Kitty Dukakis

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Kitty Dukakis
Kitty Dukakis (16844855783).jpg
Dukakis in 2015
First Lady of Massachusetts
In role
January 6, 1983 – January 3, 1991
Preceded byJosephine King
Succeeded bySusan Weld
In role
January 2, 1975 – January 4, 1979
Preceded byJessie Sargent
Succeeded byJosephine King
Personal details
Katharine Dickson

(1936-12-26) December 26, 1936 (age 83)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Spouse(s)John Chaffetz (divorced)
(m. 1963)
Children4, including John Dukakis
ParentsHarry Ellis Dickson
Jane Dickson

Katharine Dukakis (born December 26, 1936), known as Kitty Dukakis, is an American author. She is the wife of former Massachusetts governor and U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

Life and career[edit]

Dukakis (left) in 1987

Dukakis was born Katharine Dickson in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jane (née Goldberg) and Harry Ellis Dickson. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jews; her mother was born to an Irish Catholic father and a Hungarian Jewish mother, and had been adopted by a family of German Jewish descent.[1][2][3][4] Dukakis' father was a member of the first violin section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 49 years and also served as Associate Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra.[5] At age 19, she dropped out of college to marry John Chaffetz. They had one son, John. The marriage did not last and she moved to Brookline.[6] Her former husband later remarried and had a son, Jason Chaffetz, who was a Republican Congressman from Utah. Dukakis received her B.A. from Lesley College in 1963, the same year she married Michael Dukakis.[7] She received a M.A. degree from Boston University College of Communication in 1982.

During the 1988 presidential election, a number of false rumors were reported in the media about the Dukakises, including the claim by Idaho Republican Senator Steve Symms that Katharine Dukakis had burned a United States flag to protest the Vietnam War.[8] Republican strategist Lee Atwater was accused of having initiated these rumors.[9]

In 1989, Dukakis was briefly hospitalized after drinking rubbing alcohol.[10] In 1991, Dukakis published her memoir, Now You Know, in which she candidly discussed her ongoing battle with alcoholism. The book also discussed the pressures of being a political wife, and her disappointment over her husband's defeat in the 1988 election. In the mid-90s, Dukakis graduated from the Boston University School of Social Work with a master's degree in Social Work, successfully performing her practicum at Charles River Hospital in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 2006, she revealed having undergone electroconvulsive therapy treatment beginning in 2001 in order to treat major depression, publishing her experiences in the book Shock. Dukakis is a leading proponent of using ECT to treat depression.[11]

In 2007, the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, opened a center for addiction treatment named after Dukakis.[12]

Dukakis appears in the 2008 documentary on Lee Atwater, Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

As of 2016, Kitty and Michael Dukakis continue to reside primarily in the home that they bought in the early 1970s in Brookline, Massachusetts, but they also spend winters in Los Angeles.[13]

Published works[edit]

  • Now You Know. Simon & Schuster. 1991. ISBN 0-671-74179-9.
  • Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy. Avery. 2006. ISBN 1-58333-265-0. Cowritten with Larry Tye.

Public service[edit]

Dukakis has served on the President's Commission on the Holocaust, on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, on the board of the Refugee Policy Center, and on the Task Force on Cambodian Children.


  1. ^ Ann Egerton (1990-10-21). "Kitty Dukakis' memoir has a sad and ragged quality". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  2. ^ "Michael, Kitty Dukakis help new citizens celebrate in Woburn". Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  3. ^ Drogin, Bob (May 25, 1987). "Dukakis Draws Heavy Crowds, Money, Press". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Archives -". Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  5. ^ Midgette, Anne (2 April 2003). "Harry Ellis Dickson, 94, Violinist and Conductor in Boston". Retrieved 13 January 2017 – via
  6. ^ Romano, Lois (July 21, 1988). "John Dukakis And the Man Who Raised Him". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 28, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2014 – via HighBeam Research.
  7. ^ "Kitty Dukakis stylish half of political team". Milwaukee Sentinel. AP. 1988-05-27. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Story on Mrs. Dukakis Is Denied by Campaign". New York Times. 1988-08-26. Retrieved 2016-05-27. Michael Dukakis's Presidential campaign, responding to comments by Senator Steve Symms, an Idaho Republican, issued a statement Wednesday saying any suggestion that Kitty Dukakis had ever burned an American flag was totally false and beneath contempt.
  9. ^ Susan Estrich (2004-09-04). "Lies move Democrats to dig up dirt". Myrtle Beach Sun. Archived from the original on 2004-09-17. Retrieved 2016-05-27. Or how about the one about Kitty Dukakis burning a flag at an anti-war demonstration, another out-and-out lie, which the Bush campaign denied having anything to do with, except that it turned out to have come from a United States senator via the Republican National Committee? Atwater later apologized to me for that, too, on his deathbed.
  10. ^ "Kitty Dukakis Recovering". The New York Times. Associated Press. November 11, 1989. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  11. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (December 31, 2016). "Kitty Dukakis, a Beneficiary of Electroshock Therapy, Emerges as Its Evangelist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  12. ^ "Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center to Open". Boston University School of Public Health. September 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  13. ^ "George Bush: Appointment of Katharine D. Dukakis as a Member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council". Retrieved 2015-04-05.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Jessie Sargent
First Lady of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Josephine King
Preceded by
Josephine King
First Lady of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Susan Roosevelt Weld
Preceded by
Joan Mondale
Wife of the Democratic Presidential Nominee
Succeeded by
Hillary Clinton