Does Treadwell really want to go back to the 1950s?

feminism According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner’s Sam Bishop, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell sent out a fundraising letter in early November, which told a personal story about his mother and abortion. In the letter, and in others since, Treadwell writes about his 18-year-old mother’s decision not to have an abortion 58 years ago when she discovered that she was pregnant “out of wedlock.”

“We used to be a culture that valued liberty and life,” he wrote. Treadwell said that unlike Washington Democrats, “I am a Republican candidate for the United States Senate because I do not believe the way we used to be was wrong.”

It’s hard to say what rosy past Treadwell is evoking here, but since he brought it up, it appears that the 1950s was the time when we “used to be a culture that valued life.” The time, apparently, that he does not believe “used to be wrong.”

A few facts about the 1950s, the utopian era for which Treadwell apparently longs:

  • Until 1978, women could be fired for being or becoming pregnant.
  • In the 1950s, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower proposed cutting taxes from the the top rate down to 91 percent from 92 percent. Currently, the top rate is in the upper 30s.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, laws in several states prohibited women from working and banned their hiring for some length of time before and after childbirth.
  • In most states until the 1970s, a wife didn’t have the right to refuse sex with her husband and a husband couldn’t be prosecuted for marital rape. In July 1993, marital rape became a crime in all 50 states.
  • In the 1950s, about a million illegal abortions a year were performed in the U.S. and somewhere between 160 to 260 women died from these abortions, while thousands more were seriously injured.
  • In Alaska, it wasn’t until 1968 that the first two women —  Mary Alice Miller and Dorothy Tyner —  were appointed judges.
  • In 1955 when Treadwell was born, there were no women on the U. S. Supreme Court and only two of the 307 federal district judges were women.
  • In 1955, of the 435 U.S. House members, 17 were women and only one of the 96 U.S. senators was a woman.
  • In Alaska in 1955, there were 16 territorial senators, one of whom was a woman, and 24 house members, three of whom were women.
  • Currently, out of 60 total, there are 17 women serving in the Alaska Legislature: 13 female members of the House of Representatives and four senators.
  • In 1955, the “poodle cut” was all the rage.
  • There was no licensed polio vaccine until 1962.

It goes on, including that Alaska wasn’t a state until 1959 and Prudhoe Bay wasn’t discovered until 1968.

Treadwell was once known in political circles as a forward-thinking, technology-embracing Republican moderate. That began to change when he ran in 2010 for lieutenant governor. Now, he’s even more vocally conservative than his boss, Gov. Sean Parnell, who although plenty conservative, would likely never say in a fundraising letter that he wants to go back to the days of Jim Crow, of separate but equal, of breathtaking sexism. The good old days when Treadwell’s mother could and likely would be kicked out of school or fired from her job because she chose to bring a child into the world.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


19 thoughts on “Does Treadwell really want to go back to the 1950s?

  1. Hickel Fan

    I have long been a fan of the late Governor Wally Hickel. I got to know Mead very well when Wally was Governor. Wally didn’t even think enough of him, in my opinion, to make him a commissioner although he did weasel and beg his way into a deputy commissioner slot. The best description I have heard of Mead is right here in this comment section. Mead really is a Republican Mark Begich!

  2. RT

    One of my co-workers made this comment about Mead Treadwell that I didn’t understand : “Mead Treadwell is a Republican Mark Begich”. Now, I understand more clearly what he meant. Alaska deserves better than these clowns.

  3. Nita P.

    Sam Bishop and Amanda Coyne both did a superb job with their insights on senate candidate Treadwell. This article certainly helped make up my mind. Earlier in the campaign, when he talked about standing with Ted Cruz he made my stomach turn. Now, having read this and all the comments left, I know that I will not be voting for this guy.

  4. Son of Sutton

    Sutton’s comments appear to be a fabricated response from Treadwell’s campaign or possibly from one of his children or girlfriend. From the comment posted, they have insights that extend beyond the scope of his comments. Their interpretation of what he means suggests first hand knowledge. I wonder if their explanation has any more credibility than their statement that he has served Alaska for 30+ years which I find laughable. I also find it laughable that he is NOW a pro-life conservative. My, my what an interesting perspective and revisionist view of history. One of the other comments suggested that Treadwell would say anything to win and here is an example. Sutton, with all due respect you are entitled to your opinion. I would have more respect for it if it was based in some sector of reality.

  5. sutton

    Please Amanda take it more out of context, no please do it. Treadwell is the candidate that you mention near the end he is a forward thinking candidate that Alaska and the Senate needs. Someone who has experience and has served the state for 30+ years. When he talked of his mother’s choices in the 50s he was clearly not referencing the points of the 50s that you bring up. Congress needs a change and Mead is a part of the change that is needed. If the only thing against him are his opinions on abortion then he is the candidate for me.

  6. S. Jenkins

    I hope Senator Begich has the priviledge of running against Treadwell. I can’t imagine an easier candidate for the Democrats to beat.

  7. The Professor

    Good article and perspective. I also read the comments and feel that Mr. Treadwell’s defenders are stretching the realms of reason to put up a defense. Coyne’s commentary is deserved. He is either intellectually void or dishonest. He is not a neophyte. Rather, he is an elected staewide official. He said it, he should stand beside it. Politicians know that their words will be analyzed and disected.

  8. Fortyniner

    These comments supporting Treadwell read like empty political words from political operatives. I’ve lived here a long time. All one has to do to learn about Treadwell is to look at the political contributions he made before becoming a public official. He supported candidates that supported abortion rights, gay rights and anti-gun types. That’s history. The facts. I agree with the reporter who wrote this story. He deserved the spanking. He is sooooo much a fraud in terms of his right wing views.

  9. Sumner

    It’s not really that Mead is shifting towards a more “vocally conservative” view, but rather that he is standing by his beliefs. While some of his words may have been misinterpreted, he is simply trying to enforce his pro-life views using the strength within an old belief.

  10. J. Ong

    Amanda Coyne is hyperbolic and out-of-bounds in the way she describes Mead Treadwell’s statements on certain values previously held in American society. Treadwell obviously does not wish to return to a time when legislation oppressed women and there was no polio vaccine (which seems to be a completely irrelevant fact). I interpret Treadwell’s statement not as a plea to return to the past but as to say that some of the values that were previously held in the past were not negative or primitive and that they should not be condemned simply for being values of past generations. Treadwell just suggests that the important value of the sanctity of life has been lost or extremely devalued in our society when it should be cherished for being a moral philosophy stemming from care and family values.

  11. Poll Watcher

    Enoyed this article. Mead’s campaign is a disaster. Poor guy has the personality of a snail and the ethics of a worm. His campaign organization doesn’t seem to be getting any real financial support. I suspect that he’ll come in third in the primary. What you’ll learn about Mead this electiom cycle is that he could care less about anything other than Mead. If anyone other than the jokester from Fairbanks would have run against him for lite governor, he would have lost. He raises 25%, actually less, than Begich raises in a quarter. In other words, hiw should any of us take him as a credible candidate. There’s a reason people are jumping to former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan’s campaign. The issue of carpetbagger just doesn’t matter Mead. What matters is that he is a credible candidate that can beat Begich. Mead, you’re not.

  12. Alden S.

    As easy as it is to perceive Mead Treadwell’s comment as a call to return to the “good ‘ol days,” we should be giving Mead more credit than we currently are. Clearly no one wants to return to an era of discrimination and inequality, and I don’t think Mead is running on a platform to return Alaska to the 1950’s status quo. This article clearly didn’t grasp Mead’s real meaning in his letter, and the fact that it paints him as a candidate who supports returning to a time when marital rape went unpunished and women could be fired for becoming pregnant is simply ridiculous.

    I believe that Mead was simply trying to point out that life should be respected, and that his very existence hinged on that respect. Furthermore, he is differentiating himself from a group in Washington that seems to be punishing people for holding certain values. Being a senator is all about representation, and I think that there is currently a staggeringly low representation in Washington of the values Mead embodies. Mead deserves more respect than Amanda Coyne is giving him, and this article is simply negative without any real purpose.

  13. Harlan

    I think when Mead said this he was focused on the value of life at the time. He wants America to be able to value life once again and believes that this can be achieved through Pro-Life policies. When talking about the “way we used to be,” it is certainly not referring to the sexist and racist policies in place 50 years ago, rather it is focusing on the loss of the strong American ideal of committing to have a child when one is ready.

  14. Lynn Willis

    As Amanda Coyne so clearly illustrates America has evolved and, like it or not, has become more inclusive of those who previously were not politically influential. Claiming or even implying that any one political party has an exclusive claim to human principles such as humility, honesty, civility, and responsibility will be extremely self defeating for that party.

    Mead Treadwell would have us take another trip down a delusionary memory lane frequented by a group that is losing its’ grip on political power. While I appreciate that Mr. Treadwell has the two characteristics that would serve him well to exist in that time frame, does he really believe that a majority of Alaskans statewide would follow him back to the status quo of the 1950’s?

  15. Marla

    Sam Bishop did a good job breaking this story. You expanded on it and provided a bit more analysis and perspective for which you are known and respected for. Keep up the good work. Love your postings.

  16. Norm C.

    Mead Treadwell has no moral compass. He’ll say anything, do anything and pretend to be sommething he’s not. Mead must think that we wake up every morning with amnesia, or probably hoping we do. Over the years, Mead has supported flaming liberals financially; however, when he decided to run for office in 2010 he reinvented himself as a conservative. Now, 4 years later he is running as a roight-wing, family values conservative. Let’s hope that someone who at least know their political values will win. I have beena Republican all my adult life. While I believe in voting for the person and not the party, I hope that someone besides Treadwell wins the primary because if he does, I’ll be voting for Begich and I’m not much of a fan of his. In fact, he’s a lot like Treadwell. Both are willing to say whatever to win.

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