90-year-old Doris Haddock amazes and inspires


Washington, D.C.

Whatever Granny D is taking, Washington wants some of it. The indefatigable, 90-year-old Doris Haddock ("H-a-d-d-o-c-k, like the fish"), arrived in the nation's capital on a glorious spring-like day, like the victorious soldier that she is -- flags and people and daffodils waving, horns tooting, television cameras and tape recorders whirring, cell phones crackling, and reporters in her face.

The great-grandmother marched across Key Bridge from Virginia into Washington at mid-morning on February 29, ending a 3,200-mile trek across America that started in Pasadena, Calif., on New Years Day last year when she tagged along in the Rose Bowl Parade hoisting a sign urging campaign finance reform.

Hundreds of fellow grandmothers, seasoned activists and polished politicians joined her for the last five miles of her 3,200-mile stroll. It was a motley crew that cheered, banged and sung its way from Arlington National Cemetery to the Capitol building. They screamed "K is for corruption" as they proceeded down Washington's most infamous boulevard and shook signs saying "End Legalized Bribery" at the lobbyist's office buildings. They covered themselves with bumper stickers, placards, signs and sashes, all emblazoned with catchy phrases about vote buying and political corruption.

A group of grandmothers from North Carolina, decked out in straw hats, long floral dresses and flowers, sang lyrical remakes of musical classics. The opening waves of "America the Beautiful" were transformed into "Oh beautiful, for gen'rous bribes, for ample waves of cash," in their songbook.

The march drew many familiar faces in campaign finance reform. The Washington groups all had staff members marching and speaking. Many marchers were seasoned reformers -- as social justice protesters, or the head of their local League of Women Voters or Alliance for Democracy. But there were also new converts: twenty-something daughters accompanying their activist mothers; a teamster on his day off; a high school government class watching its first march in action.

Like any successful campaign, Granny's was coordinated to the minute. She and her entourage of activists, managers, and clowns, were a bit ahead of schedule as they approached the bridge across the Potomac River. "We had to walk at snail's pace, and that was a bit difficult, but we arrived at just the right time," she said later.

The Granny D rally also attracted perhaps the two most important elements: the Washington personalities and the media. Representatives Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Connie Morella (R-Md.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) attended, as did Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). And the media showed up in droves. The morning talk shows interviewed Granny D. Dozens of televisions camera followed the whole march. The wire services, the newspapers and even the international media were on hand.

The cameras even stuck around for another campaign finance reform protest after Granny D's event. Sixteen people were arrested later that afternoon for protesting for reform and public funding in the Capitol Rotunda. The protesters marched with Granny D. in the morning, then opted to carry on their own demonstration. It was the third of a series of planned civil disobedience actions that the Alliance for Democracy has helped sponsor (for more on the protests, see "Arresting Reformers," page 13.)

As Haddock closed in on the Capitol, bystanders, tourists and friends hollered, "Go, Granny Go" and "You're walking for us."

The U.S. Capitol was her destination as she trudged across the country.

Standing in the sunshine on the steps of the East Front, as straight as her arthritic little body could stand, shaded by the fourth hat she has worn out on her journey, she delivered a speech titled, "Senators, how did you dare think we do not care?"

(See the text below.)

She was all over television, radio and newspapers -- local and national. On The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and so on. The Washington Post ran a color picture as the focus of its Metro Section on Feb. 29.

When one TV anchor asked her motive for such a stunt as walking across the country for a cause, she said: "Democracy is being threatened by the illegal money that is being given to our candidates by corporations and unions and wealthy men. So that we are shifting from being a country that is a government of the people by the people and for the people ... [to] an oligarchy or something else, not a democracy. So I'm fighting to get back to that. I have lots of great-grandchildren and I want them to be brought up in a democracy."

Almost everywhere she spoke, Granny D referred to the eight senators needed to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill (S. 1593) that has been bottled up by the Republican leadership the past two years. The bill, which would have put limits on "soft money" contributions to political parties, was last derailed on Oct. 19, 1999, when senators, on a 53-47 vote, failed to stop the filibuster and force a vote. Sixty votes are required to cut off debate.

Granny D dedicated portions of her walk to Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, with the prayer that they will switch to become advocates of the McCain-Feingold bill. "Mr. Kyl serves as Senator McCain's national co-chair, and I don't know how he thinks he can do that without supporting Mr. McCain's key bill!" she said.

The idea to walk across the country came to Granny D after a discussion of campaign finance reform at a weekly meeting of her womenís club in her hometown, Dublin, N.H.

Retired in 1972 as an executive secretary of a shoe firm, she has 12 great-grandchildren but few monetary assets or property. She hopes a successful campaign for finance reform will be her real legacy.

Doris Haddock and her late husband, Jim, were married in 1930. They were long-time activists and demonstrated against proposed nuclear weapons tests in Alaska in the 1950s. She also crusaded against domestic abuse.

Doctors discovered in the 1980s that Jim had Alzheimer's disease, and she lobbied for more research to find a cure for that, too. He died seven years ago and she says she misses him terribly. As she walked, she called up sweet memories. "He had a very fine mind, and it was hell to see it deteriorate," she told the Washington Post.

Their 65-year-old son, also named Jim, was with her in Washington. He said she started preaching about campaign finance reform several years ago, and in 1998 declared she was going to do something about it.

"When your mother says she's going to walk across the country, you don't just say, 'Have a good time.' I'm proud of her." He told USA Today that he devised a serious training program for her before she started out to walk 10 miles a day across the country. She practiced carrying a 25-pound backpack and sleeping on the ground.

"I traveled as a pilgrim seeking food and shelter," she said, quoted by the Post. "I haven't missed a meal, and I haven't slept on the ground." In some places, motels offered her a free room. Family and friends looked after her as she walked, with a rescue car nearby.

Starting in California, she was pounded by a sandstorm in the Mojave desert and was hospitalized four days for dehydration. After crossing Arizona and New Mexico, she was in Texas just in time to see the bluebonnets bloom.

With a steel brace supporting her arthritic back, she trudged through Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, using cross-country skis at times on snow-packed roads.

She learned that 1,400 of her steps make a mile, and added the miles on her fingers. She sometimes recited poetry as she walked, or dedicated a few miles of a highway to the "girls" in her club back home in New Hampshire.

Now, Doris Haddock is resting for a few days. Then she says she intends to be active on two fronts. In cooperation with a number of grassroots organizations, which are "all stymied in their work by the present hijacking of Congress by big money," she intends to oppose the re-election of anti-reform members of Congress. She invites e-mail messages from those who wish to help, via her web site,

Second, she will work with non-profit, public policy reform groups, including Common Cause, The League of Women Voters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, and The National Civic League and other organizations to help communities improve their elective processes, measure their important community conditions, establish community goals, and provide ongoing instructions to their elected representatives.

"It takes a long time for people to become mobilized," said Diana Phillips, president of the North Carolina League of Women Voters who marched with several women from her state. "Most of us realize this doesn't happen overnight. We are in this for the long haul."

Peggy Roberson is a writer in Washington, D.C. Deirdre Davidson, who covers money and politics for, also contributed to this report. For more information, see Granny D's web site (

Making a Movement

For more information on building a movement: Public Campaign (; phone 202-293-0222), a group working toward public funding on the state and national level, has a list of groups and activists at the state level.

Common Cause (; phone 202-833-1200), another group working for national and state-level reform, and which helped coordinate Granny D's walk across America, has another helpful listing of state resources.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (; phone 202-546-9707) research environmental and consumer issues, including campaign finance reform. State PIRG chapters are very active in ground-level efforts at reform.

The Alliance for Democracy (; phone 781-894-1179) has been organizing the "Democracy Brigades," the protests in the Capitol Rotunda.

Mass Voters for Clean Elections (; phone 888-775-2475) is the local organization that organized the protest in Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci's office to protect the state's clean money law.

Arianna Huffington, who sponsored a "Boston Tea Party" with Mass Voters as part of the tour for her book, How to Overthrow the Government, is sponsoring a website ( with links to more campaign finance and general activist resources.

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2000 The Progressive Populist