Coya Come Home by Gretchen Urnes Beito
An intimate biography of Minnesota Democratic Congresswoman Coya Knutson and the story behind the “Coya Come Home” newspaper headline that caused her political defeat in 1958. A family tragedy became public spectacle and, before she could clear her name in a celebrated “dirty tricks” trial, the Congresswoman’s political career was shattered.
It would never happen today — the story of Coya Come Home. Even now, some of you will have trouble believing that such a thing actually took place. — Bob Greene columnist; Chicago Tribune
It is her nature and her fate to be a born newsmaker. When she finally decides to talk, it is a safe bet a nation will listen. — Fargo Forum, Fargo, North Dakota
Sparkling, exuberant, bubbling, energetic… she was heading for the moon. She was full of life, electric… and people liked her. Coya could go into a room and get the dead to wake up. — Vice-President of the United States, Walter F. Mondale
Coya Come Home, a newspaper headline that reverberated around the world in May 1958, referred to the publication of a letter written by Congresswoman Knutson’s husband demanding that she abandon her political aspirations and return home to be a full-time housewife. He charged that the 45-year-old Congresswoman and her handsome 29-year-old administrative assistant were having a love affair. The allegations were untrue, but as a consequence of “the letter,” Coya Knutson lost her Congressional seat; her personal life was left in shambles and her political career was permanently destroyed. For many readers it was simply an amusing tale of the hayseed farmer who wanted his pretty blond wife back home in the kitchen rather than on Capitol Hill. Instead, it is a larger story of political intrigue, domestic violence and the stifling social attitudes of the time.
Coya Knutson died of kidney failure in Minneapolis, October 10, 1996. What happened to her politically 30 years ago in Minnesota’s Red River Valley is a remarkable story that illuminates a fascinating transitional time in American society and politics. In her extraordinary career, Coya barnstormed with Kefauver, stumped the hustings with Humphrey, and won Rayburn’s appointment as the first woman on the powerful Agriculture Committee. With warmth, humor and candor, Ms. Beito tells the intimate, heartbreaking story of the spirited middle-aged farm wife who went to Washington to fulfill her dreams of a political career.
Congresswoman Coya Knutson was my girlhood hero and I cannot think of a better 100th birthday gift than bringing Coya home again by publishing an updated edition of this intimate biography of the Minnesota farmwife who took Washington, D.C. by storm.
The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights has completely underwritten this new limited edition. All proceeds from the sale of Coya Come Home benefit its “Youth Leadership” fund, specifically in support of women entering the field of public policy.
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