An Introverted “Non First Lady”: A Refreshing Change


There was a great piece today by Joanne Ostrow  in The Denver Post about Helen Thorpe, the new Colorado first lady. Married to Governor John Hickenlooper, she is a self proclaimed introvert. Thorpe has several introvert earmarks: humility, avoiding the spotlight, relishing solitude, writing and even feeling different.

She sounds humble. While she thought of scrapping the term “first lady” (too egotistical I presume), she did not want to call undue attention to the issue, or herself. “We checked. I would be the only person in the country that we could find who declined to use the title officially. And that just seemed a little pioneering. I didn’t necessarily want to be the first one.”

Sidenote: It reminds me of the shockwaves sent through Arkansas when First Lady Hillary Clinton tried to unsuccessfully keep her maiden name (Rodham) after Bill was elected Arkansas governor. She got too much flack so she went with Clinton.

In addition to being the mother of a young son, Ms. Thorpe  is a successful non-fiction writer. Writing and introverts seem to go together well. My guess is that writing gives her the solitude breaks needed in her public role. Her latest book is  Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Living in America and she is at work on another.

The governor’s spouse describes herself as “elusive” and  does not crave attention. Reporter Ostrow writes, “….she vows to avoid the spotlight that comes with her husband’s office. An active player behind the scenes…….she is happiest off the radar. Don’t expect a calendar of ladies luncheons, gala sponsorships or parades of her latest fashions. Thorpe is committed to her career as a writer and to staying out of the conversation.”

She also likes quiet. Ostrow writes  “He could party every night; she craves quiet time. They share a love of live music, but it’s Hick, the rock ‘n’ roll governor, who has been known to drop by local clubs for the midnight show.”She and her husband attend Quaker meetings, where “It’s 90-95 percent introverts. . . we nod hello,” she says, smiling. “It’s very different energy from the state Capitol or City and County Building.”

She also expresses a typical introvert feeling; that they don’t fit in. “In November, just after the election, Colorado’s first couple attended a weekend retreat of the National Governors Association for incoming first families, held in Colorado Springs.Thorpe felt alienated until, in the last hour of the last seminar on the last day, the hulking spouse of a newly elected Western governor stood to say he was having trouble grasping his role in all of this. “That was the person I identified with most, ” she said.

I imagine the new governor’s spouse is not the first politician’s wife to be introverted. She may be the first to be as honest and open about who she is. How refreshing.


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