Kaitlyn Coogan

Equinox Staff


“Visionary leadership,” “can-do spirit,” “local hero,” “greatest heroine,” and “iron will” rang through Keene State College’s Mason Library as people of all ages and backgrounds expressed their passion for late activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

Haddock died at the age of 100, but according to her biography, she would have gladly taken another 100 years.

Since her birth in 1910, she lived an average life aside from being kicked out of college for marrying Jim Haddock, when she then became Assistant to the General Manager of Bee Bee Shoe Company. This position made her the second highest paid businesswoman in N.H. during the Great Depression.

From 1960 to 1962 she and her husband fought to stop hydrogen bombs from being built in Alaska, and they won.

This was only the start of Haddock’s activist movements.

In 1985, Haddock won once more when she fought against the plans to put a highway in N.H. that would cut through Dublin and Harrisville.

In 1997, after her husband passed away, she began studying campaign finance reform and gathered over 100,000 signatures for the support of the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill, but unfortunately was ignored by her representatives.

The event that generated her fame was her walk across the U.S. in 1998 to gather attention regarding  the importance of campaign finance reform and the corruption in the electoral system.

After training for one year, in 1999, just shy of her 90 birthday, she began her walk, starting in Los Angeles.

Ken Hechler, former secretary of state of W.V., heard about Haddock’s idea of walking across the U.S.

“I called ‘Granny D’ on the phone and I said, ‘What a wonderful idea! What a tremendous idea! Can I walk with you?’ And she said, ‘Come out to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena; we’ll start in the Rose Bowl and walk 10 miles a day.’ She was the greatest heroine I have ever met.”

Hechler walked the first 530 miles with her but had to return to W.V. because he was elected Secretary of State and if he did not return he would have been impeached.

Haddock arrived in Washington, D.C. after 14 months, four pairs of shoes, and 32,000 miles to the  welcome of thousands of supports and a dozen members of Congress.

On April 21, 2000 Haddock, with her supporters, read the Declaration of Independence in the Capitol and were arrested for demonstrating in the Capitol Building. Bill McKibben, one of her supporters and member of 350.org, said, “She and I were arrested in the first civil disobedience about climate change seen in America. We spent an enjoyable day with a few allies locked up in the Capitol Hill jail. I remember what she told me that day: ‘I’m 93 and I’ve never been arrested before–I should have started long ago!’ During her trial she pleaded guilty, explaining that if it is indeed a crime to read the Declaration of Independence in our great hall, then she was guilty.

Instead of being fined $500 and being given a mandatory six months in prison, she received time served and a $10 administration fee.

Even after being arrested, Haddock didn’t stop. In 2004 Burt Cohen unexpectedly dropped out of the run for U.S. Senate and Haddock jumped in and took his place.

Listening to her own advice, she funded her campaign by accepting only modest private-citizen donations.

She began a walk around N.H. to earn some free media. Although in the end she only received 34 percent of the votes, winning in Keene, while 65 percent of the votes went to Republican candidate Judd Gregg.

“I may have lost the election but I have not lost my reason to live. Our country is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. And if that is not worth fighting for, I don’t know what is. I, for one, am certainly going to continue to raise a little hell,” Haddock said at the end of the documentary “Run Granny Run,” which followed her walk across the U.S. and throughout her campaign.

Haddock died at the age of 100 but her journeys, experiences, and life goals can be remembered and studied by the public at KSC’s library in the archives and special collections.

There are videos, letters, paintings, portraits, pictures, campaign buttons, and much more depicting Haddock’s travels throughout her life, especially her campaign.

“It’s an outstanding addition to our social justice archives; with it I have the expectation that scholars from across the country will come to Keene State to study these materials. Already students within programs are using these original materials to study their own theories about social justice. So our students will experience these archiving materials firsthand. Individually I hope that there would be a sense of pride that this college was able to obtain these materials when so many other institutions wanted them. It’s a mark of excellence that I hope our students will be proud of. Amazing, she was such an amazing person. She established a legacy that will live on through these materials,” President Helen Giles-Gee said.

On Saturday KSC opened the Granny D achieves to the public.

People from all over gathered to remember her legacy, recount experiences they had with her, and rejoice over the collection presented to them.

During the opening, people gathered to hear from about 18 people what they thought and remembered about Haddock. There were tears and laughter along with much applause.

Many agreed that if Haddock was here during these speeches she would be delighted, but would want everyone to go out and fight for what they believe in. Jim Haddock, her son, wanted to make sure his mother’s legacy was preserved, cared for, secured, and made publicly available. Keene State College fit the bill.

“I think it’s just wonderful (having the collection at KSC) and I have to congratulate Keene State College for their initiative and having a social justice collection. Not only does the community have access to the collection, but students have all this for research. She was just lovely, high-spirited, and such an example to all of us about what a difference one person can make. I think it impacts the community. It’s a statement to the community of how committed we are to social justice, how we celebrate and honor those who have given so much of their own lives to the issues of social justice, and there is not a more appropriate location for the collection then Keene State,”  NH Senator Molly Kelly said.

Senators, secretaries of state, congressmen, businessmen, state representatives, city councilors, former mayors, and many more made their way up to the podium. When the speeches were over, they revealed a bronze sculpture of Haddock that will be on display in the KSC library’s achieves.

Ruth Meyer, fellow campaigner and friend, said, “I did not know Granny D as long as some did but I know I was tremendously blessed, unbelievably fortunate to be with her so much for the last several years of her life, presumably assisting her. That’s funny, because in reality I was having a ball. She knew she was making a difference but also that she was mortal and that one way she could continue to help others would be that her materials related to her work be kept together and easily accessible to all.”

Meyer and Haddock went to many places trying to figure out where the best place would be. It was not until after she died that the answer came to them.

“Credit goes to Keene State College’s Professor and State Legislator Chuck Weed, to N.H.’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner, and to Walter Peterson, our late governor and everyone’s state person, and his wife Dorothy. Yes Keene State College was the only place that met all of the criteria,” Meyer said.

Dennis Burke, co-author, spoke about a new book coming out this spring, “My Bohemian Century” written by Haddock herself and assisted  by Burke.

One paragraph described when she saw a Broadway play and how, at one point in her life, she wanted to be there, in that position, “I was overcome with sadness for the fact that we cannot live all the lives we want…If I could think of her as a part of me and me as a part of her, which is the way we must all think of each other, then I was everywhere and I did everything… And so many people were so very ready to help me as will help anyone who tries in earnest. For me I am satisfied, it has been grand, I am not tired, I would happily take another 100 years if I could.”


Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at kcoogan@ksc.mailcruiser.com.


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