If I were a journalist,"" Marvella Bayh once mused, ""I would certainly know how to look underneath the facade of a...


MARVELLA: A Personal Journey

If I were a journalist,"" Marvella Bayh once mused, ""I would certainly know how to look underneath the facade of a political wife""--a claim well-substantiated by this candid chronicle of frustration and resentment. Until her widely publicized mastectomy in 1972, Marvella had cultivated the image of a contented Senate wife but facing death, she wanted the chance ""to be me,"" and she became a TV interviewer and Cancer Society consultant--until her death this April. Marvella describes her happy childhood; how she met and beat Birch Bayh in a debating contest; went through marriage, college, and motherhood; enjoyed Washington's social whirl. But a car crash had left her with periodic double vision, and there were other trials--a near-fatal plane crash (with Ted and Joan Kennedy), chronic hormonal imbalance, insomnia, hand tremors, headaches. Her father became an alcoholic (and an embarrassment), eventually killing his second wife and himself. But most revealing are Marvella's frustrations: Birch (later ERA sponsor) was ""disgusted"" at her wanting a career, so she shared his, admitting after his first Senate election, ""I saw the victory as ours."" Home, though, was her ""bailiwick,"" Bitch's staff treated her like ""a stepchild"" (she fought with them constantly; Birch sided with them; she almost left him), and when she mentioned her frustrations, ""he was shocked."" In 1968, Johnson offered her the Democratic National Committee's Vice Chair (""I wanted that job more than I had ever wanted anything in my life""), but Birch and staff feared for his own reelection, so she stifled tears while he turned it down. More frustration, liberation via breast cancer, several good years--but then, ""a chapter that I didn't intend to write"" (recurring cancer, unsympathetic doctors, deepening religious faith). An impersonal epilogue, written by Birch Bayh (or perhaps his staff), notes that Marvella's life ""did make a difference."" A fascinating legacy whose true motivation only a psychologist could pinpoint.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1979