Archive for the ‘millicent fenwick’ Category

Remembering the Lusitania: A Century Later

Remembering the Lusitania

Remembering the Lusitania

May 7, 2015: A good story never gets old, even a century later. It was 100 years ago today that the RMS Lusitania sailed on its final voyage with more than 1,900 passengers on board. The British luxury liner departed New York City’s Pier 54 on Saturday, May 1, 1915. Throngs of well-wishers lined the pier to watch this floating palace embark on its 101st round-trip Trans-Atlantic passage. Passengers were on edge as the crossing was being made during wartime. World War I was well underway and Germany’s submarine fleet was becoming more brazen where its targets were concerned.

The first six days of the Lusitania’s journey were pleasant and uneventful. But all that changed on the seventh day. The passengers on board included Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the heir to the Vanderbilt fortune; Charles Frohman, acclaimed Broadway Manager and Producer; and Mary Picton Stevens and her husband, Ogden Haggerty Hammond, a state legislator and businessman.

On Friday, May 7, the Hammond’s were enjoying afternoon tea in the first class lounge. The morning fog had lifted and the sun was shining as the ship approached the Irish coast eleven miles away. All seemed mundane until they felt a strong vibration. Ogden went on deck, inquired about what happened, and was told everything was fine. However, the passengers on the other side knew better. For they saw a white streak barreling through the water. Everyone’s greatest fear was now realized in an instant.

The Lusitania had been targeted, and torpedoed, by the Germans. At first all was calm before folks realized what had happened and clamored for lifeboats and life vests. Ogden wanted to return to his cabin and get life vests, but Mary was adamantly opposed to the idea. Instead they went to the stern side of the ship and climbed into a lifeboat. They thought they had been spared, but they were not. As the boat was lowered, one of the crewmen lost his grip. Ogden grabbed for the rope to help ease the plunge, but to no avail. His hands were torn in shreds and the boat, and passengers, were tumbled into the frigid waters.

“I went down and down, with thirty people on top of me,” recalled Ogden. “I thought I never could come back and must have been partly unconscious, for I can only remember getting almost to the surface, sinking back again, and doing this three or four times. Then I was hauled in some boat, but no one else from the boat that fell was ever seen again.”

His beloved Mary was among the nearly 1,200 passengers to perish including 128 Americans. The irony is that it was Mary who was insistent on making the voyage on the Lusitania despite warnings from the German Ambassador and pleas from her husband not to leave. But Mary was determined to cross the ocean to help victims of WWI. Her devoted husband would not let her make the journey alone so he joined her leaving their three young children home – Mary, 7-years-old, Millicent, 5-years-old, and Ogden, Jr., 3-years-old.

The Stevens, like the Vanderbilts, were another wealthy family. On the day the Lusitania set sail, Mary Picton Stevens signed a will worth more than a million dollars. In the will she created trusts for her three young children. Little did she know she would never see her husband or her children again. Nor would she see her middle child, Millicent, be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

With many great tragedies, there are many good reads. One of the earlier books was published was in 1956 by Adolph and Mary Hoehling entitled, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania. Next on my reading list was The Lusitania written by Colin Simpson in 1972. And three decades later was Lusitania: Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston. The latter was so well done and well-researched that I thought it would be the last of the Lusitania books. But earlier this year, best-selling author Erik Larson came out with Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Like his predecessors, he has written another captivating account of the tragedy. However, if you are interested in learning more about Ogden Hammond’s experience and survival Millicent Fenwick: Her Way is still the only book that provides his gripping account leading up to the voyage, the trip itself, and the aftermath.

For those of you who would like to hear more about Ogden’s heart-wrenching story, I will be speaking in New Jersey on Saturday, June 20, 2015. Hope to see you there!

Lusitania: 100th Anniversary & its ties to a famous NJ Congresswoman

Saturday, June 20 – 10 a.m.

Parsippany Library

449 Halsey Road

Parsippany, NJ

Saturday, June 20 – 2 p.m.

Warren Library

42 Mountain Blvd.

Warren, NJ

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The Honorable Marge Roukema

imagesAnother day, another passing. Today New Jersey lost former Congresswoman Marge Roukema who was 85 years-old. She was a Republican elected in 1980; the same year Ronald Reagan won the presidency. Her first term in office would be Millicent Fenwick’s last term in Congress, but neither women knew that at the time.

As a freshman, Roukema sought Fenwick’s sage advice. Back then Fenwick was known for the uncanny amount of time she spent on the House floor. What most didn’t realize was that her time was more calculated than her peers gave her credit for. That became clear to me when I interviewed Roukema. She relayed how Fenwick told her “You need to sit on the floor to get to know your colleagues. Get to know them, not only in committee, but on the floor when debates are going on. It is then you can learn to judge whose opinions you can trust, and whose opinions you must be skeptical of. Be able to evaluate them.”

“That was wonderful advice,” said Roukema. “The first year or so I spent a lot of time on the floor listening to debates . . . and got a sense of things. Not only the issues but a sense of the evaluation of the people that were presenting things and who was being superficial and political and who was being substantive and incisive. It was excellent advice. Of course, she [Fenwick] was always there. Third row on the aisle.”[i]

What I did not know until today was that Roukema was the longest serving woman in the House of Representatives, serving eleven terms from 1981 – 2003. Since 2003 New Jersey has not sent a woman to Congress, but all that has just changed. Last week, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, was elected to the House. When she takes office in January she will be the first woman elected to Congress from New Jersey since Roukema retired more than a decade ago. It’s about time.

[i] Amy Schapiro, Millicent Fenwick: Her Way (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 153.

101 Great New Jersey Books

imagesThis year New Jersey is celebrating it’s 350th Anniversary. As part of that celebration, the New Jersey State Library, Rutgers Library, and the New Jersey Historical Commission developed a list of the 101 best New Jersey books and Millicent Fenwick: Her Way made the cut!

I’m in good company. Other authors on the list include Sylvia Nasar for her biography, A Beautiful Mind about John Forbes Nash, Jr.; David McCullough for his book 1776 shedding new light on the Revolutionary War; and Phillip Roth’s classic Goodbye, Columbus. More recent titles include Junot Diaz’s award winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her.

Here’s the full list of great New Jersey books:

101 Great New Jersey Books List

GENERAL HISTORY
1. Patricia Bonomi – The Lord Cornbury Scandal: the Politics of Reputation in British America
2. Charles Boyer – Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey
3. John Cunningham – This Is New Jersey
4. Giles Wright – “Steal Away, Steal Away”: a Guide to the Underground Railroad in New Jersey
5. Graham Russell Hodges — Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665-1865
6. Michael Immersa – Newark’s Little Italy: the Vanished First Ward
7. Nelson Johnson – Boardwalk Empire: the Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City
8. Robert Kurson – Shadow Divers: the True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
9. Marc Mappen – Jerseyana: the Underside of New Jersey History
10. Dermot Quinn – The Irish in New Jersey: Four Centuries of American Life

FICTION (SET IN NJ)
1. Mary Higgins Clark – On the Street Where You Live
2. Harlen Coben – Fade Away
3. Junot Diaz – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
4. Janet Evanovich – Four to Score
5. Richard Ford – The Bascombe Novels
6. Nathan Heard – Howard Street: a Novel
7. Curtis Lucas – Third Ward, Newark
8. Joyce Carol Oates (ed.) – New Jersey Noir
9. Philip Roth – Goodbye, Columbus
10. Joe Vallese & Alicia Beale – What’s Your Exit?: a Literary Detour Through New Jersey

CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS
1. Judy Blume – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
2. Eileen Cameron – G is for Garden State: a New Jersey Alphabet
3. Wende and Harry Devlin – Cranberry Thanksgiving
4. David Lubar – Dunk
5. Joyce McDonald – Swallowing Stones
6. Carol Plum-Ucci – The Body of Christopher Creed
7. Mary Pope Osborne – Revolutionary War on Wednesday
8. Ann Rinaldi – Time Enough for Drums
9. Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children: The Boardwalk Mystery
10. David Wiesner – Flotsam

SCIENCE, BUSINESS & NATURE
1. Thomas Belton – Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State
2. Joanna Burger – A Naturalist Along the Jersey Shore
3. Jack Connor – Season at the Point: the Birds and Birders of Cape May
4. Ernest Freeberg – The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
5. Jon Gertner – The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
6. Wheaton Lane – From Indian Trail to Iron Horse: Travel and Transportation in New Jersey, 1620-1860
7. John McPhee – The Pine Barrens
8. Robert Sullivan – The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City
9. Richard Veit – Digging New Jersey’s Past: Historical Archaeology in the Garden State
10. Peter Wacker & Paul Clemens – Land Use in Early New Jersey: a Historical Geography

POLITICS
1. Paul Clemens – The Uses of Abundance: a History of New Jersey’s Economy
2. Ovid Demaris – The Boardwalk Jungle
3. Steven Hart – The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway
4. Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure – The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption
5. Alan Karcher – New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness
6. Duane Lockard – The New Jersey Governor: A Study in Political Power
7. Richard McCormick – New Jersey: From Colony to State, 1609-1789
8. Gerald Pomper – The Political State of New Jersey
9. Salmore & Salmore – New Jersey Politics and Government: the Suburbs Come of Age
10. John Wefing – The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: the Politics of Civility

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
1. Martin Duberman – Paul Robeson: A Biography
2. Gillan, Gillan and Giunta – Italian American Writers on New Jersey
3. Howard Greenfeld – Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life
4. Walter Isaacson – Einstein: His Life and Universe
5. S. Mitra Kalita – Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage from India to America
6. Sylvia Nasar – A Beautiful Mind: a Biography of John Forbes Nash,Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994
7. Amy Schapiro – Millicent Fenwick: Her Way
8. James Still – Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still
9. Patricia Tyson Stroud – The Man Who Had Been King: the American Exile of Napoleon’s Brother Joseph
10. Mary Walton – A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot

NEW JERSEY AT WAR
1. Michael S. Adelberg – The American Revolution in Monmouth County: The Theatre of Spoil and Destruction
2. Joseph Bilby – “Remember You Are Jerseymen!”: a Military History of New Jersey’s Troops in the Civil War
3. Joseph G. Bilby, ed. – New Jersey Goes to War: Biographies of 150 New Jerseyans Caught up in the Struggle of the Civil War
4. Kevin Coyne -Marching Home : to War and Back with the Men of One American Town
5. Mark Di Ionno – A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail : for Families and History Buffs
6. David Hackett Fisher – Washington’s Crossing
7. William Gillette – Jersey Blue: Civil War Politics in New Jersey, 1854-1865
8. Arthur Lefkowitz – The Long Retreat: The Calamitous American Defense of New Jersey, 1776
9. Mark Lender – One State in Arms: a Short Military History of New Jersey
10. David McCullogh – 1776

ARTS & POETRY
1. Meredith Bzdak and Douglas Petersen – Public Sculpture in New Jersey : Monuments to Collective Identity
2. Walter Choroszewski – New Jersey, a photographic celebration
3. Alan Ginsburg – Howl
4. Robert P. Guter – Building by the Book: Pattern Book Architecture in New Jersey
5. Joyce Kilmer – Trees and Other Poems
6. Robert Pinsky – Jersey Rain
7. John R.Quinn – Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands.
8. Gerald Stern – This Time: New and Selected Poems
9. Lynd Ward – Vertigo
10. Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass
11. William Carlos Williams – Paterson

REFERENCE
1. Joan Burstyn – Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women
2. The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage:10,000 BC to AD 2000, By Herbert C. Kraft.
3. Joseph Felcone – New Jersey Books. Vols. I & II.
4. Maxine Lurie & Marc Mappen – Encyclopedia of New Jersey
5. Maxine Lurie, Peter Wacker ( eds.) & Michael Siegel – Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape
6. Clement Price – Freedom Not Far Distant: a Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey
7. Helen Schwartz – The New Jersey House
8. Donald Sinclair – New Jersey Biographical Index: covering some 100,000 biographies and associated portraits in 237 New Jersey cyclopedias, histories, yearbooks, periodicals and other collective biographical sources published to about 1980
9. Skinder-Strauss Associates (pub.) – Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey
10. John Snyder – The Mapping of New Jersey: the Men and the Art

RECENTLY PUBLISHED
1. Peter Ames Carlin – Bruce
2. Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her
3. Mark Di Ionno – The Last Newspaperman
4. Charles Graeber – The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder
5. George Kirsch – Six Guys from Hackensack: Coming of Age in the Real New Jersey
6. Cathy D. Knepper – Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six
7. Marc Mappen – Prohibition Gangsters: the Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation
8. Barksdale Maynard – Princeton, America’s Campus
9. Holly Metz – Killing the Poormaster: a Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression
10. Maxine Lurie and Richard Veit – New Jersey: A History of the Garden State

This Day in History

Millicent Fenwick CoverSeptember 16, 2014: It is hard to believe, but 22 years ago today Millicent Fenwick quietly passed away in her sleep at her Bernardsville home. I guess the old adage that time flies is true as it doesn’t seem like it’s been more than two decades since she left us.

Sept. 16

Millicent Fenwick CoverIt is 21 years ago today that Millicent Fenwick passed away and 10 years since Millicent Fenwick: Her Way was first published. I cannot believe either milestone. The other thing that always surprises me is that despite the passing of time, Fenwick still makes headlines every election season, at least in New Jersey. We’ll see if the same holds true this year with the gubernatorial race and Frank Lautenberg’s open Senate seat. Ironically, it was Lautenberg’s death this past June that once again revived Millicent Fenwick in print as it was Fenwick that Lautenberg defeated to win his first Senate campaign 31 years ago.  Today we remember the feisty pipe-smoking grandmother and can only imagine what she would do if she was in Congress today.

Remembering Frank Launtenberg

473px-Frank_Lautenberg,_official_portrait,_112th_portrait

Sen. Frank Lautenberg
1924 – 2013

My first memory of Frank Lautenberg dates back to high school. Mrs. Forsman’s senior honors history class went to Washington and we were going to meet with Senator Frank Lautenberg, our state senator. Around the same time, legislation passed in the wee hours of the night. An amendment tacked on to a bill sold Linden Airport for $1. My father, Jack Elliott, an aviation columnist was livid about the deal. Ironically, my father and Frank Lautenberg were born on the same day, same year – January 23, 1924 – in New Jersey. Despite this irony, my father was not a fan and he challenged me to ask Senator Lautenberg about the Linden Airport deal when I went to Washington. The exact details have faded from my memory, but at the time they were as clear as day. The bigger challenge was not remembering the facts, but gaining enough courage to ask a question. I was extremely shy.

My high school class arrived at Senator Lautenberg’s office and I got my first lesson on how Washington works. We didn’t meet with Senator Lautenberg; we met with a very young staffer. I was disappointed about not meeting the Senator, but it was much easier to ask the big question to someone not much older than me. And so I did what I didn’t even do in class, I raised my hand. I was called upon and asked the question. The staffer had not a clue about what I was talking about and  bumbled his way through an answer.

Fast forward, years later when I was writing my biography of Millicent Fenwick and Frank Lautenberg was still a senator.  He was first elected in 1982. It was his first campaign and his challenger was the popular grandmother in congress, Millicent Fenwick. The pair couldn’t have been more different. Both were wealthy, but Fenwick was frugal and Lautenberg wasn’t. He was willing to spend his personal war chest to defeat her and he did.

One of his arguments against Fenwick was her age. She was 72 and he was 58. Lautenberg said she would be too old to have staying power in the Senate, yet he proved his own theory wrong. Lautenberg served in the Senate for nearly thirty years, but not consecutively. In 2001, he retired, but it didn’t last long. In New Jersey scandal always rears it’s ugly head. It did so in 1982, creating a vacancy when Senator Harrison Williams resigned due to the Abscam scandal. He was convicted of bribery and conspiracy paving the way for Lautenberg’s first victory. In 2003, it was Senator Torricelli who got caught up in scandal, this time it related to illegal campaign contributions. Last minute, Torricelli pulled out of the Senate race and Lautenberg was recruited by the Democratic Party to run in Torricelli’s place. Lautenberg did and he won.

During his long career as a public servant, Lautenberg was an advocate for gun safety, transportation, public health and environmental issues. Despite his health, Lautenberg made it to the Senate floor in April to vote in favor of tougher gun control laws, and, specifically stricter background checks. The measure failed, but his vote was counted.

Although Lautenberg died today, June 3, attention isn’t being focused on his long career and many accomplishments, but rather the politics of his vacant seat and the balance of power in the Senate. Lautenberg was a Democrat, and Republican NJ Governor Chris Christie gets to appoint an interim successor. Speculation is already going viral on what Christie should do.

Regardless of who replaces Lautenberg, chances are they will not be a World War II vet. Lautenberg was the last remaining WWII veteran serving in the Senate. Like Lautenberg, my father is also a WWII veteran. Unlike, Lautenberg, my father is still with us.

Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment

This year I kicked off Women’s History Month as the luncheon speaker at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (more about that later) in Washington, DC. The Board’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, headed by Sheila Clark, decided to celebrate Women’s History Month by hosting a high noon tea.  This year’s theme was “Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment,” and it was the perfect topic to discuss the life of Millicent Fenwick.

Born in 1910, Millicent Fenwick’s life embodied the times. When her father was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Spain in 1925 her brother and stepbrother were allowed to stay in the United States to continue their education at St. Paul’s boarding school, but Millicent and her sister, Mary, were not afforded the same opportunity. The sisters were pulled out of Foxcroft Boarding School to accompany their father to Spain. Since Mary was a senior she was granted her high school diploma, but not Millicent. She was 15-years-old when her formal education ended. Despite her quest for knowledge, Millicent Hammond Fenwick never graduated from high school.

In 1938, in the wake of divorce, Fenwick sought employment. She applied for a job at an upscale New York department store. The interview went well until she was asked what college she went to. When she said she didn’t go to college, she was asked what high school she graduated from? She told them she attended high school for two years, but never graduated. That information promptly ended the interview. They wouldn’t hire anyone without a high school diploma.

Fenwick didn’t let her lack of a formal education hinder her path forward, but it took her longer to empower herself. At the age of 59, she was tired of following the “typical female pattern … I finally learned that when a man wants more he says, ‘Listen George, I want a bit of the action.’ Well, we’ve been taught, ‘You have to wait to be invited to the dance.’” Fenwick was tired of waiting. In 1967, she was hoping party leaders would select her to run for a state seat. They didn’t. Two years later, she didn’t make the same mistake. She spoke up and was named the Republican candidate for the Eight District Assembly seat. She won, launching her political career and, in essence, marking the beginning of her journey towards the nation’s Capitol.

Fenwick was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. She was 1 of 18 women in Congress. All were in the House, none were in the Senate. Today there are 90 women serving in Congress, 17 of whom are in the Senate.

Since I was speaking at the Federal Reserve, I shared a story about Fenwick being on the “Banking, Currency, and Housing Committee,” a freshman assignment she detested and referred to as Beirut. Maybe if she visited the Federal Reserve she would have a different opinion.

I’ve lived in Washington for years, but the Federal Reserve was one building I’d never been inside. DeAnna Neill, the event coordinator, gave me a private tour of the building after the luncheon. Not only did I get to see the grand staircase, but also where Chairman Bernanke’s office and conference room were tucked away. The ornate conference room was in use, but the adjacent conference room was just as stunning. Most surprising, was the art. The Federal Reserve has its own art collection donning the walls. Who knew?