Political activist and local hero ‘Granny D’ inspires the next generation with her story

A somber rendition of Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land,” faded into the room. With full audience attention, the message of Granny D is reawakened for a new generation.

On Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, Dixie Tymitz brought her one-woman show “Granny D: The Power of One” to Keene State College’s campus. The performance was hosted by professor Betsy Dubois as a creative accompaniment to her student empowerment and activism class.

The class’s current focus is on Doris “Granny D” Haddock’s memoir entitled, “Granny D: Walking Across America in my Ninetieth Year.”

Kyle Bailey / Photo Editor

Kyle Bailey / Photo Editor

Tymitz, a professional actress, was first inspired to create a play embodying Granny D’s journey across America after reading Haddock’s memoir. Haddock is a local hero and activist. Living in Dublin, New Hampshire  for most of her life, she began her journey across the continental United States to raise awareness for Campaign Finance Reform on Jan. 1, 1999, according to dublinschool.org.

KSC sophomore and student in Professor Dubois’ student empowerment and activism class Karissa Dunn expressed a positive reaction to the one-woman show. “I thought she was amazing. I thought her performance went really well and she did a really great job with telling the story of Granny D,” Dunn said.

“I work at Lindy’s Diner in Keene and I’ll be reading the book at work and so many people that live around town know exactly who she is,” Dunn continued, “It was kind of cool to see how many people actually knew who she was.”

According to the performance, after walking 3,200 miles across the U.S. through deserts, cold temperatures and snow, Granny D finished her journey in Washington D.C. on Feb. 29, 2000 at ninety years old.

To prepare for her journey, Granny D walked ten miles a day with a backpack full of beans, as depicted by the play. In her portrayal, Tymitz detailed the ailments Granny D was plagued with as she walked across America, including arthritic feet, a bad back and catching pneumonia during her journey.

After the performance, Tymitz reiterated, “She did have all these things wrong with her and she still did it.”

“They say she was five foot, let me tell you something, I am five foot now. I have a picture of us together and the top of her head came to my eyebrow,” Tymitz recounted.

Tymitz remembered a conversation she had with Jim Haddock, Granny D’s son, in which she vocalized her wonder for Granny D and how she did it all. The actress recalled Jim’s response as, “She’s a tough old bird.”

“I think the way she [Tymitz] portrayed her [Granny D], as a person, was perfect,” Dunn reiterated, “And I thought it was great that she does it for pretty much free just because she really feels for the cause [Campaign Finance Reform].”

Tymitz was accompanied by her husband, John Tymitz, who helped with the technological aspect of the performance and explained the cause of Campaign Finance Reform to Professor Dubois’ class.

“You can’t get elected unless you have millions and millions of dollars,” John Tymitz explained.

According to cleanupwashington.org, a website dedicated to ridding the U.S. capital of corruption, Campaign Finance Reform revolves around the idea of getting special interest and exorbitant amounts of money out of politics by directing Congress’ interest toward the voters they represent and not their wealthy contributors.

“I think her story opened my eyes to our government and the way that it’s run,” Dunn said.

Since Granny D’s death, many people have been inspired by her legacy and have committed to continue working toward Campaign Finance Reform.

Carol Wyndham, secretary of the Coalition for Open Democracy who introduced Tymitz to Professor Dubois’ class, described other organized events that commemorate and carry on Granny D’s mission.

“Larry Lessig, who’s a professor at Harvard Law School, decided that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Granny D and last year he got a bunch of people and walked for Granny D and her cause — Campaign Finance Reform — from Dixville Notch, 185 miles down to Nashua. And this was in January and they nearly froze to death of course, but they managed. Dixie and John [Haddock] were a part of those walkers,” Wyndham stated.

“She [Granny D] has encouraged me,” Dunn said.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock was 100 years old when she died on Mar. 9, 2010.

A collection of Granny D’s letters, photographs and memorabilia documenting her political activism for campaign finance reform can be found in Keene State College’s Mason Library.

Caroline Alm can be contacted at calm@keene-equinox.com

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