You might think that this is the first time a woman has won a national following running for U.S. President, but in 1940 a woman did just that. Even more amazing in today’s political climate, her campaign attracted fans from both parties.
Her name was Gracie Allen, and she was half of the popular Burns and Allen comedy team. Her persona was that of somewhat flighty naivete. Interspersed with her funny lines, however, were seemingly innocent zingers that were wickedly wise.
“A platform is something the candidate stands for and the voters fall for.”
From the age of three, Allen was a performer. Her career began on the vaudeville stage, where she met, formed an act with and eventually married George Burns. The comedy duo moved on to radio and eventually television.
On radio, Burns and Allen discovered their listeners loved running gags which might go on for months. So in 1940 Gracie Allen announced she was running for President. The media, as well as her fans, ate it up.
Allen made “surprise” appearances on other radio shows to plug her candidacy. She spoke before the National Women’s Press Club at the invitation of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She received an endorsement from Harvard University.
“We favor putting Congress on a commission basis. Pay them for results. If they do a good job and the country prospers, they get 10% of the extra take.”
It was all a joke, of course. In 1940, who could possibly take seriously the idea of a woman President?
Maybe the 42,000 voters across the country who, come election day, voted for her as a write-in candidate.
So as our current, surreal election season grinds on, if your spirits lag, think of Gracie Allen’s campaign and smile.
“Today millions of people are living who will never do it again. Millions are being born for the first time-and millions are doing nothing because it’s the best offer they’ve had this week. … It is for these people and many others that the Surprise Party is conceived and desecrated, founded upon the principle that everybody is just as good as anybody else, even though they aren’t quite so smart.”
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1940s detective Maggie Sullivan is more at home in the dark