Florida, 1995: Walmart removes “Someday a woman will be president” tee shirts after shoppers complain

How far we’ve come! Last night Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic Presidential nomination, becoming the first woman to run for President with a major party. Yet it wasn’t so long ago that parts of the U.S. considered this unthinkable. (It’s the same, of course, for blacks, and yet our President is black. But we won’t see an atheist President in our lifetimes).

Matthew Cobb pointed out a tw**t by Nick Kapur, professor of Professor of Japanese and East Asian History at Rutgers University. It’s unbelievable that nearly 20 years ago, a major retail chain removed an innocuous tee-shirt because the notion of a woman President was so offensive. It was, of course, in the South—in Florida and Arkansas.

The link is above, and I’ll reproduce the newspaper article after I show the offending garment:


The article. What’s even worse than people complaining is Walmart capitulating to the complainers!

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Remember, this was 1995, only 21 years ago.  I wonder how all those offended Floridans feel now?

The next step, of course, is to make tee-shirts saying, “Someday an atheist will be President.” I have a feeling those would also be pulled from the shelves.



  1. Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    But we won’t see an atheist President in our lifetimes.

    One can hope that some of WEIT’s younger readers — at least — might do so.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Guess the rest of us will have to get with some Ray Kurzweil-style life-extension program if we want to see it.

      Anyway, I think Jerry means “open atheist.” We’ve had some barely closeted non-believers in the White House already. Jefferson and Lincoln come to mind; both were personally pretty irreligious.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Someday there will be equality but don’t hold your breath.

  3. Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Now I understand Walmart’s rollback marketing campaign.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink


  4. Sastra
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The term “family values” is code of course for “fundamentalist Christianity.” So while misogyny and anti-feminism were the likely bugaboo, I suspect that somewhere in there was a tie-in to abortion. At some point or other, opposition to abortion is always dragged in when Christians are linking feminism and politics.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Some say code but when speaking of the republicans the term is dog whistle. They have lots of them and they live by the dog whistle.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        It always annoys me when the Republicans complain of identity politics by the Democrats (which is a valid criticism) then deny their own combination of dog-whistle politics and many refusing to acknowledge issues like institutional racism, sexism etc.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Exactly what one reader reminded me of yesterday, referring to the Elizabeth Warren speech. Donald Trump was all dog whistle in his 1.5 hour event and she called him on it big time. The dog whistle politics of fear and hate was front and center. It goes back many years as she said, to the poor white Jim Crow economic fears and racial resentment. It is the whole show and it’s all the republicans live by. They got nothing else.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            Very accurate observation imo. I’ve been away and have missed all the convention so far except Bill’s speech and a few reported excerpts of others, but the whole mood seems much more positive and uplifting than kast week.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      I was very fond of Christopher Reeve’s speech on the real meaning of family values at the 1996 Democratic convention.

  5. darrelle
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Going by the article I think this incident says much more about Walmart’s values than it does about the denizens of south Florida. 2/3 of the shirts had already sold when, provoked by a single complaint, Walmart decided to stop selling the shirts.

    And, because the shirts were contrary to Walmart’s family values? That is demented. Walmart’s family values obviously suck. Right up there with the Duck Dynasty folks.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      You’ve got to wonder who the one person who complained was though that they were able to override the evidence of high sales volume with one complaint. What’s the bet we’re talking a senior Republican politician like a governor, congressman etc or a spokesman for an organisation like Focus on the Family that threatened to, and can, create a national campaign against the store.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Certainly could be the case. Or it might be that the complainer was no one of any particular note, but that their complaint brought the shirts to the attention of upper management that was not previously aware that one store somewhere was selling them and that upper management then decided the shirts were against the Corps(e’s) values image.

        Neither scenario would surprise me and it would be interesting to find out the whole story. I am fully prepared to think the worst of Walmart’s upper management behavior.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          Good point. I hadn’t thought of that. That’s probably more likely than my suggestion in the circumstances.

          • darrelle
            Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

            Oh, I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t care to bet on any of them!

      • Sastra
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Or the complainer was no one of particular note, but the manager of that store listened to their reasons and realized that yes indeed, it was a real problem, thank you so much for drawing my attention to it. This would be especially effective if the no one in particular had some sort of particular relationship to the manager.

        In the South one store manager taking a brave stance for Jesus could have a domino effect. Upper management, then, would be the ones bowing to pressure from a mass internal revolt.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          I can see that being more likely than my scenario too. A politician etc would use the situation to gain votes in their constituency and so publicize the action, which counts heavily against my theory.

  6. Achrachno
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “Someday an atheist will be President.”

    I think we’ve already had atheist presidents (probably beginning with Washington). Certainly the deists were pretty close. And, we apparently never had an orthodox Christian president until after the civil war. See Franklin Steiner’s book “Religious Beliefs of our Presidents” for the blow by blow accounts up to the early 20th century. It’s on the web several places.

    • juan martinez juan
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      If there’s been some atheist in the oval office, it’ll be more a case of “a president being an atheist” than “an atheist being president”. I’m afraid it’s just not the same, and Jerry’s right. Won’t see that in our lifetimes.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Given that Unitarianism is often a very effective cover for atheism (definitely the road for many atheists getting into the Boy Scouts!!!), it is possible that Presidential Candidate Adlai Stevenson II (running against Eisenhower) may have been an atheist. (His father, Vice-President of Grover Cleveland, was a Presbyterian- so no dice there.)

      Given Washington’s extensive involvement with the Masons, it is far more likely that he was deist than atheist. Belief in some sort of supreme being is an absolute requirement for the Masons.

      Abraham Lincoln’s religion remains a matter of extensive controversy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Abraham_Lincoln )

      • Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure Lincoln was a “None”, though he bowed to religion where needed for political expediency.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        I attended UU services twice about 25 years ago. My ex-wife, who was otherwise a non-believer, was looking for … oh, hell, I don’t know, something. She dragged me along a couple times to get my take on it.

        As is their wont, the UUs asked anyone attending for the first time to identify themselves. I did so, and explained that I was opposed to organized religion — but that my wife had assured me they weren’t very well organized at all.

        I actually kinda enjoyed it. Not enough to keep going, but they didn’t push doctrine, and it gave me somebody to debate the Transcendentalists with.

  7. David Harper
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Women have occupied the highest elected political office in many countries for almost 60 years:

    Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, 1960-1965

    Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, 1964-1977

    Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, 1969-1974

    Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, 1979-1990

    Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, 1981

    Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988-1990

    Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991-1996

    Edith Cresson, Prime Minister of France, 1991-1992

    and many more, including the current Prime Ministers (or equivalent) of Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Poland, Burma, Bangladesh and Namibia.

    So much for family values, eh?

    • bric
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Oh but not the quite exceptional U S Family Values®

    • darrelle
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Given the rather typical US attitude of being the best country in the world along with the rather typical attitude towards other far away cultures it is enough to vaporize all irony meters in our spiral arm of the Milky Way that countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka and, last but most definitely not least, Pakistan have had women leaders but the US has not.

    • Draken
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      And I mean, Pakistan and Bangladesh!

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Would any American here care to speculate as to why the US, being as it is one of the more progressive countries in the world, has taken so long to get to the point where it has a viable woman contending for the position of President? Other countries less likely to promote equality for women have managed it. Why has it taken so long in the US?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I think one of the issues is that their president is Commander-in-Chief, and that’s not seen as something a woman can do. Many of us have constitutional separation between that role and the role of prime minister. So while the government funds the armed forces and sends them into battle, peace-keeping roles etc, they’re not Commander-in-Chief.

        The US was extremely slow to have women in the armed forces, and then in combat roles, compared to the rest of the world.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Well one major, and obvious, factor is that there is still a woman are inferior to men attitude among a significant percentage of the US population. It seems pretty evident to me that this correlates with the unusually high, among prosperous western nations, religiosity in the US.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        I would contradict your statement that the US is one of the more progressive countries in the world. By any measure of civilization – health care, infant mortality, penal systems, education, social services, women’s rights, minority rights (heck anybody’s rights), violent crime, whatever – we find the US way down the list.

        • Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          Science, technology, economy, military might are at top level. Many of the same countries that brag of social services rely on US for security. Not mentioning that we all rely on PubMed. The USA was also a pioneer in measles immunization.

      • dabertini
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        That is a misconception. The most progressive countries are Scandinavian.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          She didn’t say “the most progressive,” she said, “one of the more progressive.”

          In general terms I don’t see how anyone could reasonably argue with that claim. If you limit “countries” to only wealthy western countries or something like that then there is some room for argument.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        It’s a nice question why the so-called constitutional “textualists” and “originalists” don’t have the courage of their convictions to argue that a woman is ineligible to be US president, since both the Constitution’s text and its framers’ intent provide that only a man can serve in that office.

        The second sentence of Article II, section 1 provides as to the President: “He shall hold his office during the term of four years … ” (emphasis added)

        Sure, the 19th Amendment subsequently gave women the right to vote. But that no more made women eligible for the office of president (under a texualist/originalist theory of interpretation) than giving 18-year-olds the right to vote in the 26th Amendment abrogated the requirement of Art. II, sec. 1, clause 5, that the president “have attained to the Age of thirty five Years[.]” (The nation had a chance to rectify this situation with the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, but it failed to win ratification — thanks, Phyllis Schlafly!)

        I don’t agree with this interpretation, mind you, but there it is.

  8. mikeyc
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    “Someday an atheist will be President.”

    I suspect there has already been one (or more).

    • mikeyc
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      oops. sorry. I see that was already posted. I wish I could delete the comment.

  9. nwalsh
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    One more to the list. Kim Campbell in Canada, who as I remember was very pro science.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      And you can also add Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008. Women acquired the right to vote in New Zealand in 1893 – making NZ the first country in the world in which women could vote.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        And Helen Clark is openly atheist too. She was also our 2nd female PM – Jenny Shipley was the first in the 1990s.

        Helen Clark is currently head of the UNDP (#3 at the UN) and a very strong contender to be the first female Secretary-General of the United Nations.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

          New Zealand rocks!

          • Richard
            Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

            It’s all those earthquakes and volcanoes they have…

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

          Just to split hairs, Jenny Shipley – like the current British PM – didn’t become Prime Minister by election, but by rolling the existing (male) PM.

          But in NZ, apropos of Helen Clark, a politician’s religion is pretty much a non-issue. People (i.e. voters) would look askance at anyone who tried to bring religion into politics. Our current PM, John Key, has Jewish ancestry but has let it become apparent that he’s not religious.

          The PM *is* expected to make the right noises at ceremonial religious occasions like war memorial services and the like, but it would be considered quite offensive for anyone to ask them if they really believed the prayers.


          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

            I remember in a 2008 election debate between Clark and Key a question was asked about their religion and I was shocked that the subject even came up. Both, of course, said that they were atheist.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

              I’d forgotten that (or never heard it). But I too would have been quite surprised.

              I’m guessing here, but I doubt if either Clark or Key would have said ‘atheist’ straight out. I would guess they would have said something like ‘don’t have any specific religious faith’ or something similar. But I’m sure neither would claim a religious faith they don’t possess. Equally, being non-religious is no great disadvantage with the NZ voting public. (Disliking rugby football as I do would be far more detrimental 🙂


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

                “I too would have been quite surprised.”
                Surprised the question was asked, that is.

                Sorry for the ambiguity.


              • Heather Hastie
                Posted July 28, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, they were both straightforward, with no vacillating, especially Clark. I can’t remember if they said the word atheist or not. As you say, having no religious faith makes no difference here electorally. However, being overly religious counts against you. No member of a religious party has ever been elected, and no religious party has ever got enough votes to get anywhere near parliament either. If any mainstream candidate did the US thing of, “God bless you and God bless New Zealand,” everyone would think they’d lost their minds and even most Christians would consider changing their vote. As far as voting goes, we’re determinedly secular and have multiple religions (not just Christian ones) represented in parliament as we as many atheists.

  10. Kevin
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    A gay atheist black woman scientist whose parents are foreign born Muslims. And she’s a cat owner. Did I miss anything? Even in infinite Hilbert space, her chances may actually be zero (at least, today).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      By the time that happens people will (correctly) be focusing on her qualifications for the job rather than her identities.

  11. W.Benson
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Irony of ironies: Hillary Clinton was a member of Wal-Mart’s board of directors from 1986 until 1992, when hubby was running for president.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Woulda been nice if Walmart pulled the tees because they were chintzy, ugly poly-blends. ‘Course if chintzy merchandise were the test, Walmarts would be empty.

    The whole damn Walton family, and their labor-busting, predatory company, can kiss my ass.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . labor-busting, predatory . . . .”

      An Amuricun “value,” I gather.

  13. chris moffatt
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Because “a customer” was offended? One. customer. offended? One is reminded of the words of Christopher Hitchins – “you’re offended? so f***king what?”

  14. jeffery
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    How about, “Someday we might have a GOOD President!”

  15. Posted July 27, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I would kill for that tshirt. Any idea if they can be purchased anywhere???

  16. Billy Bl.
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure Margaret would have made a good president, but I am sure that the Dennis the Menace currently running would not.

  17. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    (Just to pile it on for the South, a one-liner from my student days:)

    What’s the worst thing you can tell a Klansman about God?
    A: She’s black.


  18. Copyleft
    Posted July 28, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I would have expected such an attitude to come from the 1950s, but then I remembered: in 1995, Hilary Clinton was First Lady. And the right-wing panic machine was absolutely OBSESSED with the fear that she might run for office herself one day.

  19. Andrea Saunders
    Posted July 28, 2016 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    This event was why and when I decided Walmart was a bad corporation. I haven’t shopped there in years although I know I pay more for some things than I could because of that decision.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 30, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . although I know I pay more for some things than I could because of that decision.”

      Wal-Mart and other private tyranny Masters of Mankind are most good to remind Amuricun consumers of that, vis-à-vis the off-shoring of U.S. manufacturing jobs. I gather that off-shoring is another vaunted, noble Amuricun “value.”

      Whatever trouble the U.S. and China have with one another, surely Amuricun businesses don’t want that cheap labor supply to dry up.

  20. Filippo
    Posted July 30, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink


    The above is a follow-up article. Wal-Mart invited the vendor to bring the shirts back, and gave away the remainder. (I guess she got her fee from them.) A senior executive said that there was an “over-reaction” from Wal-Mart staff, that it was not a “family values” – related issue, but said that it was “premature” to comment on whether the shirts would be sold in Wal-Marts nationwide.

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