Tag: Tonie Nathan

RIP Tonie Nathan, the First Woman to Receive an Electoral Vote

Tonie NathanTheodora (Tonie) Nathan, the 1972 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee who became the first woman in American history to receive an electoral vote, died Thursday at 91.

Tonie Nathan was a radio-television producer in Eugene, Ore., when she attended the first presidential nominating convention of the Libertarian Party in 1972. She was selected to run for vice president with presidential candidate and philosophy professor John Hospers. Although the ticket received only 3,671 official votes, Virginia elector Roger L. MacBride chose to vote for Hospers and Nathan rather than Nixon and Agnew, thus making Nathan the first woman in American history to receive an electoral vote. MacBride, an author and former legislator, had been elected on the Republican slate. As I wrote in Liberty magazine when he died in 1995, “MacBride became a ‘faithless elector’—faithless to Nixon and Agnew, anyway, but faithful to the constitutional principles Rose [Wilder] Lane had instilled in him.”

Brian Doherty, author of Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, writes:

It is a shame that her historical status for the advancement of woman’s role in what had been entirely a man’s world has been little noted or long remembered, mostly I suspect because the Libertarian Party is not much respected by institutional feminism (though it should be).

Hospers-Nathan buttonNathan was also the first Jewish person to receive an electoral vote.

After her vice-presidential run, she ran for office as a Libertarian candidate during the 1970s through the 1990s for numerous offices, vigorously though never successfully. In the 1980 U.S. Senate election in Oregon, Nathan participated in three statewide television debates with incumbebt Bob Packwood (R) and then–state senator Ted Kulongoski (D). She served as national vice-chair of the Libertarian Party, and at the 2012 Libertarian National Convention she announced former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as the presidential nominee. She founded the Association of Libertarian Feminists in 1973 and served as its chair.

Note: Premiering tonight on Showtime is a new documentary about Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, whom many people would likely identify as the first woman to receive an electoral vote.

John Hospers, R.I.P.

My old philosophy professor has died. He was the only person I’ve ever met who both received a vote in the electoral college for president of the United States and published leading textbooks in ethics and aesthetics. I am fairly confident that he was the only person of whom that will ever be said.

When I enrolled at the University of Southern California in 1973 to study philosophy, John was chairman of the department. I already knew about him, however, as I had read his book Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow and had heard him debate against socialism the year before, alongside the late R. A. Childs, Jr. That was when John was the first presidential candidate of the brand new Libertarian Party. (He and his running mate, the first woman ever to receive an electoral vote, Tonie Nathan, were on the ballot in only 2 states that year.) It wasn’t a very vigorous campaign, but it helped thousands of people to say, “You know, I don’t fit in with either the left or the right; they’re both abusive of liberty.” Besides that electoral vote the Hospers campaign helped to launch a long-term political alignment that is very much with us today, as people increasingly see issues in terms of personal liberty and responsibility, rather than as a battle between two different flavors of statism.

John was a gentleman, thoughtful, and kind. I remember meetings and seminars with him in his office, when he was always engaged, challenging, and willing to reexamine his own views when challenged in turn. He was a scholar and a thinker.

John Hospers was born on June 9, 1918, so he had just reached his 93rd birthday. He had a long life full of interesting experiences and left the world a better place than it would be had he not been here. He will be missed, but his legacy will continue on. He helped to nurture a movement for liberty that broke away from the absurd left/right spectrum. That alone is a worthy monument.