Theodora “Tonie” Nathan passed away today at the age of 91. If you are scratching your head not sure of who that is or why you should be aware of it, Tonie was the first woman in the United States that earned an electoral vote for Vice President of the United States. This happened in 1972.
In 1972, running as a vice presidential candidate for the first Libertarian Party ticket for the presidential candidate John Hospers, Republican elector Roger MacBride of Virginia who was supposed to vote for Richard Nixon but in protest voted for the Hospers-Nathan ticket instead. When reading the results of the vote, the man reading them read her name as ‘Theodore’ instead of Theodora.
At that moment, she became the first woman to receive an electoral vote for vice president, as well as the first Jewish person to receive an electoral vote for vice president. John Hospers was the first gay man to receive an electoral vote (as far as we know).
In an era when both Democrats and Republicans work very hard to smear the ideals of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party for political purposes (they feel that those vote that they ‘steal’ are rightfully theirs despite not having earned them) the facts of the Libertarian Party in leading for civil rights for everyone have been lost. To the point that when frustrated about a comment he made about a reporter, Alec Baldwin responded with the tweet
@ABFalecbaldwin: When did all this Breitbart libertarian trash become the defenders of gay rights?””
While most libertarians can’t speak to Breitbart’s group (as he isn’t a libertarian, nor is his group), libertarians have been defenders of gay rights since, well, always. And defenders of women’s rights. And everyone’s rights. Progressive Democrats didn’t get around to supporting gay marriage until 2012. Conservative Republicans will get there, kicking and screaming, within ten years.
Because, unlike Progressive and Conservative views, Libertarians are bound by a basic philosophy that puts others above them. The rights of the individual, not the individual self but every single possible individual, are above politics. The real measure of your defense of rights is not how vehemently you defend your own, it is how you defend the rights of those that you disagree with. Our views don’t change for political expediency or getting votes, we don’t think that natural rights that each person has are up for political negotiations. Unfortunately the same thing cannot be said of the two major parties who put your rights up for negotiation at every election.
Theodora earned her nomination on merit, not as a political stunt. Nor did she campaign for it. She was a TV producer from Oregon who showed up for the convention. Because of some well-phrased comments from the floor during debates over the platform and statement of principles that impressed the rest of the delegation, she was nominated as the candidate for vice president of the United States.
She was also a founding member and former vice chair of the Libertarian Party, as well as a founding member and former president of the Association of Libertarian Feminists.