Ann Romney: an enigmatic first lady-in-waiting (+video)
Ann Romney can seem at turns warmly gracious and wholly out of touch. But she's tough – a steel forged by her deep love for her family and her husband – and that should be on full display Tuesday night as she addresses the Republican National Convention.
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“They don’t talk about it a lot, because it’s a very private thing for them, but when you’re with them you know they’re truly people of faith,” says Mrs. Wheelwright.Skip to next paragraph
When Mitt returned from France, Ann was among those who met him at the airport. During the drive home, they got engaged.
Ann's decision to get married at 19 and to start a family right away (their first son, Tagg, was born on their first wedding anniversary) raised concern among her parents.
Her mother, who believed in zero population growth, was unhappy that Ann left school to move to the Boston area with Mitt, and that they were having so many children so quickly, and so young, says Ronald Scott, author of “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and his Politics” and a distant cousin.
“Her mom in the 1970s is grumbling about the fact that [Ann] has converted to Mormonism and drunk the Kool-Aid, and it finally gets to the point where Ann says, ‘If you want to have a relationship with your grandchildren, cut it out,’ ” says Mr. Scott.
Not only did she stand up to her mother, he adds, but she also went on to finish her degree, taking night classes at Harvard’s Extension School. “This is a person who is her own person,” Scott says. “She didn’t need to finish her degree, but she did.”
Romney has said she often felt on the defensive about her decision to forgo a career and be a stay-at-home mother to five kids in Boston in the 1970s.
“My parents were questioning my choices, my peers were,” she told The New York Times this summer. “But … I was pretty resolute.”
This spring, the subject came up again, when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made the mistake of criticizing Mrs. Romney in a television interview, saying that she had “never worked a day in her life.”
The remark caused a brief firestorm, and Romney took to Twitter to defend herself.
"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," she tweeted.
Ms. Rosen apologized, and the Obama campaign quickly distanced itself from her, denounced her remarks, and emphasized that Rosen wasn’t working with the campaign.
By all accounts, Romney was a devoted mother – and a busy one. Her five boys were born in the space of 11 years, and Romney raised them largely without help. (She also suffered a miscarriage, several months into the pregnancy, between the births of her fourth and fifth sons.)
“She is a fabulous mother and grandmother,” says Wheelwright, who also had five children about the age of the Romney boys, and used to spend time with Romney at the park as they watched their children play. “She always had a sense of humor, even when the house was being torn apart.… She’d laugh, and say, ‘That’s just boys.’ ”
She could be strict, too. Scott recalls an incident when her son Matt was 16, and the family was ready to drive to Cape Cod for the weekend. Matt was reportedly being obnoxious, and ragging on his mother, and finally she just got in the car and drove off to the Cape, leaving Matt alone for the weekend.
“It says two things,” says Scott. “She’s got a temper, and she’s not easy to push around. And also she raised her kids so that she could leave her 16-year-old son home alone for the weekend and know she’d come back and find the house in good condition.”
Wheelwright recalls being impressed that, even though the Romneys had money, they always had their sons – and Mr. Romney – out doing yardwork or pulling out stumps in the yard.
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