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Link to Web site for Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town z

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Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Libertarian from Eugene was first female VP candidate to get Electoral College vote

Tonie Nathan, one of the founders of today's Libertarian Party, was also the party's first-ever vice-presidential candidate when she ran with John Hospers in the election that gave us "four more years" of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew

Tonie Nathan with fellow Libertarian and world traveler  Don Parrish. From http://www.donparrish.com
This relatively recent image shows Tonie Nathan, the Libertarian Party's
1972 candidate for Vice-President of the United States, with fellow
Libertarian (and world traveler) Don Parrish. The image is from Don's
Web site, www.donparrish.com. For a larger image, see the original
image on Don's Web site. By the way, Don has met and been photo-
graphed with an astonishing array of famous people; details are on
his site.

When Geraldine Ferraro died in early 2011, dozens of news outlets around the country got busy getting her story wrong.

Ferraro “was the first female and first Italian-American nominated on a presidential ticket,” intoned the New York Daily News.

“Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run on a presidential ticket, died Saturday,” reported National Public Radio.

“Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice-president, has died …” Fox News announced.

Fox in particular should have known better, because Ferraro was an occasional contributor. The fact is, she wasn’t the first female VP nominee — that would be Marietta Stow, the Equal Rights Party candidate from 1884.

Nor was Ferraro the first female VP nominee to receive a vote in the Electoral College. That honor goes to an Oregonian — a woman from Eugene named Theodora “Tonie” Nathan — the Libertarian Party’s candidate in 1972.

Broadcast journalist, libertarian, political philosopher

Nathan was born in New York City to Jewish parents and came to Eugene via southern California. She’s a 1971 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications who, after graduating, stayed in Eugene and went to work for KVAL-TV, where she started producing a daily talk show.

She’s also a charter member of the national Libertarian Party, which was founded in 1971 as well, inspired largely by the philosophical vision of Ayn Rand. And when the fledgling party dipped its toes in the shark pond of Presidential elections for the first time the following year, Nathan was on the short list of nominees for its first ticket.

The Libertarians' first national ticket

The ticket that emerged from the Libertarians’ nominating convention was headed by John Hospers, a philosophy professor from the University of Southern California, with Nathan as vice president.

Nationwide, the party pulled only a tiny fraction of votes — fewer than 4,000 out of a total of almost 100 million — but Virginia electoral-college member Roger MacBride was disgusted enough with the Nixon-Agnew ticket to throw his vote to Hospers and Nathan.

Mind you, MacBride may have had an ulterior motive in throwing his one-vote bone to the new-born Libertarian puppy. Four years later, when the party was much stronger, he was the Libertarians’ Presidential candidate himself.

Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro
Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic
Presidential candidate in the 1984
election. (Photo from
http://bioguide. congress.us)

Ferraro’s distinction is having been the first woman on a major-party ticket. She went toe to toe with George H.W. Bush in a fairly acrimonious debate, barnstormed the country with Walter “Fritz” Mondale and basked in the inadequate but nonetheless impressive glow of 38 million votes come November. But she couldn’t claim to be the first female candidate ever.

As for Nathan, she still lives in Eugene today; she and her husband, Charles Nathan, raised three sons there. Since 1972, she’s been owner of an insurance agency; a persistent and articulate pundit with by-lines in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and many other publications; and a Libertarian candidate in numerous campaigns for national political office.

(Sources: Long, James Andrew. Oregon Firsts: Past and Present. North Plains, Ore.: Oregon Firsts Media, 1994; www.lp.org (Libertarian Party Web site); West, Raven. “Is the American Dream over?,” Nolan Chart, 3-26-11, www.nolanchart.com/article8489.html)