Louise Day Hicks

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Louise Day Hicks
Louise Day Hicks.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th district
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by John W. McCormack
Succeeded by Joe Moakley
President of the Boston City Council
In office
1976–1976
Preceded by Gerald O'Leary
Succeeded by Joseph M. Tierney
Personal details
Born Anna Louise Day
(1916-10-16)October 16, 1916
Boston, Massachusetts
Died October 21, 2003(2003-10-21) (aged 87)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) John Hicks
Religion Roman Catholic

Anna Louise Day Hicks (October 16, 1916 – October 21, 2003) was an American politician and lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, best known for her staunch opposition to desegregation in Boston Public Schools, and especially to court-ordered busing in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life[edit]

Hicks was the daughter of William and Anna (née McCarron) Day. Hicks described her father, a lawyer and an influential judge in Boston, as her "greatest influence".[1] The child of poor Irish immigrants, William Day became one of the wealthiest men in South Boston as a result of his law practice, real estate investments and his role as director of South Boston's Mount Washington Cooperative Bank. Day was admired by Boston's Irish community: as a banker he provided assistance to families struggling to make mortgage payments and as a judge he was particularly lenient towards juvenile defendants. In her own political career, Hicks would benefit from her father's reputation.[2]

Hicks' mother died when Hicks was only fourteen years of age. In 1942, she married John Hicks, an engineer, and they had two sons, John and William.[3]

Hicks studied home economics at Simmons College and then later earned a teaching certificate at Wheelock College. She worked as a first grade teacher in Brookline, Massachusetts, for two years and pursued a degree in education at Boston University.[4]

Hicks enrolled at Boston College Law School in 1949, but she left after two years without earning a degree. She entered law school a second time in 1952, this time at Boston University Law School. Hicks stated that her father's death in 1950 left her resolved to follow in his footsteps. At this time female law students were still rare; Hicks was one of only nine women in her class of 232. Hicks formed close friendships with two other female students, one Jewish and one black, and she studied for exams with a group made up of mostly minorities. Hicks graduated with a law degree in 1955 and opened a law office; Hicks and Day; with her brother John.[5]


De facto segregation[edit]

Hicks ran successfully for the Boston School Committee in 1961, presenting herself as a reform candidate. Although her own children attended parochial schools, her campaign slogan was "The only mother on the ballot". [6] In January 1963, she became the committee chairperson and seemed likely to be endorsed by the leading reform group when, in June, the Boston chapter of the NAACP demanded "an immediate public acknowledgment of de facto segregation in the Boston public school system." At the time, 13 city schools were at least 90% black.

The committee refused to acknowledge the segregation. Hicks was recognized as the holdout; within months she became Boston's most popular politician and the most controversial, requiring police bodyguards 24 hours a day. Hicks became nationally known in 1965 when she opposed court-ordered busing of students into inner-city schools to achieve integration.

By refusing to admit segregation existed in city schools and by declaring that children were the "pawns" of racial politics, she came to personify the discord that existed between some working class[citation needed] Irish-Americans and African-Americans. "Boston schools are a scapegoat for those who have failed to solve the housing, economic, and social problems of the black citizen," Hicks said. She asserted that while thirteen Boston schools were at least 90% black, Chinatown schools were 100% Chinese, the North End had schools that were 100% Italian American, and South Boston contained schools that were mostly Irish American. The Boston Public Schools included a conglomerate of white ethnics with very few WASPs.

Mayoral bid, City Council, and Congress[edit]

Louise Day Hicks as a candidate for the Boston City Council, 1969

In 1967, Hicks came within 12,000 votes of being elected mayor of Boston, running on the coded slogan, "You know where I stand." The nonpartisan race against fellow Democrat Kevin White became so acrimonious that the Boston Globe broke a 75-year tradition of political neutrality to endorse White.[7] After the unsuccessful mayoral bid, Hicks ran for city council and won. Two years later, after Speaker John W. McCormack retired, Hicks beat out eleven other candidates to win the Democratic primary for his South Boston-based congressional district; in heavily Democratic Boston, the winner of that primary was essentially assured victory in the November election. She served one term in the United States House of Representatives from 1971 to 1973, becoming the first female Democrat to represent Massachusetts in the House. A member of the National Organization for Women, while in Congress Hicks lobbied for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.[1] She sought reelection, but was narrowly defeated in the general election by City Councilman Joe Moakley, a more liberal Democrat who was running as an Independent. Moakley reverted to his Democratic party affiliation after he entered the House.

There were 223 murders in Boston in 1973-1974, but only two dozen involved blacks killing whites. Hicks claimed, however, that were "at least one hundred black people walking around in the black community who have killed white people during the last two years."[8]Hicks took aim at "radical agitators" and "pseudo-liberals" of the counterculture. She declared that "white women can no longer walk the streets [of Boston] in safety" and that "justice [had come] to mean special privileges for the black man and the criminal." She attacked "black militants [who] tyrannize our schools, creating chaos and disruption."[9]

In her relatively brief political career, Hicks was excoriated by liberal politicians and activists. The columnist Joseph Alsop called her "Joe McCarthy dressed up as Polyanna"; civil rights leaders likened her to Adolf Hitler or Bull Connor of Birmingham, Alabama. Newsweek published a satirical article ridiculing the Irish culture of South Boston, a matter which prompted Hicks to reply with a full-page newspaper ad.[10]

In 1973, Hicks ran for the Boston City Council again and won. Her most notable campaign took place in autumn 1975, after a federal judge ordered Boston schools to expand their busing programs to comply with the 1971 Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education decision. To counter the trend, Hicks started an organization called Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR) which actively engaged in incidents of massive resistance to school desegregation. In 1976, Hicks was elected the first woman president of the Boston City Council, largely on the strength of ROAR, which was then at its peak. During this time Hicks supported another controversial position, a curfew for minors in the city of Boston.[11][12]

Hicks opposed George Wallace of Alabama, who ran for U.S. President on four occasions: "He's a segregationist. I don't want to be connected to him."[13]Hicks continued, "While a large part of my vote probably does come from bigoted people. ... I know I'm not bigoted. To me the word means all the dreadful southern segregatinist, Jim Crow business that's always shocked and revolted me."[14]

Retirement[edit]

She was defeated for reelection to the Boston City Council in 1977, finishing tenth in the race for nine positions. In 1979, Councilor James Michael Connolly was elected Register of Probate for Suffolk County and resigned from the council, and as 10th place finisher in the 1979 election, Hicks filled the vacant seat only to lose again in 1981. Hicks began to experience health problems and retired from politics after that.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Feeney 2003.
  2. ^ Lukas 1986, pp. 116-118.
  3. ^ Reed, Christopher (28 October 2003). "Obituary: Louise Day Hicks". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Lukas 1986, pp. 118-119.
  5. ^ Lukas 1986, pp. 118-120.
  6. ^ Lukas 1986, p. 123.
  7. ^ John A. Farrell, Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century (Boston: Little Brown & Company, 2001), p. 522
  8. ^ Dominic Sandbroook, Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right (New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, p. 53); ISBN 9781400042623
  9. ^ Sandbrook, Mad As Hell, p. 109
  10. ^ Sandbrook, Mad As Hell, pp. 109-110
  11. ^ http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/tocn-mla000844-louise-day-hicks-talks-about-curfew-proposal
  12. ^ Sandbrook, Mad As Hell, pp. 110-111
  13. ^ Sandbrook, Mad as Hell, p. 115
  14. ^ Sandbrook, Mad As Hell, p. 115

References[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John W. McCormack
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th congressional district

1971–1973
Succeeded by
Joe Moakley