Millicent Fenwick

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Millicent Fenwick
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 byJim Courter (redistricting)
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 8th district
In office
January 13, 1970 – December 14, 1972
Preceded byWebster B. Todd Jr.
Succeeded byVictor A. Rizzolo
Personal details
Millicent Vernon Hammond

(1910-02-25)February 25, 1910
New York City, U.S.
DiedSeptember 16, 1992(1992-09-16) (aged 82)
Bernardsville, New Jersey, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Hugh McLeod Fenwick
(m. 1932; div. 1945)
Parent(s)Ogden H. Hammond
Mary Picton Stevens
EducationBarnard College
New School

Millicent Vernon Fenwick (née Hammond; 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.

Early life and education[edit]

Millicent Vernon Hammond was born the middle of three children 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, a well-known record producer.

During World War I, Hammond insisted on going overseas to help those who needed assistance in Europe, despite the potential dangers that were affiliated while doing so.[8] In 1915, when Millicent was five years old, her mother perished in the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, which her father survived.[11] 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 "Daisy" Howland, and by that marriage Fenwick had a stepbrother, McClure (Mac) Howland.[8] Ogden's children now had a stepmother. However, Daisy was so preoccupied with herself, Mac, and her social status that she spent minimal 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 address them with Daisy and not him. After their mother's passing, Millicent developed a closer relationship with her siblings, especially her sister, Mary. In 1918, the trial of the Lusitania took place, as people were suing the ship's 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 Hammonds were each compensated, receiving over $60,000.[8]

Raised in comfortable circumstances in Bernardsville, Millicent attended the exclusive Nightingale-Bamford School in nearby Manhattan, and then at Foxcroft School, a private boarding school in Middleburg, Virginia. She attended college at Barnard College and then at New School for Social Research, both in Manhattan.

In 1931, she met Hugh McLeod Fenwick (February 17, 1905 – July 24, 1991), who was married to 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 discreet until he was divorced. When the two became engaged, Millicent's stepmother was beside herself and Ogden, too, was disappointed with his daughter. Daisy, "a devout Catholic," was so disenchanted with Millicent's marrying a divorced man that she prohibited her from returning to the house.[8] Despite her father's and stepmother's disapproval, Hugh and Millicent married on June 11, 1932. The couple rented a house in Bedminster, New Jersey for about a year, and then moved to Bernardsville, New Jersey.

The Fenwicks welcomed their first child, Mary Stevens Fenwick, on February 25, 1934, also 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. 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 had authored, Millicent was hired to work for Vogue magazine as a caption editor.[8] She stayed with Vogue for a little over a decade and held several job titles during her employment with the magazine. She concluded her career at Vogue in 1948. She compiled Vogue's Book of Etiquette, which sold a million copies and eventually went on tour around the country.[12][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 following her retirement.[13]

Political career[edit]

Fenwick with President Gerald Ford and Clifford P. Case in 1976
Millicent Fenwick, "grand dame"[14] of Bernardsville, always elegant

Local and state office[edit]

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,[15] 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 December 1972, when she left the Legislature to become director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs under Governor William T. Cahill.[citation needed]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elected to Congress from New Jersey in 1974 aged 64, Fenwick became a media favorite during her four terms in the House of Representatives. Known for her opposition to corruption by both parties and special interest groups, she was called "the conscience of Congress" by television newscaster Walter Cronkite. She was one of the most liberal Republicans in the House.[citation needed]

In 1975, the Helsinki Accords were negotiated in Helsinki, Finland. They were primarily an effort to reduce tension between the Soviet and Western blocs by securing their common acceptance of the post-World War II status quo in Europe. One week after the signing of the treaty, Fenwick went to Moscow as a junior member of a 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 Accords would improve human rights in the Soviet Union. Before departing, Fenwick raised some specific cases with Leonid Brezhnev at a final press conference. Returning to the U.S., Fenwick initiated the establishment of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which oversaw the implementation of the Helsinki Accords.[16][17] 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.[18]

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."[15]

Candidate for U.S. Senator[edit]

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 progressive Democratic businessman and Automatic Data Processing CEO Frank Lautenberg in an upset.[8] Fenwick said subsequently, "I never expected to lose. I had no concession speech prepared, or anything. I never expected to lose."[19]

In 2008, when Lautenberg was running for reelection to the Senate, his Republican opponents made an issue out of his age of 84, arguing that he had voiced similar criticisms of the then-72-year-old Fenwick during their 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.[20] She held this position from June 1983 to March 1987, when she retired from public life at the age of 77.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Fenwick died of heart failure in her home town of Bernardsville on September 16, 1992.[12]

She was fluent in Italian, French and Spanish.[12]

The Millicent Fenwick Monument, a sculpture by Dana Toomey, was paid for by voluntary donations and unveiled in October 1995.[21] 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,[12] although Trudeau insisted the character was modeled on no one in particular.[22] Lacey Davenport first appeared several months before Fenwick was first elected to Congress.

She is the grandmother of CEO Jonathan Reckford[23] and great-grandmother of U.S. Olympic rower Molly Reckford.[24]


According to biographer Amy Schapiro:

During Fenwick's public service career she earned a reputation for integrity and moral values. Her principled positions, including her opposition to congressional raises and PAC money, prompted Walter Cronkite to call her the “conscience of Congress.” She served as the basis of Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury character Congresswoman Lacey Davenport.[25]

New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean said:

She was the only really ambitious seventy-year-old I've ever met. She loved serving in office, and whether in the state assembly or the United States Congress, she never ceased marveling that she had actually been chosen to represent the people. In legislative bodies she remained a maverick....she hated hypocrisy and those who abused the public trust. Stubborn to a fault, she never betrayed her ideals or paid much attention to the polls. In the end, that was probably why she lost her last election, but the example she set and the way she conducted her life continue to stand as a model for all those who might want to pursue public life.[26]

Electoral history[edit]

  • 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

In popular culture[edit]

She was believed by some to be the inspiration behind Lacey Davenport, a fictional character in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury.[12]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Schleicher, William A. (1997). Images of America In The Somerset Hills The Landed Gentry. Dover, New Hampshire: Arcadia Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 0-7524-0899-2.
  12. ^ a b c d e Lambert, Bruce. "Millicent Fenwick, 82, Dies; Gave Character to Congress", The New York Times. September 17, 1992. Retrieved March 21, 2011.
  13. ^ Horner, S. J. (December 9, 1979). "Millicent Fenwick Remembers". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  14. ^ Amy Schapiro (2003). Millicent Fenwick: Her Way. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2003. p. 217. ISBN 0-8135-3231-0.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Crump, Thomas (2014). Brezhnev and the Decline of the Soviet Union. Routledge. p. 154. ISBN 9780415690737.
  17. ^ Schapiro, Amy (2003). Millicent Fenwick: Her Way. Rutgers University Press. pp. 180–183. ISBN 9780813532318.
  18. ^ According to Steve Sauro who covered Fenwick for WBIO, Parsippany, NJ and WRAN, Dover, NJ in the late 1970s.
  19. ^ "Life and Career of Millicent Fenwick". C-SPAN. December 17, 1982. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
  20. ^ United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
  21. ^ See Amy Schapiro, p. 237
  22. ^ Doonesbury FAQ Archived September 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Meet Jonathan T.M. Reckford: A Biographical Sketch". Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  24. ^ "Great-Granddaughter of Millicent Fenwick Heading to Tokyo Olympics". June 30, 2021. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  25. ^ Schapiro, American National Biography
  26. ^ Quoted in Schapiro, American National Biography

Further reading[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

  • Fenwick, Millicent. "Speak Frankly." Foreign Policy 39 (1980): 11–13. online
  • Fenwick, Millicent. Vogue's Book of Etiquette: A Complete Guide to Traditional Forms and Modern Usage (Simon and Schuster, 1948). online free to borrow
  • Fenwick, Millicent. Speaking Up (1982), includes her congressional newsletters, editorials, and other articles she wrote.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from New Jersey
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
New office United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture
Succeeded by