As the media has swarmed Missouri congressman Todd Akin in recent days for his comment that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant, one figure has been largely silent: his wife, Lulli Akin.
Time was, Lulli was the last woman you’d expect to be married to a conservative opponent of abortion backed by the Tea Party. After college, she considered joining the Peace Corps, or pursuing a career with the CIA or as a staffer for super leftie Ralph Nader, according to one online bio. Then she met Akin, whom she married in 1975 and who saved her from “such a radical future.” Instead, she took a very different path—evangelical Christian, homemaker, and education pioneer.
The daughter of Norwegian immigrant parents, Lulli Boe was born in Delaware and reportedly relishes tennis and hiking. She studied in France and Norway, and attended Hollins College in Virginia where she majored in sociolinguistics. She moved to Worcester, Mass., working as an engineer at IBM, where she met Todd, then an IBM salesman.
Their courtship was “right out of a biblical romance novel,” wrote a blogger and Akin supporter named Jen Ennenbach. Lulli converted to Christianity through the Bible Study Fellowship, which describes itself as a 50-year-old interdenominational organization on its website. They relocated to St. Louis in 1977 with their first child in tow so that Todd could work as a manager at a steel mill.
On Sunday, Todd Akin made headlines in an interview with KTVI in St. Louis in which he said that pregnancy can be biologically prevented by “legitimate rape,” because “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” Pro-choice activists and Democrats are demanding he resign his seat or, at the very least, be booted from the state House Committee on Science. The Obama campaign quickly used the comment to attack Paul Ryan. “As Republican leader in the House, Mr. Ryan worked with Mr. Akin to try to pass laws that would ban abortion in all cases, and even narrow the definition of ‘rape,’” said spokeswoman Lis Smith in a statement.
Some of Akin’s fellow Republicans are working to distance themselves from the comments. Mitt Romney told the National Review that they were “inexcusable” and some GOP groups have pulled ad buys and funds from his Senate race. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown called for Akin to relinquish his Senate nomination. (He’d have to resign Tuesday if he really wanted to—according to Missouri statute, candidates can only withdraw up until the 11th Tuesday before an election.)
In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, in May, Akin said homeschooling the kids was originally Lulli’s idea, a solution she proposed after their oldest son “was not adjusting well in the classroom.”
“When she talked to me about it, I thought she was crazy," said Todd in the interview. Lulli has since lectured on the topic and consulted with authorities creating standardized tests for homeschoolers. Her own six children are grown and her eight grandchildren are homeschooled. Three of the Akins’ sons serve as Marine Corps officers. Lulli has backed her husband’s political career and been a regular presence on the campaign trail since he was first elected to the Missouri State House in 1988.
Jen Ennenbach calls Lulli Akin her “spiritual mother-figure,” and says the politician’s wife approached her with an offer to be her mentor some years ago—a relationship Ennenbach says she prayed for. Ennebach attended Todd Akin’s primary watch party earlier this month and blogged about the room’s electric atmosphere after Akin was declared the against-the-odds Republican victor. It was “Divine Intervention,” she wrote on her blog.
Todd Akin now says he misspoke, declaring rape “evil” and blaming his blunder on ole foot-in-mouth disease. Lulli herself has remained mum on the issue, and either way, the Akins appear to have plenty of fans. According to Ennenbach, “Todd fears the Lord, not man.”