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Remembering Ex-Rep. Marjorie Holt: A Conservative Woman Politician Before It Was Cool

Remembering Ex-Rep. Marjorie Holt: A Conservative Woman Politician Before It Was Cool
Marjorie Holt. 

By Sunday, 14 January 2018 05:23 PM Current | Bio | Archive

“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.”

The memorable axiom from Faith Whittlesey, President Reagan’s Ambassador to Switzerland, was heard frequently throughout Maryland January 7. It was in reference to Marjorie Holt, Maryland’s first-ever Republican woman in Congress, who died that day at age 97.

“Marjorie,” as just about everyone from the U.S. Capitol to her Anne Arundel County district called her, was conservative before it was cool. At a time when the Republican Party in the Free State was dominated by more moderate leaders, Holt was an outspoken conservative on issues from abortion to school busing to national defense.

And, as one of the few women with a high profile among Maryland Republicans in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, she stood out.

The daughter of an Alabama farm equipment dealer, the young Marjorie Sewall earned her bachelor’s and law degrees at the University of Alabama. She married electrical engineer Duncan Holt in 1946 and the couple eventually settled in Anne Arundel County. Duncan took a job with Westinghouse and Marjorie practiced law and threw herself in local Republican politics.

After a failed bid for the state House of Delegates (“Nobody wanted to vote for a woman,” she later said), Holt was elected Anne Arundel County Clerk in 1966. In defeating local Democratic powerhouse Louis Phipps, Holt had acquired an office that, in her words, “was a wonderful place to do people favors [but] not have to make any tough policy decisions.” She quickly made friends by marrying couples and hand-delivering licenses to people who didn’t have time to pick them up from her office.

State and national Republican leaders soon began to notice Holt. Ellen Sauerbrey, later House of Delegates minority leaders and 1994 gubernatorial candidate, recalled how “Marjorie, Larry Hogan, Sr. [father of the present governor of Maryland] and I were delegates to the 1968 Republican convention and pledged to vote for Richard Nixon..

"But we were invited to [California Gov.] Ronald Reagan’s hotel suite and sat on the floor listening to his pitch for his last-minute candidacy for president. And while we didn’t vote for him, we sure were impressed!”

(When Sauerbrey made her first bid for the legislature in 1978, Holt--who never forgot how people refused to back her first race because she was a woman--weighed in with a strong endorsement. Sauerbrey, who won, said Holt told her "don't let 'em get you down.")

In 1971, redistricting created a new U.S. House district in Maryland with Anne Arundel county comprising two-thirds of it. Holt jumped in the race without hesitation and won nomination and election with little difficulty.

Tapped for the House Armed Services Committee, the Maryland lawmaker was a spirited supporter of the military in South Vietnam after the U.S. withdrawal. When political hero Reagan was elected president, Holt strong backed his efforts to rearm the U.S. military and win the Cold War. She was also a vigorous backer of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1986, at age 66, Holt decided she had enough of Congress and retired. Vigorous almost to the end, she was devoted to volunteer groups such as the Light Street Soup Kitchen and Meals on Wheels. She also resumed the practice of law and proudly told the Baltimore Sun she and her husband “were able to do more sailing than we have done in 14 years.”

Today, Republicans in Maryland have nominated women for governor, lieutenant governor, and U.S. Senator. Republican women serve in the state legislature and in the Cabinet of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr.. Holt, Hogan told reporters, “was paving the way for the next generation of women leaders in Maryland.”

She did it “backwards and in high heels.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels."
marjorie holt, conservative, republican
Sunday, 14 January 2018 05:23 PM
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