Department: The Feminist: Marjorie Margolies
There was something strangely familiar about the man Chelsea Clinton married last summer. Mezvinsky, Marc Mezvinsky … wasn’t there a Mezvinsky who was in Congress, a guy who went to jail? Tom? Joe? Ed Mezvinsky, that was it. He was married to that lady with the three names. Used to be on TV. A reporter. Ran for Congress herself … Marjorie! Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky! She’s Chelsea Clinton’s new mother-in-law? Wait, wasn’t there something with her and Bill Clinton? No, not that sort of something. Back when she was in Congress. “Year of the Woman.” She’s the one who got his budget passed, remember? And then she lost her seat because of it. Huh. Weird. What goes around comes around.
That’s the way the conversation went at a lot of local dinner tables and watercoolers over the summer, as the Clinton-Mezvinsky “Wedding of the Century” resurrected a woman most of us had more or less forgotten. It had, after all, been a decade since Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky’s Senate run against Rick Santorum imploded as her husband’s business shenanigans unraveled. There’d been a definite whiff of schadenfreude in the air back then, as the power couple who’d had it all — Main Line mansion! Rich and famous friends! Servants! Eleven kids! — saw it all disappear. The money Ed had borrowed from those friends — local businessman Ron Rubin among them — was lost in a web of broken deals and empty promises that sent him to prison for fraud; he blamed the mess on bipolar disorder exacerbated by a bad reaction to a malaria drug. Oh really, Ed?
It seemed the sort of crushing, humiliating blow from which Marjorie Margolies — she divorced Ed and dropped his name two years ago — would never recover. But anyone who’d try to raise 11 kids and serve in Congress at the same time — well, Margolies always had a huge tolerance for upheaval. There’s a price you pay for operating on the front lines as a female — as a newscaster, as a single mom, as a political lightning rod. If her life looked like a train wreck at times, the train always kept moving. It’s moving still, stopping these days in war-torn third-world nations, as Margolies dedicates her formidable energy to women for whom her loss of face and fortune would be a walk in the park.
“YES! IT’s HERE! The letter from Liberia!” a blond staffer in a blue-and-gold caftan and matching headdress says excitedly, rustling through the West Philly offices of Women’s Campaign International and waving an envelope. Inside is a check for $10,000 — a badly needed donation for the nonprofit Margolies, 68, has served as president since its founding in 1998. “We train women all over the world to run for political office,” Margolies explains, sitting at her desk in a black CANYON RANCH t-shirt and leggings. She’s just come from the gym. “Have you had lunch?” she asks, pulling out a tub of hummus and some pita chips.