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One of the biggest surprises came in the public reaction, not toward Morris but his wife, Connecticut lawyer Eileen Mc Gann.
Mc Gann did what wives have almost always done in such situations, which was to announce that she was sticking with her husband, and erect a shield of privacy to deflect more detailed questions.
She was searching for a language for “the problem without a name,” two years before Betty Friedan published She wanted to tell us something about the way some people live, people one didn’t normally think of as interesting or worthy of ink, and what it did to them. The next question was likely to be, “What was it about? “It’s a story about some other people.”* * *Things are undeniably different for women now than they were for Nora Johnson, the daughter of the producer Nunnally Johnson.
There were no reports of orgies, no drunken scenes (Morris, in fact, deserves at least a shred of credit for passing up the favorite defense of the pre-baby-boom scoundrels, that he was driven to his shocking escapades by alcoholism).
“Wives are lonelier now than they have ever been,” Nora Johnson wrote more than half a century ago.
But although human nature doesn't change very quickly, even in Washington, society does, sometimes in ways that can surprise even the best pollsters.
When political consultant Dick Morris fell last month to a tabloid story about his yearlong affair with $200-an-hour call girl Sherry Rowlands, the crash shook the capital's notion of what constitutes a proper sex scandal, and shed new light on America's changing attitudes toward adultery in the not-so-naughty '90s.
Women’s ambitions and autonomy weren’t just undermined by their domestic duties, but institutionally and legislatively as well: With the exception of a right to “proper support,” wives had no legal claim to their husbands’ income or property, while in many states, husbands could control those of their wives through “head and master laws.” How easy could it be—on the days when the thoughts came at you, and the piles of laundry and the obligations like the PTA and your husband’s boss’s wife and the other items on Johnson’s unrancorous but unsparing list piled up—to feel good in your captivity?