Obituary: Millicent Fenwick

Millicent Hammond, politician, born New York City 20 February 1910, married Hugh Fenwick (one son, and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved), died Bernardsville New Jersey 16 September 1992.

MILLICENT Fenwick was described posthumously by her chief political rival as 'grand, eloquent, tough and charming'. A political ally remembers her as 'the Katharine Hepburn of politics'. Fenwick, who chose to retain the 'Mrs' and to pronounce her name 'Fen-wick' in the American manner, was a four-term member of the US House of Representatives, and much more besides.

Born in Manhattan in 1910, the daughter of a wealthy financier named Ogden H. Hammond, Millicent Hammond grew up in a 50-room mansion in Bernardsville, New Jersey. When Millicent was five, her mother was drowned when the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine. Her mother, the former Mary Stevens, was sailing to Paris to establish a hospital for war victims. When President Calvin Coolidge appointed her father US ambassador to Spain, she went with him and, though she never finished high school or obtained a degree, she went on to study philosophy under Bertrand Russell at the New School for Social Research, in New York, and to attend classes at Columbia University. She became fluent in French, Italian and Spanish.

To the distress of her father, Millicent fell in love with a married businessman named Hugh Fenwick, whom she married. The marriage did not last more than a few years and she was left with her two children and her husband's debts. Refusing family money, she began a lifelong habit of frugality. She worked as a fashion model for Harper's Bazaar, a writer and editor at Vogue, and in 1948 compiled Vogue's Book of Etiquette which sold a million copies.

At the age of 59 Fenwick won a seat in the New Jersey legislature, and also served as the state's first director of consumer affairs, and instituted a law requiring funeral homes to provide itemised bills in advance of all funerals.

Five years after her state electoral victory, she beat the future New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean for the Republican Party nomination to the US House of Representatives. She was then elected representative from the Fifth Congressional District, at the age of 64, and it was in that role that she established herself as the most liberal and progressive Republican in the country.

In Congress she fought for passage of laws supporting civil rights, peace in Vietnam, ethical conduct in election campaigns, reductions in the US military budget (specifically, she opposed funding the B-1 bomber and aiding anti-government rebels in Angola), limits on strip mining, gun control, and federal aid to the poor, prisoners and workers affected by asbestos poisoning. She led the fight for a law that created a US commission to monitor the 1975 Helsinki accord on human rights. These were all causes far from the hearts of most of her fellow Republicans - she was one of the few blue-bloods of the party who adhered to the concept of noblesse oblige. Her campaign to mandate toilets for migrant farmworkers won her the sobriquet 'Outhouse Millie'.

A woman of 5ft 10in in height who smoked a pipe after her doctor ordered her off cigarettes, Fenwick was annoyed that the press noted her entry into the Congress by calling her the 'pipe-smoking grandmother'. 'For God's sake,' she exclaimed, 'hard-working grandmother, same number of syllables.'

The greatest measure of her media appeal, however, was that the cartoonist Garry Trudeau rolled all the adjectives - patrician, independent, witty, down-to-earth, pungent, stylish, stately - into Lacey Davenport, a character in his Doonesbury cartoon strip. Most articles noting her passing in this week's US press were accompanied by a frame from Doonesbury.

Fenwick herself was a wry wisecracker. Her greatest one-liner may have been her response when a fellow (male) legislator attacked a law for women's rights by saying: 'I've always thought of women as kissable, cuddly and smelling good,' Fenwick replied: 'That's the way I feel about men too. I only hope you haven't been disappointed as often as I have.'

In the 1970s Fenwick had a heart bypass operation, but, undaunted, in 1982 she ran for the Senate. She refused to accept campaign contributions from pressure groups known as Political Action Committees (PACs) and she lost a tight race to Frank Lautenberg, a millionaire Democrat. But, despite her liberal views, she was a Republican stalwart, and Ronald Reagan appointed her US representative to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, a post she held until her retirement in 1987.

(Photograph omitted)

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower