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Millicent Fenwick

Millicent Vernon Hammond Fenwick (February 25, 1910 – September 16, 1992) was an American fashion editor, politician and diplomat. A four-term Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New Jersey, she entered politics late in life and was renowned for her energy and colorful enthusiasm. She was regarded as a moderate and progressive within her party and was outspoken in favor of civil rights and the women's movement. She was considered the inspiration behind Lacey Davenport, a fictional character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury.

Millicent Fenwick
Millicent Fenwick.jpg
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
In office
June 13, 1983 – March 20, 1987
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byFred Eckert
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1983
Preceded byPeter Frelinghuysen
Succeeded byMarge Roukema
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly from the 8th Legislative District
In office
January 13, 1970 – January 5, 1973
Preceded byWebster B. Todd Jr.
Succeeded byVictor A. Rizzolo
Personal details
Millicent Vernon Hammond

(1910-02-25)February 25, 1910
New York City
DiedSeptember 16, 1992(1992-09-16) (aged 82)
Bernardsville, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
ParentsOgden H. Hammond
Mary Picton Stevens
EducationColumbia University
New School

Early lifeEdit

Born Millicent Vernon Hammond, she was the middle of three children born to the politician and later Ambassador to Spain, Ogden Haggerty Hammond (October 13, 1869 – October 29, 1956) of Louisville, Kentucky and his first wife, Mary Picton Stevens (May 16, 1885 – May 7, 1915) of Hoboken, New Jersey.[1][2] Her paternal grandparents were General John Henry Hammond (June 30, 1833 – April 30, 1890), who served as chief of staff for William Tecumseh Sherman during the Vicksburg Campaign,[3] and Sophia Vernon Wolfe (1842 – May 20, 1923), daughter of Nathaniel Wolfe, a lawyer and legislator from Louisville.[4] Her maternal grandparents were John Stevens (July 1856 – January 21, 1895), oldest son of Stevens Institute of Technology founder Edwin Augustus Stevens and grandson of inventor John Stevens, and Mary Marshall McGuire (May 4, 1850 – May 2, 1905).[5][6][7] Ogden Hammond and Mary Stevens got married on April 8, 1907 and both derived from families who were heavily involved in history.[8] Ogden Haggerty Hammond was “the son of a civil war general,” and after his father's passing, he “entrenched himself in all aspects of superior life.”[8] Mary Picton Stevens “was the heir to a fortune based largely on real estate holdings in Hoboken, New Jersey."[9] Millicent's father attended school at Yale University and later in life became a New York financier.[10] She had a sister, Mary Stevens Hammond, and a brother, Ogden H. Hammond, Jr. She was also cousins with John Hammond, the well-known record producer.

During World War I, Mrs. Hammond insisted on going overseas to help those who needed assistance in Europe, despite the potential dangers that were affiliated while doing so.[8] When Millicent was 5 years old, her mother perished in the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, which her father survived. When Ogden arrived back home from this tragic event, he did not want to discuss what happened, regarding his wife nor the event, and kept himself busy and distracted by becoming very involved with his work.[8] Everyone, both friends and family, respected his decision and carried on with their normal lives as if nothing transpired. He remarried two years later, to Marguerite McClure Howland, and by that marriage Fenwick had a stepbrother, McClure (Mac) Howland.[8] Marguerite McClure Howland, nickname Daisy, was now Ogden's children's stepmother. However, Daisy was so preoccupied with herself, Mac, and her social status that she spent minimul time with her stepchildren. Millicent and Daisy did not have a good relationship and her father was no help. If there were any family issues going on, Ogden requested that his children would go to Daisy and not him. After their mother's passing, Millicent and her siblings developed a closer relationship, especially the relationship between her and her sister, Mary. In 1918, the trial of the Lusitania took place, as people were suing the ships company for failure to show passengers aboard the safety precautions. Ogden was one of the many people to testify and when the jury reached the verdict, the Hammond's family were each compensated, receiving over sixty-thousand dollars.[8]

Raised in comfortable circumstances in Bernardsville, New Jersey, she attended the exclusive Nightingale-Bamford School in nearby Manhattan, Foxcroft School and college at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research.

In 1931, Millicent Hammond met Hugh McLeod Fenwick (February 17, 1905 – July 24, 1991), who was already married to the former Dorothy Ledyard, the daughter of New York attorney Lewis Cass Ledyard. Hugh briefly attended Harvard University before he began working in the field of aviation in Pensacola, Florida. Fenwick later earned the position of becoming a "lieutenant in the flying section of the New Jersey National Guard."[8] The relationship between Hugh and Millicent was kept discrete until he got a divorce. When the two got engaged, Millicent's stepmother was beside herself and Ogden, too, was disappointed with his daughter. Daisy, "a devout Catholic," was so disenchanted with Millicent to marry a divorced man that she prohibited her from being allowed to return to the house.[8] Despite her father's and stepmother's disapproval, Hugh and Millicent got married on June 11, 1932. The couple rented a house in Bedminster, New Jersey for about a year before moving to Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Born on February 25, 1934, the Fenwick's welcomed their first child, Mary Stevens Fenwick, also born on Millicent's birthday. Becoming a mother did not come easy to Millicent and she therefore had to hire a nanny to help raise her daughter, Mary. When Hugh and Millicent welcomed their second child, Hugo Hammond Fenwick, their marriage started to go downhill. Hugh's dishonesty about telling different stories[clarification needed] and lying played a big role in the separation between the two. Hugh relocated to Europe leaving behind an enormous amount of debt his wife had to pay off. After several years of being separated, Hugh and Millicent divorced in 1945. Hugh remarried to Barbara West and had a daughter, Maureen, while Millicent did not remarry and instead focused on working and caring for her children.[8]

While Hugh and Millicent were still together, she briefly modeled for Harper's Bazaar. When they divorced it was difficult for Millicent to find a job that would support both herself and her children because she never received a high school diploma.[10] After searching for jobs and not being recognized by publishers for the stories she wrote, Millicent was hired to work for Vogue magazines as a "caption editor."[8] She stayed with Vogue for a little over a decade and held several job titles while serving her time with them. She concluded her career at Vogue magazines in 1948. She compiled Vogue's Book of Etiquette, which sold a million copies and eventually went on tour around the country.[11][8] By 1952 Millicent officially retired from work because her children were old enough to support themselves. She also "inherited money," which was substantially enough to support her after retirement.[12]

Political careerEdit

Millicent Fenwick, "grand dame"[13] of Bernardsville, always elegant

Local and State OfficeEdit

During the 1950s, Fenwick became involved in politics via the Civil Rights Movement. Often described as being blessed with exceptional intelligence, striking good looks, and a keen wit,[14] she rose rapidly in the ranks of the Republican Party. She was elected to the Bernardsville Borough Council in 1957, serving until 1964, and around the same time was appointed to the New Jersey Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, on which she served from 1958 to 1974. She was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1969, serving from 1970 to 1973, when she left the Legislature to become director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs under Governor William T. Cahill.

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

Elected to Congress from New Jersey in 1974 aged 64, Fenwick became a media favorite during her four terms in the House of Representatives. Television commentator Walter Cronkite called her "the conscience of Congress." She was known for her opposition to corruption by both parties and special interest groups. She was one of the most liberal Republicans in the House. One week after the signing of the treaty. Fenwick went to Moscow, Soviet Union as a junior member of the 1975 Congressional Delegation. She met refuseniks who wanted to contact American congressmen and held an unofficial meeting with dissident Yuri Orlov. She was thus convinced that political action in America based on the Helsinki Final Act would improve human rights in Soviet Union. Before departure, Fenwick raised some specific cases with Brezhnev at a final press conference.Returning to the U.S, Fenwick initiated the establishment of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which oversaw the implementation of the Helsinki Accords, which covered relations between states and human rights across Europe.[15][16] Despite her upper-class, society girl background, Fenwick went to Washington with a tough, blue collar work ethic. Virtually any night, hours after typical congressmen had headed out for dinner and home, she stayed working in her Capitol Hill office, and always was willing to answer reporters' questions about her actions.[17]

Once, when a conservative male Congressman attacked a piece of women's rights legislation by saying, "I've always thought of women as kissable, cuddly, and smelling good," Fenwick responded, "That's what I've always thought about men, and I hope for your sake that you haven't been disappointed as many times as I've been."[14]

Candidate for U.S. SenatorEdit

In 1982, she ran for a United States Senate seat, and defeated conservative Jeffrey Bell in the Republican primary. However, she then narrowly lost the general election to liberal Democratic businessman and Automatic Data Processing CEO Frank Lautenberg in an upset.[8] Even Fenwick herself said in a subsequent interview, "I never expected to lose. I had no concession speech prepared, or anything. I never expected to lose."[18] (In 2008, when Lautenberg was running for reelection to the Senate, his Republican opponents made an issue out of his age (84), arguing that he had voiced similar criticisms of the then-72-year-old Millicent Fenwick during the 1982 election campaign. Lautenberg denied having made an issue of Fenwick's age, saying he "only questioned her ability to do the job.")


After leaving the House of Representatives following the 1982 election, Fenwick was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as United States Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy.[19] She held this position from June 1983 to March 1987, when she retired from public life at the age of 77.

Later lifeEdit

Fenwick died of heart failure in her home town of Bernardsville on September 16, 1992.[11]

Fenwick was fluent in Italian, French and Spanish.[11]

The Millicent Fenwick Monument, a sculpture by Dana Toomey, was paid for by voluntary donations and unveiled in October 1995.[20] Always decorated it is near the Bernardsville train station.

Fenwick is considered by some to be the model for the character of Lacey Davenport in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury,[11] although Trudeau insisted the character was modeled on no one in particular.[21] Lacey Davenport first appeared several months before Fenwick was first elected to Congress.

Electoral historyEdit

  • 1974 U.S. House
    • Millicent Fenwick (R), 53.4%
    • Frederick Bohen (D), 43.5%
  • 1976 U.S. House
    • Millicent Fenwick (R), 66.9%
    • Frank Nero (D), 31.3%
  • 1978 U.S. House
    • Millicent Fenwick (R), 72.6%
    • John Fahy (D), 27.4%
  • 1980 U.S. House
    • Millicent Fenwick (R), 77.5%
    • Kieran Pillon, Jr. (D) 20.5%
  • 1982 U.S. Senate

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ogden H. Hammond, The Lusitania Resource. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  2. ^ Mary Stevens Hammond, The Lusitania Resource. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  3. ^ Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lake Region (1905), p. 5.
  4. ^ "Mrs. Sophia Hammond Dies In Paris". The New York Times. May 21, 1923. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  5. ^ The Cox Family in America (1912), p. 227.
  6. ^ "John Stevens". The New York Times. January 22, 1895. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  7. ^ "Mrs. Mary M. Stevens Hyde". The New York Times. May 3, 1905. Retrieved August 9, 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Schapiro, Amy. Millicent Fenwick: Her Way (2003).
  9. ^ Jackson, Kenneth (January 1, 2001). "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Biography in Context. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Geist, William E. (June 27, 1982). "MILLICENT FENWICK: MARCHING TO HER OWN DRUM". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d Lambert, Bruce. "Millicent Fenwick, 82, Dies; Gave Character to Congress", The New York Times. September 17, 1992. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  12. ^ Horner, S. J. (December 9, 1979). "Millicent Fenwick Remembers". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Amy Schapiro. Millicent Fenwick: Her Way. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2003. p. 217. ISBN 0-8135-3231-0.
  14. ^ a b quote of the week mailing list archive for February 21–27 2004 Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved April 22, 2007]
  15. ^ Crump, Thomas (2014). Brezhnev and the Decline of the Soviet Union. Routledge. p. 154. ISBN 9780415690737.
  16. ^ Schapiro, Amy. Millicent Fenwick: Her Way. Rutgers University Press. pp. 180–183.
  17. ^ According to Steve Sauro who covered Fenwick for WBIO, Parsippany, NJ and WRAN, Dover, NJ in the late 1970s.
  18. ^ "Life and Career of Millicent Fenwick". C-SPAN. C-SPAN. December 17, 1982. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  19. ^ United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
  20. ^ See Amy Schapiro, p. 237
  21. ^ Doonesbury FAQ Archived September 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine

Further readingEdit

  • Schapiro, Amy. Millicent Fenwick: Her Way (2003).

External linksEdit