Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Women Of Wednesday - Granny D. Haddock

Sometimes in life, we come across things we know just aren’t right. We might voice our opinions, or complain, or say “What a shame,” but then we generally go on about our business and the wrong is never righted. At least, not by most of us. Thankfully, there are people who aren’t like most of us. These people actually do something. Doris Haddock, better known as Granny D., is one of those people.

Granny D. was born in 1910 in Laconia, NH. She was named Ethel Doris Rollins. Her family called her Doris. She had a typical childhood and at 17, she went off to Emerson College in Boston, MA. She wanted to become an actress. While there, she met Jim Haddock and fell in love. They wanted to marry, but being a married woman in college was frowned upon in those days, particularly at Emerson College. The thought was that a married woman would soon have babies and leave, and the time invested in them would be wasted. Women would not go on to greatness and lend prestige to their college’s name.

But even then, Doris had the courage to do what she believed in. She and Jim married anyway in a secret ceremony at Trinity Church in Boston. Eventually, the Dean of Emerson College found out and she was expelled.

Doris and Jim settled down in NH and raised a family. For the next thirty years, she once again lived an ordinary life. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II, and while she was living peacefully through the post-war era, the Atomic Energy Commission was busy trying to find a peaceful use for their latest invention - the nuclear bomb. They’d been testing nuclear bombs throughout the ‘50’s and they just knew there had to be something they could do with them.

One idea was to dig canals. Just drop a bomb and voila! The digging was done! But would it work? They decided to drop six bombs on Point Hope, Alaska, to find out. The Inuit, of course, were very concerned, but the government assured them that the bombs wouldn’t harm them, nor would the fallout. They wouldn’t even feel any seismic shock, and the fish and seals they hunted would be perfectly fine to eat.

The Inuit knew a lie when they heard one. The bombs their government was proposing to drop were 600 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And they wanted to drop 6! The Inuit needed help.

Back in NH, some friends dropped in on the Haddocks. They had been in Alaska and had heard about the situation. They told Doris and Jim. Doris was now 50. Her two children were grown. She and Jim immediately drove to Alaska to learn the facts for themselves and found it was all true. They drove home and spread the word. They called politicians and scientists. They wrote letters and pamphlets. They told everyone who would listen. Eventually, the Atomic Energy Commission was thoroughly embarrassed and gave up. (Read The Firecracker Boys by Dan O'Neil for the whole story.)

Once again, Doris went back to her everyday life. She continued working at her job as a Production Cost Estimator in Manchester, NH until 1972, when she retired at age 62. She and Jim moved to Dublin, NH and Jim soon became ill with Alzheimer’s Disease. Doris cared for him until he died, and then her health, too, began to fail.

By the mid 1990’s, campaign finance reform had become a popular topic among some politicians and political activists. They wanted to get big business out of government but they weren’t having any luck. Not enough people cared. But Doris did, and Doris, being Doris, did something about it. In 1999, at the age of 88, with emphysema and arthritis, she decided to walk across America and spread the word.

She started on January 1,1999 in Pasadena, CA and walked at least ten miles a day, regardless of the weather, regardless of how well she could breathe or how bad her bones ached. She talked to people along the way and encouraged them to make their voices heard. On February 29th, 2000, she reached Washington, DC. She was 90 years old.

But age, illness, and a 3200 mile walk didn't slow her down. Two months later, while gathered peacefully in the Capitol Rotunda, she gave a speech about the right to free speech and the right to assemble peacefully. The Capitol Police handcuffed and arrested her for Disorderly Conduct. Someone obviously didn’t want this 90 year old woman to speak. At 94, she ran for the US Senate and lost. Since then, she has continued speaking, trying to get more Americans involved in their own government. This past January, she celebrated her 99th birthday.

Can you imagine what this country might be like if we all did something when our hearts told us something wasn’t right? Can you imagine what the world might be like if the silent majority refused to be silent? Granny D. doesn't imagine it. She just goes out and does it. Way to go, Granny!



Amen, sister!

Anonymous said...

She is SO COOL!

heartgarden said...

She is my hero. I use films about her in a Aging and Spirituality course, as well as, when I teach Intro Sociology covering agism, and Human Growth and Development classes at the local community college. Her walk across America film always moves people.

Barbara said...

She is definitely one of a kind, Heartgarden, as well as a role model for people of all ages!