Millicent Vernon Fenwick

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Millicent Vernon Fenwick (Hammond)

Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: September 16, 1992 (82)
Bernardsville, Somerset County, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Ogden Haggerty Hammond and Mary Picton Hammond
Wife of Hugh McLeod Fenwick
Mother of Mary Stevens Reckford; Private and Private
Sister of Private; Mary Stevens Roberti and Ogden Haggerty Hammond, Jr.

Occupation: politician - NJ State Senator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Millicent Vernon Fenwick

Engagement announcement:

Millicent Hammond Fenwick (February 25, 1910 – September 16, 1992) was an American fashion editor, politician and diplomat. A four-term Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New Jersey, 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.


Born Millicent Vernon Hammond, she was the middle of three children born to renowned politician and later Ambassador to Spain, Ogden Haggerty Hammond (October 13, 1869 – October 29, 1956) of Louisville, Kentucky and his first wife, Mary Picton Stevens (May 16, 1885 – May 7, 1915) of Hoboken, New Jersey. Her paternal grandparents were General John Henry Hammond (June 30, 1833 – April 30, 1890), who served as chief of staff for William Tecumseh Sherman during the Vicksburg Campaign, and Sophia Vernon Wolfe (1842 – May 20, 1923), daughter of Nathaniel Wolfe, a lawyer and legislator from Louisville. Her maternal grandparents were John Stevens (July 1856 – January 21, 1895), oldest son of Stevens Institute of Technology founder Edwin Augustus Stevens and grandson of inventor John Stevens, and Mary Marshall McGuire (May 4, 1850 – May 2, 1905).

She had a sister, Mary Stevens Hammond, and a brother, Ogden H. Hammond, Jr. When Millicent was five, her mother died in the sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, which her father survived. He remarried Marguerite McClure Howland two years later and by that marriage Fenwick had a stepbrother, McClure (Mac) Howland.

Raised in comfortable circumstances in Bernardsville, New Jersey, she attended the exclusive Nightingale-Bamford School in nearby Manhattan, and college at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. She married and divorced, and modeled briefly for Harper's Bazaar, then worked as a writer and editor at Vogue magazine for fourteen years with a wardrobe and style to match the position. In 1948 she compiled Vogue's Book of Etiquette, which sold a million copies.

In 1931 Millicent Hammond got to know Hugh McLeod Fenwick (February 17, 1905 – July 24, 1991), who was already married to the former Dorothy Ledyard, daughter of New York attorney Lewis Cass Ledyard. He divorced his wife to marry Millicent on June 11, 1932. They had two children, Mary Stevens Fenwick (born February 25, 1934, died 1987) and Hugh Hammond Fenwick (born January 28, 1937; died 2002), but separated a few years later and were divorced in 1945. Hugh Fenwick remarried while Millicent Fenwick did not.

In the 1950s, Fenwick became involved in politics via the Civil Rights Movement. Often described as being blessed with exceptional intelligence, striking good looks, and a keen wit, she rose rapidly in the ranks of the Republican Party. She was elected to the Bernardsville Borough Council in 1957, serving until 1964, and around the same time was appointed to the New Jersey Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, on which she served from 1958 to 1974. She was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1969, serving from 1970 to 1973, when she left the Legislature to become director of New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs under Governor William T. Cahill.

Elected to Congress from New Jersey in 1974 at age sixty-four, Fenwick became a media darling during her four terms in the House of Representatives. Television commentator Walter Cronkite called her "the conscience of Congress." She was known for her opposition to corruption by both parties and special interest groups. She was one of the most liberal Republicans in the House. Fenwick was also instrumental in establishing the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which oversaw the implementation of the Helsinki Accords, which covered relations between states and human rights across Europe.

Once, when a conservative male congressman attacked a piece of equal rights legislation by saying, "I’ve always thought of women as kissable, cuddly, and smelling good," Fenwick responded, "That’s what I’ve always thought about men, and I hope for your sake that you haven’t been disappointed as many times as I’ve been." In 1982, she ran for a United States Senate seat, defeated conservative Jeffrey Bell in the Republican primary, but then narrowly lost the general election to liberal Democratic businessman Frank Lautenberg.

After leaving the House of Representatives following the 1982 election, Fenwick was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as United States Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. She held this position from June 1983 to March 1987, when she retired from public life at the age of 77. Fenwick died of heart failure in her home town of Bernardsville on September 16, 1992.

Fenwick is considered by some to be the model for the character of Lacey Davenport in Garry Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury, although Trudeau's Lacey was not modeled on anyone in particular, according to Trudeau.

Engagement Announcement (NY Times):

NY Times Obituary:

Millicent H. Fenwick, a retired Republican Congresswoman renowned for her political independence and championing of liberal causes, died yesterday at her home in Bernardsville, N.J. She was 82 years old.

She died of heart failure, her family said.

"Millicent Fenwick was the Katharine Hepburn of politics," said Charles Millard, a former aide and now a Republican New York City Councilman. "With her dignity and elegance, she could get away with saying things others couldn't."

Mrs. Fenwick, whose colorful personality inspired cartoon characters, had a varied career, including stints as a fashion model, an author and editor and decades of public service in local, state and Federal elected and appointed posts.

She was perhaps most widely known for her wit, zest and idiosyncrasies like pipe smoking, a habit she adopted when her physician discouraged her from cigarettes. Tall and patrician, but down-to-earth and pungent, she inspired the Lacey Davenport character in Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" cartoons. Watchdog of Helsinki Accords

On her substantive record, she won the respect of her political peers, sometimes grudgingly, for her advocacy on a wide variety of issues, including civil rights, peace in Vietnam, aid for asbestos victims, help for the poor, prison reform, strip-mining controls, reduction of military programs, urban renewal, campaign spending limits, gun control and restrictions on capital punishment.

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Among Mrs. Fenwick's proudest achievements was being a lead sponsor of the resolution creating the commission to monitor the 1975 Helsinki accords on human rights.

Her views often placed her at odds with her party's leaders and seemed anomalous for the wealthy district in New Jersey's horse country that she represented. Fighting for bathrooms for migrant workers won her the nickname of Outhouse Millie. Others called her the Bella Abzug of Somerset County, a nod to the outspoken former Congresswoman.

She so frustrated Representative Wayne Hays, a Democrat of Ohio, that he once threatened to withhold her staff's paychecks "if that woman doesn't sit down and keep quiet." Hail and Farewell and Oink

Although Mrs. Fenwick was strong willed, she often charmed her ideological adversaries.

In a debate over equal rights for women, she once recalled, a male legislator said: "I just don't like this amendment. I've always thought of women as kissable, cuddly and smelling good." Her reply was classic Fenwick: "That's the way I feel about men, too. I only hope for your sake that you haven't been disappointed as often as I have."

When she left the State Assembly, one man kissed her, saying: "We male chauvinist pigs all will miss you, Millicent, because you're a wonderful woman."

Mrs. Fenwick's political career flourished with age. She first ran and won a seat in the State Legislature at the age of 59 and in Congress at 64. The Congressional primary rival she beat was Thomas H. Kean, later elected Governor.

Gov. William T. Cahill appointed her as New Jersey's first director of consumer affairs in 1972. Among her efforts were to protect car buyers from deceptive advertising and to require funeral homes to itemize bills in advance. Lost Narrowly to Lautenberg

Her Congressional tenure ended in 1982, when she ran for the United States Senate and lost narrowly to Frank R. Lautenberg, a Democratic millionaire whose big-spending campaign portrayed her as a doddering eccentric. She refused political-action committee money.

After her loss, President Ronald Reagan appointed her as the first American envoy to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. She retired from that post in 1987.

After a heart problem in the 1970's, she had several operations for a pacemaker and a bypass of a leg artery.

Mrs. Fenwick was born in Manhattan to a prominent family with a tradition of public service and grew up in a 50-room mansion in Bernardsville. Her father, Ogden H. Hammond, was a financier and state legislator. When Mrs. Fenwick was 5, her mother, the former Mary Stevens, drowned when a German submarine sank the liner Lusitania. She was on a mission to Paris to create a hospital for war victims. Scandalized Her Family

Mrs. Fenwick attended the Foxcroft School in Virginia but left to accompany her father to Spain when he served as the American ambassador under President Calvin Coolidge.

Although she never received a high school diploma or college degree, she studied philosophy under Bertrand Russell at the New School for Social Research and studied at Columbia University. She was fluent in Italian, French and Spanish.

As a young woman, she scandalized her family by falling in love with a married businessman, Hugh Fenwick. They later married, but it lasted only several years. Mrs. Fenwick was left with two children and her husband's debts. Refusing money from her family, she scraped by on her own.

She inherited a fortune when her father died in 1956 but remained frugal, counting her change from coffee, using one lamp to work by and driving a Chevrolet that stood out in a community of luxury automobiles. She placed her assets in a blind trust to avoid political conflicts of interest.

She modeled briefly for Harper's Bazaar, then worked as a writer and editor at Vogue magazine and compiled "Vogue's Book of Etiquette" (Simon & Schuster, 1948), which sold a million copies.

Surviving are her son, Hugh Jr. of Bernardsville, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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Millicent Vernon Fenwick's Timeline

February 25, 1910
New York, New York, United States
February 25, 1934
New York, NY, United States
September 16, 1992
Age 82
Bernardsville, Somerset County, New Jersey, United States