She was an early supporter of the 1968 presidential candidacy of Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota), and eventually headed his Wisconsin campaign. It is believed that she was a major influence in convincing an initially reluctant Senator McCarthy to run for president, based in large part on his opposition to the Vietnam War. McCarthy was discounted by the political establishment as an underdog with virtually no chance of success, but Miller proved to be prescient in her belief that the time was right for his candidacy. In January of that year, McCarthy's opposition to the war resonated in a major way with voters in the 1968 New Hampshire presidential primary. Although McCarthy lost, he came in a close second to incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. With Midge Miller's support, McCarthy went on to defeat Johnson in the then-crucial Wisconsin primary the next month. Johnson, sensing in McCarthy's successes the devastating effect of the profundity of Democratic voter's disagreement with his Vietnam policy, made a surprise announcement on March 31, 1968 that he would not seek re-election.
This was just one example of the impact upon the national scene by the seven-term Wisconsin legislator, who defeated four well-known males for a state assembly seat long held by a Republican incumbent in 1971. An early leader in the national movement for women's rights, she counted among her admiring colleagues such movement leaders as Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug. As a young woman who chose to reach out to the Japanese people following the second world war by choosing to live with her family in the nuclear-bomb-produced shadows that remained of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and she was internationally-recognized for her lifelong devotion to the interrelated causes of nuclear-non-proliferation and peace. Her "retirement" from the legislature in 1985 marked no respite, but only the latest chapter in her activism, when she established the Madison Institute, a think-tank designed to counter the growing influence of the extreme Right Wing in American politics.
As Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times associate editor John Nichols wrote upon her death, "Midge Miller changed America and the world. She made presidents quake in their boots. She made political parties reflect the will of their members rather than the bosses. She made a place for women in the electoral process -- and in the governing of the land. Then she got busy."
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, Miller was in a Senate office building on Capitol Hill. She had used a tax rebate provided by the new administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby against Bush's proposed Star Wars national missile defense program.
- "They told us all that they were evacuating the building. We were shuffled out ... [T]he guys out in front said the Pentagon was smoking. It sounded horrible. But I couldn't do anything about that, so I thought I'd better keep on lobbying ... [I] was saying, 'Look, we've just been given all the evidence we need that President Bush's national missile defense plan is not the answer. If you develop these Star Wars weapons in the heavens, the people who want to attack the United States will find another way to do it.'" (Anecdote from Midge Miller's obituary in The Capital Times)
- "I have always said that, sooner or later, we would have proof that the threat wasn't in outer space."
- Miller's legislative background
- Wisconsin State Legislature website (PDF)
- Madison Capital Times' Associate Editor John Nichols' eulogy for Midge Miller, delivered at Madison's First United Methodist Church, May 10, 2009
- Notice of death of Midge Miller