Escape From Chicagoland

Hillary needed to escape from Chicagoland and so she went off to Wellesley at eighteen and never returned there to live eventually moving her parents and brothers to Arkansas away from Chicagoland. Of course, Chicagoland is the mythos of Chicago Tribune publisher Colonel Robert McCormick. It comprised the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin but it was often extended to a Middlewest stretching from Ohio to the Rocky Mountains. The decadent Eastern seaboard was carefully and specifically excluded.

The center of this Middlewest Nation is Saul Bellows' "... showpiece... of the lakeside, the seething of its immigrant slums...violence, corruption and creative energy...a world city." Sherwood Anderson calls it, "Chicago triumphant; factories and marts and the roar of machines...horrible, terrible, ugly and brutal."  Carl Sandberg's Hog Butcher for the World, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads attracted settlers from all over the world.  Like the others, Dorothy and Hugh from the English immigration soon became aware of the industrial slag heap onto which the workers are periodically discarded by the cycle of economic chance.

This is the dreaded Chicagoland,  the smoke and odors of the dark factories and bloody stockyards from which teenage Hillary planned her flight.   Or the suburban prison of wide lawns and narrow  minds in the words of Ernest Hemingway who escaped to the world from Oak Park, another Chicago suburb. She needed to escape her fate as " all-American, rugged midwesterner with childbearing hips, stocky legs...a strong back and a utilitarian body inherited from the Middle American gene pool that is designed to deliver a baby one day and carry sacks of corn and grain...the next," according to biographer Elizabeth Wurtzel. The greensward of Park Ridge could not tranquilize Hillary's restless mind.

Dread of the Middlewest is a strange idea to me as a native of Chicago where I lived on the edge of Lincoln Park not far from where Hillary was born.  Yet I  fled the Middlewest too, first to New York for a year, then to the South for two,  summers on Cape Cod and finally to California in my fifties. Hillary's  first escape was to New England, then Arkansas and the District of Columbia and maybe to California in 2001. Much of this Chicago aversion is covert, partly unconscious although the emotions emerge. "Hillary hates cold weather" one columnist says.

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An excerpt from Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks, by Paul Lowinger
Copyright 1998 by Paul Lowinger