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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Kay Bailey Hutchison Is No JFK BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country By Kay Bailey Hutchison New York, William Morrow 384 pages, $24.95 11 hough the byline on the cover of her new book reads “Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison,” it is an open secret that the author covets a title that would enable her to relocate from Washington. Gubernatorial ambitions might explain the bio on the jacket flap that states: “Senator Hutchison lives in Dallas?’ It might also explain the very existence of American Heroines, an attempt to do for Hutchison what Profiles in Courage did for John F. Kennedy in 1956, propel an undistinguished United States Senator into national prominence and contention for another office. By 1999, when John McCain co-authored Brave Decisions: Fifteen Profiles in Courage from American Military History, it no longer seemed unseemly for a Senator to bask in the reflected glory of those he chose to praise. But though Joseph McCarthy had already been tamed by 1956, a junior Senator from Massachusetts who published a book extolling John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, and Thomas Hart Benton for putting principle above party risked alienating members of his own party. In 2004, a book praising Elizabeth Seton, Sally Ride, and Nadia Comaneci risks irrelevance. “Every hero;’ wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, as if anticipating American Heroines, “becomes a bore at last?’ Hutchison’s book is a private pantheon of women who excelled in various fieldsincluding religion, education, art, aviation, politics, journalism, and sportsdespite obstacles placed in their paths. It is a record of successful resistance to the patriarchy, though nowhere in this wholesome book do vulgarities such as “patriarchy,” “feminist,” or “lesbian” intrude. Hutchison explains that the women whom she singles out are characterized by gumption, self-reliance, and optimism. “I have always had a sense of hope and optimism, too,” she adds, redundantly. In comments interspersed throughout the volume, which consists largely of bland paraphrases that Howard Cohn, credited as “the researcher and draft writer?’ crafted from primary works listed in the appendix, Hutchison insinuates herself as another example of female spunk. The great-great-granddaughter of one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, Charles S. Taylor, Hutchison was one of only 13 women in her law school class of 390 at the University of Texas \(a statistic cited United States House of Representatives in 1982, she served three years in the Texas House and two years as Texas treasurer before winning a special election to the Senate seat relinquished by Lloyd Bentsen. Re-elected twice, she is now, as she notes, one of 14 women in the upper chamber. In what she calls her standard “Raiders of the Lost Ark speech;’ Hutchison regularly expounds on “the dodging and weaving I had to do in my career?’ But she is convinced that women have now broken virtually all barriers, that there will even be a woman president or vice president “I believe America is the best place in the world to be a woman,” she declares, and, as if to convince herself, later repeats the claim almost verbatim: “America is the best place on earth to be a woman.” A reader would be more confident of her judgment if Hutchison were not so fond of reverse synecdochethe whole for the part, America for the United States of America. In parts of America such as Haiti and Bolivia, it is not especially great to be a woman, or a man. And she might consider whether women in Iceland, New Zealand, or Canada are more downtrodden than they are in Kingsville. The first section of American Heroines is devoted to pioneer women, but it indulges in another reverse synecdoche; this time the history of Texas suffices for the history of the United States. So Hutchison begins in the 19th century, with Mary Austinnot Mary Austin the author of the feminist, socialist, and environmentalist who wrote about Indian cultures in the Southwest. Her Mary Austin was the cousin of Stephen F. Austin and a publicist for the Texas Revolution. The Austins crossed paths with Hutchison’s ancestors, which might have enticed her to celebrate them, in a book whose ideal reader is a Texas voter. Her local partisanship is apparent when she boasts that, “The University of Texas is the second most highly endowed university in America, after Harvard?’ \(Not true, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, which has UT trailing Yale and who dared break with the theocratic Massachusetts Bay Colony to found Rhode Island, has no place in American Heroines, but both Adina De Zavala and Clara Driscoll, the women who saved the Alamo from commercial development, are there. Each section of the book concludes by interviewing a contemporary woman. Anne Armstrong, Gerald Ford’s ambassador to the Court of St. James, concludes the section on pioneers, a choice no doubt assisted by her decision in 1971 to hire Hutchison, then a reporter for a Houston TV station, as her press secretary. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .11/19/04