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A Grandson’s Memory

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Sam Reckford, Millicent Fenwick’s grandson, accepts her induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame from former NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and CNN anchor Susan Hendricks. 

Sam Reckford, Millicent Fenwick’s grandson, recently accepted her induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame on May 6, 2018. Yesterday his affectionate memories of his grandmother were published on north jersey.com. His article appears below.

Remembering my grandmother, Rep. Millicent Fenwick

Last week I accepted, on behalf of my grandmother, Millicent Fenwick, her induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Grandma was a character. One might say that you couldn’t have made her up, but Garry Trudeau came remarkably close in his creation of Lacey Davenport.

Her style and personality were forged from an odd set of circumstances that would be impossible to replicate. She was born into great privilege, but had her mother ripped away from her when she was just four years old, with the sinking of the Lusitania.

She debuted before the King of Spain, but loathed society events.

She disobeyed her parents’ wishes by marrying a dashing aviator, but was soon abandoned by him, and left with two small children and few resources.

She struggled to get a job because she never finished high school, and was even turned away from selling stockings at Bonwit Teller. Of course, what the hiring officer at Bonwit’s didn’t appreciate was that Grandma was the living embodiment of the old maxim, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”

When she was withdrawn from boarding school at 16 to live in Madrid – where her father was posted as U.S. ambassador – she gained the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and North Africa, read extensively and learn many languages.

Then fate – made possible by her social position – placed her at a dinner party next to Condé Nast at a time when he needed a junior editor at Vogue.

As a child, I largely knew my grandmother as the author of Vogue’s Book of Etiquette. She knew exactly how people ought to behave in all circumstances, and she dutifully recorded it, but made it plain that etiquette was principally about making people feel comfortable, not Victorian stuffiness.

The most immutable rule of all was how to treat people that are in a subservient position; it is far more important to treat them with respect than it is to act in a certain way in front of one’s peers and social superiors. That is how Grandma came to be loved by her staff and the shopkeepers in Bernardsville, yet not so much by the chairmen of powerful House committees and Cabinet secretaries, not to mention autocrats around the world.

Despite her aristocratic bearing, Grandma had a rapport with working people and those that society had neglected because she truly cared about them and their problems, and they recognized it.

In my office, I have a tapestry embroidered by six Ukrainian women jailed in a gulag in Moldavia, given to her in appreciation of her defense of human rights in the USSR. I don’t know how these unfortunate women found out about her struggle for what would become the Helsinki Accords in that pre-Internet age, but it is an inspiration to me every day to see this testament to what one caring and determined person can accomplish.

It was an honor to stand in for her and thank the people of New Jersey for this official recognition of her life of public service.

We can all aspire to follow her good example.

Sam Reckford is a resident of Millburn.

 

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NJ Hall of Fame Ceremony

636612453892803599-BJPA8915Welcome to all the new subscribers to Six Degrees of Millicent! Since I haven’t posted anything since last month, I’m guessing the traffic is related to the recent New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction over the weekend. It was a star-studded event with Whoopi Goldberg as Emcee and Bruce Springsteen making a surprise appearance, and performance, with inductee Stevie Van Zandt. I did not attend the event, but read all about it:

Springsteen’s Surprise Asbury Park Appearance / New Jersey Monthly

https://njmonthly.com/articles/just-for-the-web/springsteens-surprise-asbury-park-appearance/

Honeymoon Crash Makes News Again

In 1932, newlyweds Millicent and Hugh Fenwick embarked on a cross-country honeymoon in a biplane flown by Hugh. They planned to fly from New Jersey to San Francisco and then on to Alaska, but they never made it past Patco Airport in Pennsylvania. Richard McDonough, a local reporter in Pennsylvania who researches local history, came across Millicent Fenwick’s honeymoon crash when he was writing a series about Patco Airport which has long since closed. He contacted me when he was writing the story and shared this link to his article:  https://morethanthecurve.com/the-freedom-valley-chronicles-patco-airport-part-four/    which can also be found below. If you are interested in learning more about Fenwick’s life you can read Millicent Fenwick: Her Way, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary since it was published in March 2003. Time flies (no pun intended)!

The Freedom Valley Chronicles: Patco Airport – Part Four

Patco Airport was the scene of several crashes of airplanes through the years.  In some of these crashes, people were severely injured and a few people died.  Travel by aviation was not always as safe as it is today.

One of the airplane crashes – a crash that resulted in no injuries, thankfully – involved a woman who would later help lead efforts to change America for the better.

Millicent Hammond Fenwick was a newlywed.  It was June 14, 1932.  She and her husband, Hugh Fenwick, were on an “aero honeymoon”.  They planned to fly their airplane from New Jersey to San Francisco and then on to Alaska.

They stopped at Patco Airport on the cross-country trip.  According to a news article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 16, 1932, the couple was visiting Mr. Mark Hopkins, a member of their bridal party earlier that month.

When they took off to leave Plymouth Township, things went downhill.  Or, should I say “upside down.”  The airplane tipped over as Mr. Fenwick attempted take-off.

The Wilkes-Barre Record reported in a news article on June 15, 1932, that the plane “ground looped” as it was taking off from the airport.  “The ship had scarcely left the ground when its nose cropped causing it to turn over completely.”

The new bride and her husband survived the crash.  According to the news article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 16, 1932, both Mr. and Mrs. Fenwick were shaken after the incident.  Neither was injured.

The plane could not fly.  Their aero honeymoon was over.

According to Millicent Fenwick: Her Way by Ms. Amy Schapiro, through the assistance of a friend, the couple ended up spending their honeymoon in Bermuda.

The couple went on to live full lives.

For Mrs. Fenwick, what a full life it was.

Born into wealth, she suffered a number of tragedies through the years.  Her mother and father, Ogden Hammond and Mary Stevens Hammond, were on the Lusitania on May 7, 1915.  On that date, the German Empire sunk the British ship by torpedo.  A total of 1,198 people were murdered through this act of war.

Among those that died in the sinking of the Lusitania was the mother of Mrs. Fenwick.  According to a news article on May 20, 1982, in the Bernardsville News, the mother of Mrs. Fenwick was one of 114 Americans that perished through this attack.

Her father survived and later became the United States Ambassador to Spain.

Miss Millicent Hammond was a five-year-old girl when her mother died.

Beyond the airplane crash at Patco Airport, Mrs. Fenwick was involved in two additional airplane crashes, according to her grandson, Mr. Sam Reckford.  “In one situation, she survived the crash itself uninjured,” explained Mr. Reckford.  “She was hanging by some type of harness and when a rescuer released her, she fell and broke a bone.”

Her marriage to Mr. Fenwick did not last long.  The couple separated, according to the House of Representatives biography of Mrs. Fenwick, six years after getting married.  They divorced in 1945.  After the separation, she worked to support their two children as a single parent.

Mrs. Fenwick did not let any of these events stop her from serving her local community in Bernardsville, a borough in Somerset County, New Jersey.  She served as a member of the Borough Council and the local School Board.

She later was elected as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly.

In 1974, she was elected to serve the 5th District of New Jersey in the House of Representatives.

A statue of Millicent Fenwick greets people in Bernardsville, New Jersey. The statue was dedicated in October of 1995.

From the website of Mr. Bob Zorechak, REALTOR:

“An American fashion editor, politician and diplomat and a lifelong resident of Bernardsville, New Jersey. Millicent Fenwick was a larger than life four-term Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New Jersey serving during the Reagan years. 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.”

On May 6, 2018, the State of New Jersey will publicly honor Millicent Hammond Fenwick for her service to the people of the state and to the nation.  On that date, she will be formally inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

She is being honored for public service as a politician.

Today, you may not hear the term “public service” associated with the word “politician”.

For Mrs. Fenwick, political office was the means through which she sought to provide service to the public.

“My grandmother loved helping people,” explained Mr. Reckford.  “She saw government as the means to provide justice to all people.”

“She was very much a Republican in that she was fiscally conservative and believed each individual and the private sector should be given the opportunity to move forward,” stated Mr. Reckford.  “She believed in a level playing field that allowed everyone opportunity.”

What started her life in politics?

Hitler.  Adolf Hitler and his Nazi ideology.

“She became political during the years prior to the United States entering World War II,” stated Mr. Reckford.  “She detested Hitler and the Nazis as well as everything they stood for.”

“She saw that the Nazis had taken a great country – Germany – and changed its laws to provide justice for all into laws that created injustice for certain people,” Mr. Reckford continued.

Mrs. Fenwick was quoted in a news article in The Home News serving Central New Jersey on January 15, 1982:  “Hitler first attracted my attention to politics.  I was really horrified at what government could do.”

“My grandmother stood up against anti-Semitism – hatred of Jews – that was common at the time,” explained Mr. Reckford.  “She spoke against the America First Committee.”

The America First Committee was an anti-war movement that advocated for the United States to remain neutral between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and their Axis allies versus the United Kingdom, France. Poland, the Netherlands, and other nations attacked by the Axis Powers.

Many public officials as well as ordinary folk supported the America First Committee.

Millicent Hammond Fenwick did not.

She publicly spoke out against the America First Committee.

Not everyone agreed with Mrs. Fenwick.

After participating in an anti-Nazi rally in the City of New York, she was attacked and beaten by two thugs according to a news article in The Courier-News of Bridgewater, New Jersey, dated September 17, 1992.  The assault on Mrs. Fenwick took place in the Yorkville section of Manhattan in the summer of 1941.

Think about it:  A 31 year-old woman assaulted in the City of New York because she stood for the civil rights of people.

The attack did not stop Mrs. Fenwick.

“It likely made her more determined than ever to seek justice for people,” stated Mr. Reckford, “She truly believed that the business of government is justice.”

On many occasions, Mrs. Fenwick made her position clear.  America should stand up for justice for all people.  Jews.  African-Americans.  All people.

She joined the National Conference of Christians and Jews.  In 1946, she became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“In New Jersey and on Capitol Hill, Millicent Fenwick brought a grace to public service that earned her moniker as the ‘Conscience of Congress’ by none other than Walter Cronkite,” shared Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey.

Even beyond the shores of our country, Mrs. Fenwick sought to help use the power of government to bring justice to all.

She helped lead efforts in the United States Congress to establish a national commission to help the peoples of Europe as they sought human rights.  As they sought freedom from communism.

First proposed by Mrs. Fenwick in 1975, what became known as the “Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe” was created through law in 1976.  This independent agency of the Federal government – also known as the “United States Helsinki Commission” – “promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America,” according to its Mission Statement.

An example of Mrs. Fenwick in action can be seen in the transcript of a hearing by the Commission on the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981.  You can view this transcript of the hearing held on September 23, 1982, by clicking this link.

The Commission still functions today.

Not all of the policies advocated by Mrs. Fenwick as an elected official became law.

She was not universally supported nor did her views always carry the day.  Politics can be tough.  In her last campaign for office – to be a United States Senator from the State of New Jersey – Mrs. Fenwick lost the election.

One person mentioned that in her contacts with Mrs. Fenwick, she seemed to always be looking forward.  Mr. Reckford agreed with that assessment.  “She rarely focused on negative things.”

“I think most others treated her with respect – even if they disagreed with her – because she was very polite and respectful to most everyone,” explained Mr. Reckford.

While she made herself available to the news media through her public life and answered most every question posed by reporters, she did not appreciate some of the wording used to describe her.

Mrs. Fenwick did not like that many reporters would focus on her pipe smoking.  The Courier-News in a news article on September 20, 1992, reprinted a quote from Mrs. Fenwick from 1987:  “I was so hurt when I got to Congress.  All the media would say was ‘pipe-smoking grandmother.’  And I would say, ‘For God’s sake, hardworking grandmother, same number of syllables.’  But I couldn’t persuade them.”

She had taken up pipe smoking when her doctor told her to give up cigarettes because they were bad for her health.  She did not like being photographed with the pipe.  “She said she didn’t want to be a bad example to young people,” stated Mr. Reckford.

Mrs. Fenwick was raised in the Episcopalian faith and believed in God, according to Mr. Reckford.  “She didn’t discuss her faith much.  It was very personal to her,” he stated.

Her grandson explained that Mrs. Fenwick invoked a particular Biblical passage on a regular basis.

Micah 6:8.

One translation of a portion of Micah VI:8 is as follows:

“What does the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Her family was important to Mrs. Fenwick.  But there were occasions where service to people seemed to take precedence.

“As grandkids, we could see that she cared so much for the people she represented that we would sometimes joke – but not really joke – that we wanted to be constituents rather than grandchildren,” explained Mr. Reckford.

She loved politics. She loved government service. Public service.

Mrs. Fenwick died in 1992 at the age of 82 years.

Few would have realized on that Spring day in 1932 that the woman who walked away from a plane crash at Patco Airport in Plymouth Township would have lived such a full life serving the people.

Millicent Hammond Fenwick will be recognized for her public service as she enters the New Jersey Hall of Fame on May 6, 2018.

The statue of Millicent Fenwick with the trees in Fall colors in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

From the website of The Bernards Inn:

“Guests may be interested in visiting the life-size statue of Millicent Fenwick, located just across the street from the Inn at the train station. Her arms are open and welcoming, and it is as if she is gazing upon The Bernards Inn and the magnificent ballroom that bears her name.  The Bernards Inn proudly commemorates a legendary woman whose lifelong commitment to activism on behalf of consumers, minorities, and women’s rights helped to change the world.”

In Part Five, we’ll detail further aspects of Patco Airport.

The first photograph of the Millicent Hammond Fenwick statue is courtesy of Mr. Bob Zorechak, REALTOR.

The second photo of Millicent Hammond Fenwick is courtesy of the Library of Congress, 1975.

The second photograph of the Millicent Hammond Fenwick statue is courtesy of The Bernards Inn.

Do you have questions about local history?  A street name?  A building?

Your questions may be used in a future news article.

Contact Richard McDonough at freedomvalleychronicles@gmail.com.

© 2018 Richard McDonough

Protecting the Constitution

4th-of-july-flagYesterday the New York Daily News ran an op-ed by Harlan Levy entitled “A playbook for state AGs to defeat Trump.” Levy opens with this: “Now more than ever, state attorney generals are the last line of defense against the excesses of the President in Washington. This is a welcome development — but the expectations are high and the challenges many.”

He talks about how Republican state AG’s did the same thing during the Obama Administration that Democratic state AG’s are doing now, but regardless of party their efforts need to be based on facts and not politics. My favorite line in the article is this; “In the heyday of the Justice Department, Robert F. Kennedy and Nicholas Katzenbach stood for the federal Constitution and federal law. Now it will be state AGs.”

It’s nice to see Katzenbach’s tenure at the Justice Department remembered, particularly as we celebrate Independence Day. He loved this country and the Constitution that guides this nation. Katzenbach’s favorite class at Princeton University was about the constitution and taught by constitutional scholar and author Edward Corwin. Corwin’s book, The Constitution and What it Means Today,  first published in 1920 and followed by several updates and editions, was what Katzenbach referred to as “the best single book on the U.S. Constitution. …  beautifully written for laymen.”

As we celebrate the founding of this nation and the Declaration of Independence, I’m thinking (and, yes, still writing) about Nicholas Katzenbach.

Happy Birthday, Millicent

millicent-fenwickI cannot let today end without remembering Millicent Fenwick who was born on February 25, 1910 and passed away in 1992, yet she is still in the news. Earlier this week, in a letter to the editor published in the Madison Eagle, Judith Campbell wrote an open letter to her Congressman, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). In it she wrote:

“I have been a lifelong Democrat but always voted for the person, not necessarily the party. That included voting for (Republican) Millicent Fenwick. After Millicent, I remember the years I voted for your esteemed father, Peter Frelinghuysen, who also held this Congressional seat. They were diligent representatives of their constituents, reflecting the values of their voters and adding their ideas to legislation for the betterment of our towns and the country as a whole. I was never concerned about voting for them. You see, my values matched theirs in nearly every instance, and where we differed I was sure that they would negotiate legislation in a way to match the majority of their district. … Patriots such as your father and Millicent would be working hard to save our democracy. Where are you, Congressman Frelinghuysen? Will you help save the values of freedom and liberty that were the foundation of our country, or will you turn a blind eye to fascism in order to curry favor or, worst yet, wield power?”
http://www.newjerseyhills.com/madison_eagle/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-country-needs-the-real-frelinghuysen-back-again/article_98ba0546-bfba-5791-b800-68cf088f3658.html

For those of you interested in learning more about Millicent Fenwick, next weekend the Long Hill Library (917 Valley Road, Gillette, NJ) will be offering a program entitled “Secret Agents of Change: Famous Women in Morris County History” at noon on Saturday, March 4, 2017 to celebrate Women’s History Month. Women who will be featured include Geraldine Dodge, Helen Fenske, and Millicent Fenwick.

Ivana and Hillary

unnamedFor many people who live and work inside the beltway the day after the election was a day of mourning and shock. To distract myself, after work I headed to the Library of Congress where I am fortunate to have a research office. It’s on the top floor of the Adams Building and provides a bird’s eye view of Capitol Hill. There is a church and steeple in the foreground and RFK Stadium in the distance.

As I settled in, I pulled a bound volume of Vanity Fair off my bookshelf. It was from 1992. The article I needed was in the April issue, but the May issue caught my eye. Plastered on the cover was Ivana Trump and a blaring headline “Ivana Be a Star! Ms. Trump’s Literary Debut.” And then in the lower right hand corner was a red banner with yet another headline. This one was about Hillary Clinton—“Will she get to the White House with Bill or without him?” Nearly a quarter century later, and after two failed presidential bids, we finally know the answer. No, Hillary Clinton will not get to the White House on her own. But who could have guessed in 1992 that in 2016 these two women would be connected by a presidential election – the ex-husband of Ivana would be running against Hillary Clinton for the highest office in the land. I kept reading.

These two profiles about two very different women were literally back-to-back. I started reading the Ivana article and was transported to her jet-setting life style, boyfriend at the time, Riccardo Mazzucchelli, who gave her a ten-karat-yellow-diamond ring from Tiffany, and later became her husband for nearly two years. The magazine cover talked about her debut novel, but all the article said about the book was that it sounded eerily similar to the author; it was about a Czechoslovakian born skier married to an American Tycoon, runs a hotel and goes through a long, drawn-out divorce (p. 130). The rest of the article was a profile of Ivana, her early life in Czechoslovakia, her past loves before Donald (and after), and her jet-setting life.

There were two things I found of particular interest; the first was this quote: “The most important thing in Ivana’s life is publicity,” says a New York social figure. “She’s exactly like Donald in that way. They live for publicity. It’s a drug for them” (p. 178). Donald Trump’s comfort in the spotlight and his adeptness at managing it to his advantage were seen throughout his presidential campaign. Trump was so effective at garnering media attention that his campaign did not need to spend the millions upon millions that presidential candidates typically spent on television advertising.

The other thing I found interesting was Ivana talking about her children and how they lived with her. Throughout the campaign, Trump was credited for raising three great children. Even Hillary gave him credit for that much, yet no one ever mentioned Ivana.

During the interview, writer Bob Colacello asked Ivana about accusations that she traveled too much and didn’t spend enough time with her three children. “’That’s the only thing that really upsets me terribly,’ she answered. ‘I spend all the time with them. The children are living with me … so I think I’m a terrific mother. I’m very proud of that.’ My mother is always around and my two nannies which are around—not that they could replace me, by no means. (p. 182).

Her three children are now grown and have been center-stage this political season with Ivanka shining above all and trying to ease the gaffes her father makes. At the time the article was published she was just ten and described as “tall and pretty and blonde and quick with the sarcasm.” (P. 190). When asked what Ivanka wanted to do when she grew up, she “smiled brightly, she answered, ‘The same as Mom.’

img_3086From the glitzy world of Ivana Trump I was transported to the politically savvy world of Hillary Clinton during Bill’s first run for the presidency. This article was entitled “What Hillary Wants: How many touch choices has Hillary Clinton had to make along the road to the White House?” by Gail Sheehy. That headline reverberates true today despite being more than two decades old.

Sheehy writes “The most controversial figure of the election year so far has been a woman, Hillary Clinton, and she isn’t running for office. Or is she? Whether she loves the boy in Bill Clinton as much as the man or whether she is simply unwilling to forfeit her sixteen years’ investment in their political partnership, Hillary is determined to seize the national stage.” (p. 140).

The article goes on to describe how she headlined a luncheon fundraiser in Los Angeles and she left the audience wanting more. As “Hillary dazzled the audience … she said ‘We need to be against brain-dead politics wherever we find it!’ she thundered, looking fierce in a fire engine red suit. ‘We need to forge a new consensus about [our] new political direction … that doesn’t jerk us to the right, jerk us to the left, prey on our emotions, engender paranoia and insecurity … but instead moves us forward together.” (P. 142). I can hear her saying the same thing today. Well, maybe she’s more polished and would use a synonym for ‘jerk.’ But what that quote also demonstrates is Hillary’s consistent message and focus over the years.

When the Vanity Fair article was written, Hillary’s rejection of baking cookies was national news as was Gennifer Flowers. Yet despite those crises, Hillary triumphed and continued to impress those around her. Many talked about her running for president, and here we are. She finally did. How devastating this loss must be for her. The one thing this article drove home for me was that her sights have been on the presidency for much longer than I realized.

“’She wants to win as bad as he does.’ Is she tougher than he is? ‘I think so,’ laughs Carolyn Huber [long-time aide and confidante]. ‘She’s more clear about what she wants and the way she wants it done. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when Hillary set her mind to something she wanted to happen that it hasn’t happened.’” [P. 145]. It seems that time has come.

Who would have thought a Vanity Fair magazine from nearly 25 years ago would still have so much relevance today. So much for escaping the election.

Bob Colacello. “Ivana Czechs In,” Vanity Fair, May 1992, p. 134-138, p. 178-190.

Gaily Sheehy. “What Hillary Wants: How many touch choices has Hillary Clinton had to make along the road to the White House?,”Vanity Fair, May 1992, p. 140-147, 212-217.

Another Anniversary

Millicent Fenwick CoverToday, September 16, marks the 24th anniversary of the passing of Millicent Fenwick. Earlier this month her nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly, passed away. The two women went head to during a televised national debate about the Equal Rights Amendment  (ERA) in 1976. At the time, Fenwick was a member of the GOP Platform Committee at the 1976 Republican Convention and Schlafly was the Stop ERA national chairwoman. Below is an excerpt from Millicent Fenwick: Her Way capturing the exchange between the pair:

“I think it is sad and a little comic that in a bicentennial year to be wondering about whether we ought to admit that 51%-52% of the Citizens of America are really citizens,” said Fenwick during the Schlafly debate. “When ERA started I thought oh sure, and I didn’t take it too seriously, it seemed so natural. I thought it was an oversight, but now as a result of all the opposition so cleverly orchestrated by my companion here, I am getting quire severe about it. We need the ERA because it is a statement that women are citizens.”

But as Schlafly pointed out, “The Majority of women in your state voted against the ERA … They know women are citizens and do no need ERA which will do all sorts of mischievous things like ban mother-daughter banquets in school and subject women to the draft because ERA requires that we treat men and women equally.”

The ERA Amendment did not pass, in large measure  due to Schlafly’s efforts opposing the measure.