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Main Street women think for themselves

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

BEDFORD, Pa. – Judy’s Motel is a cheery gem, a classic motor lodge just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the Bedford Village historic district.

Its red-brick exterior with bright red, green and yellow Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs is a welcome sight for budget travelers.

Delores Beideman prides herself on running a clean, friendly motel, something she said takes a lot of work: “I am up every morning at 6 a.m., and the day doesn't end until 10:30 p.m.”

She and husband Bill do it all – laundry, housekeeping, repairs, warmly greeting guests.

“Owning your own business is remarkable,” she said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“This is the American dream.”

The Beidemans moved here from near Philadelphia 24 years ago to raise their girls in a safe small town and to fulfill a dream of running a mom-and-pop business.

Delores said she cannot help but pay attention to national politics; Washington’s policies affect her bottom line. “The gas prices have already affected us,” she explained, and she is very worried about this summer’s impact.

She and her husband contribute to this town’s economy: Their motel offers skiers an affordable place to stay and discounted lift tickets; they direct visitors to local restaurants and antique shops; when weddings or reunions come to town, families reserve a string of rooms and enjoy the long front porch facing the mountains.

Beideman is amused by President Obama’s sudden interest in women voters; an independent voter, she thinks his new “war on women” and class-warfare rhetoric is unappealing.

“That certainly doesn’t make me consider voting for him,” she said, adding that she wishes he would speak seriously to voters instead of staging events. “The problems are serious out here.”

Despite leading among women voters in recent polls after championing a Mitt-Romney-hates-women story line, Obama has cracks in his campaign foundation – and Beideman is a perfect example.

For one thing, Romney’s loss of female support may be just the temporary fallout from Rick Santorum’s rhetoric.

Obama’s Chicago machine readily pounces on such polling numbers, yet its response lacks a genuine feel. A Wednesday event with millionaires who appeared with female assistants to promote the “Buffet Rule” not only was awkward but also demeaning.

Before that, the White House announced that Obama called for Augusta National Golf Club to include women. You could sort of hear the crickets chirping over that bold move towards solidarity with women.

Honestly, how many rounds of golf has he played where a woman was part of his foursome?

Sherri Welden, 54, voted for Obama in 2008; a Democrat who works two jobs (as does her husband), she is less than pleased with the president’s performance.

“I am disappointed in the health-care bill, the handling of the economy and the high cost of heating fuel,” the Harrisburg resident said. “And that is just for starters.”

She said she will vote in November but is not sure for whom. “I am a Democrat …,” she said, struggling where to take the thought before leaving it at that.

Neither she nor Beideman, the motelier, consider themselves to be part of a female voting bloc; they’re individuals.

“To label the diverse ways that females participate politically as the ‘women’s vote’ is inherently confining,” said Catherine Wilson, a Villanova University political scientist who specializes in gender’s electoral impact. “But this labeling continues due to the low numbers of female representation on all sides of the political equation.”

Despite the recent polls, Wilson says women voters are up for grabs this fall and both parties should court them more vigorously, less superficially.

The “Judy” of Judy’s Motel hasn’t run that business for years; now a spritely 100, she lives in a nearby nursing home.

When she ran the motel, Bedford was part of a new frontier – the American road-trip. Her business was located right off the new cross-country Lincoln Highway, bustling with travelers; she also was part of the first generation of women that was allowed to vote.

The pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony, often declared: “Think for yourself.”

Delores, Sherri and plenty of women today are doing just that, not swayed by political gimmicks.

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