Magazine article Insight on the News

California Dreaming

Magazine article Insight on the News

California Dreaming

Article excerpt

California is a state of political snarl and hyperbolic rhetoric, where critics of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson are fond of saying he looks the way the state feels: tired, cranky and a bit peevish. Having heard this, it often comes as a surprise that his wife, Gayle, is the veritable embodiment of how the Golden State would like to see itself: warm, sunny and radiant, with a touch of whimsy and a healthy sense of humor.

If out on the campaign trail the governor sometimes seems the sour personification of tough decisions in hard times, his wife can sweep that image away with a generous smile and a wacky song lyric or two.

"I think I am a good campaigner. I can give a good speech and I have a good rapport with the audiences that come to see Pete," Gayle Wilson told Insight. "I bring an element of Pete Wilson to the campaign that many people don't see and it has certainly worked in California. I have to make an assumption that it will translate to the other states."

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University and a Westing-house Talent Search finalist in her youth, Wilson put aside thoughts of a career in medicine to embrace a husband, motherhood and the home. Now a volunteer whose interests include science education and prenatal care, she has throughout her marriage to Pete Wilson, her second, worked for her community as if doing so were her full-time job. But she has stopped short of trying to impose her political ideals on either her husband or the state.

Gayle Wilson straddles the age of Eisenhower and the age of Aquarius. She had the chutzpah as a young woman to follow a scholarly path in the sciences at a time when the field was not overpopulated with women. But, she says, her decision after graduation to pursue a more traditional role was part of being a member of the generation of women with whom she came of age.

"My little niche group was much different from either the women who preceded us by three or four years and those that followed," she says. "I did what it was expected of me to do. I stayed at home and was a mom for 10 years.

"When I left Stanford in 1965 there were no riots, no Vietnam protests. My friends and I were basically educated at good universities and active in our communities. But we didn't feel we had to have it all the same way. Some of us became lawyers and teachers. Some of us became mothers and volunteers. I remember reading Gail Sheehy's book Passages in the mid-1970s and it advised that you have your career before your children. Well, I couldn't very well back up and start all over."

Nonetheless, Wilson began working tirelessly outside her home. …

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