Oregon’s own Theodora “Tonie” Nathan, the first woman to ever win an Electoral College vote for Vice President of the United States, died yesterday in Eugene at age 91.
I first met Tonie at a meeting in Portland shortly after she won the VP nomination at the first national Libertarian Party convention in 1972. As a recent college graduate I was impressed with this 49-year old diminutive woman who might ─ just might ─ win one of the highest political offices in the land. She joined philosophy professor John Hospers on the LP ticket, but they only got on the ballot in two states. The rest of us had to write their names in on our ballots, which I enthusiastically did. Even though they only earned a few thousand votes that year, a rogue Republican elector from Virginia, Roger McBride, bucked tradition and cast his votes for Hospers and Nathan rather than Nixon and Agnew.
Tonie stayed active in politics for the next 40 years. She was happy when I and others founded Cascade Policy Institute in 1991, and she became a steadfast supporter.
As I think about what Tonie Nathan meant to me, several things come to mind. She was one of those people who always lit up a room with her presence, even though she was often the shortest person there. She was a true feminist, but of the libertarian persuasion, which confounded her left-leaning sisters. Most of all, she was a staunch, articulate supporter of personal and economic liberty.
I feel honored to have been her friend all these years. She will be personally missed by those of us who know first-hand all that she did to promote liberty. You might think of her as a living, breathing Statue of Liberty, carrying the torch for over 40 years. She’s handed it off to us now, and I know that she would want us to keep the flame alive so that every individual can bask in its glow.