Claire was twelve years old when her parents dove into the world of paranoid politics, a world dominated by the John Birch Society, an anti-Communist, anti-federal government movement. “We’re taking back the country” was the Birch mantra.
Claire’s parents were the first two Birch members in the entire city of Chicago. Her father, Stillwell J. Conner, became a National Council member and remained in top leadership for thirty-two years. Her mother was a partner in all things Birch.
At first, eager to gain the approval of her mercurial parents, Claire embraced everything they embraced. As she matured, however, she began to disagree. At first, it was just a whisper here and a tiny “no” there, but every little rebellion made her stronger.
The final break from her parents caused tremendous upheaval, leaving a rift that never healed.
“Extremism broke my family,” Claire says. “I don’t want it to break my country.”
Wrapped in the Flag is the culmination of five years’ work, but Claire feels that her preparation began long before she wrote a word. In 1967, she earned a degree in English (with honors) from the University of Dallas. Twenty years later, she completed her Master’s degree in Teaching English.
In 1987, she spent the summer in Shenyang, China teaching English to Chinese professionals. “I’d never even had a passport before and suddenly I was one of a handful of Americans in a city of over three million people. I discovered that almost everything I thought I knew about China was wrong. My students discovered that they were equally as wrong about America.”
In 1988, Claire was named Student Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English. She taught English to seventh and eighth graders at the Marshfield Junior High School in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Claire served as a member of the “Restructuring Education Task Force” for the School District of Marshfield in 1993.
For over ten years, Claire was the leader of the Marshfield chapter of Wisconsin Citizens Concerned for Life, now Wisconsin Right to Life. She spoke extensively to students in area high schools, to church and parent groups. Her reconsideration of the no-exceptions approach to reproductive issues marked a major milestone in her personal and political evolution.
Claire’s community involvement gave her numerous opportunities to hone her speaking skills. She has addressed the Rotary Club, the Lions Club and numerous church and school groups over the years she lived in Wisconsin, and she now speaks extensively about the John Birch Society and Wrapped in the Flag.
Claire is the mother of four grown children, the grandmother of three lovely girls. She lives in Florida with her husband, Bob, and their little dog, Conner.
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