Elections

The 1995 saga of the ‘Someday, a Woman Will be President’ shirt — and Wal-Mart

Dr. Ann Moliver Ruben of Weston sits with her "Someday a Woman Will Be President" items for sale at the ACE Educational Company in Davie. About eight years ago, the T-shirts erupted a controversy at a Miramar Wal-Mart when corporate headquarters banned the shirts from South Florida shelves. Feminist groups picketed across the country.
Dr. Ann Moliver Ruben of Weston sits with her "Someday a Woman Will Be President" items for sale at the ACE Educational Company in Davie. About eight years ago, the T-shirts erupted a controversy at a Miramar Wal-Mart when corporate headquarters banned the shirts from South Florida shelves. Feminist groups picketed across the country.

FROM THE MIAMI HERALD ARCHIVES: A look back at a controversy that hit close to home. In 1995, a Miami Lakes woman made a T-shirt that said “Someday, a woman will be president!” and Wal-Mart agreed to sell it. It was removed from shelves after a customer complained it went against family values. Wal-Mart put it back after public scrutiny.

Originally published Dec. 18, 1995

The T-shirt that dared to say "Someday, a Woman Will be President" was back on the racks at Wal-Mart Sunday after corporate executives banned the shirt in September.

Dozens of the shirts featuring the curly-haired Margaret, a comic strip friend of Dennis the Menace, were put on display at 1:30 p.m. at the same Miramar store that yanked them from the shelves because of customer complaints over its political nature. A Wal-Mart buyer told the creator the shirt “didn’t represent family values.”

"In this case, it was determined the T-shirt was offensive to some people, and so the decision was made to pull it from the sales floor, " said Jane Bockholt, spokeswoman in the chain's corporate office in Bentonville, Ark.

The controversy turned the T-shirt business of Miami Lakes psychologist Ann Moliver Ruben, 70, into a national enterprise. Customers who flooded Wal-Mart with calls threatening to boycott the store -- and sell their stock in the company because of the ban -- made Ruben's design a hot item.

"Wal-Mart said they would bring them back, and today they did, " Ruben said at a ceremony to launch the sale of the shirts. "It's the women in America working together that did it."

Ruben presented store manager Bruce Blevins with a T-shirt and an autographed copy for his father. Members of the Miami chapter of the American Association of University Women gathered at the store at 1800 S. University Dr. to show their support.

"I'm still concerned about the underlying belief that caused them to pull it, " said group member Ameli Padron-Fragetta of Miami, who has boycotted the store since the incident. "Did they agree to take the shirts back because it was wrong to think that way or did they do it because it was a marketing mistake?"

Since September, Ruben says she has received 50,000 orders for her shirt from women's groups and retail chains such as Target, Burdines and Byron's. A company from Medley in Northwest Dade is printing the T-shirts.

Wal-Mart alone ordered 30,000 T-shirts for its 2,188 stores nationwide.

"Wal-Mart, being a company that responds to customers' comments, overreacted and that was a mistake, " Bockholt said.

"We should not have pulled it, " said Bockholt, who has six shirts and was in Miramar on Sunday. "It has nothing to do with politics. It's a cute T-shirt."

Ruben says she got the idea for the T-shirt from a 1993 Dennis the Menace comic strip. In the cartoon, Dennis refused to let Margaret into his club, telling her it was for boys only.

"Open your eyes, Dennis, and join the rest of the world, " Margaret says. "Women make great cops, senators and representatives . . . Someday a woman will be PRESIDENT!"

The cartoon helps illustrate Ruben's research on children's issues. According to a poll she conducted of 1,500 elementary- age children, more 6-year-old girls than boys say they would like to become president.

"The shirt says it's OK for a female to be a leader, " Ruben said. "She doesn't have to be president of a country. She can be president of Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart eventually took the shirts off the shelves for good, saying they didn’t sell.

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