About Margaret "Midge" Costanza
Midge Costanza was a tireless advocate for equality, justice, and human rights. President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the office of Special Assistant to the President, making her the first woman to hold that high position. For the first 20 months of the Carter Administration she received national media attention as the Carter’s outspoken and committed “Window on America.”
Midge Costanza was born November 28, 1932 in LeRoy, New York to Philip Joseph Costanza and Concetta (Granata) Costanza. At the age of five, the Costanza family moved to Rochester, New York, where Midge attended Public School #33 and graduated from East High School in 1950. She has an honorary LLD from Framingham State College. For 26 years Midge worked for John J. Petrossi, during which time she was active in the Democratic Party, ultimately serving as a member of the Democratic National Committee. She was the Vice Mayor of Rochester from 1974-1977.
During an unsuccessful Congressional campaign she met Jimmy Carter, who appointed her co-chair of his New York state presidential campaign, and asked her to second his nomination at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Carter later appointed Midge to the post of Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, making her the first female Assistant to the President of the United States.
During her twenty months in the White House she served as a link between the President and a wide range of groups who previously had limited access to the White House, including women, youth, seniors, minorities, gays and lesbians, and the handicapped. She was particularly active in fighting for women’s equality, advocating for many issues, including the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, for the protection of women’s reproductive rights, and for the appointment of more women to high office.
After leaving the White House, Midge moved to California, where she remained active in political causes and spoke at events across the country. In Los Angeles she worked on the television shows America and America Talks Back and she managed Shirley MacLaine’s “Higher Self” seminars.
Midge moved to San Diego in 1990, where she became an active and vital member of the community, working on the campaigns of Congresswoman Lynn Schenk , Senator Barbara Boxer, and Kathleen Brown. She served on the Board of Directors of San Diego National Bank, and co-taught classes at San Diego State University. From 2000-2003 she was Special Assistant to California Governor Gray Davis, serving as a liaison to the Governor for women’s groups and a surrogate speaker for the government throughout the State of California.
In 2005 she joined the office San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis as a Public Affairs Officer. She was assigned to the Communications and Community Relations Division with an emphasis on the prevention of elder abuse.
Always an activist, Midge was a vocal advocate for health care reform in her later life. The day that President Obama signed the long-awaited Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Midge took her last breath. After a long battle with cancer, Midge Costanza passed away on March 23, 2010.
A Feminist in the White House: Midge Costanza, the Carter Administration, and America’s Culture Wars
Dr. Doreen Mattingly, Author