helping one another would be a good place to start. What if we actively participate by voting, support candidates we believe in and hold our elected representatives accountable for the choices they make on our behalf? Could we then see a country work so much better in my lifetime? That’s why I am writing this blog. Along the way, I hope you will share your own hopes for the future. I happen to be a professionally trained listener. I am also an aspiring senior citizen social media maven. You can find me on Twitter @fremontdiva and my Pinterest Boards pull together a pretty complete picture of who I am and what is important to me. Over the past decade, I have rebranded myself as “the Fremont Diva,” a story for another blog or two. I will get into the “Conciliation” piece of this project in due course. I do intend to talk about tolerance, respect, shared interests and patience.

Today I am just introducing myself as that Janet Stewart and this is my project.


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