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Granny D’s American Century

Doris Haddock & Dennis Michael Burke

Publication Year: 2012

The life of Doris Haddock, known to millions as “Granny D,” from her young adulthood in Boston during the Great Depression to her last decade as a galvanizing figure of populist politics With her walk across America at the age of 90, New Hampshire native Doris Haddock entered the national consciousness as “Granny D,” a candid and feisty champion of commonsense populist politics. Four years later she ran for the U.S. Senate against the usual entrenched big-party interests—and lost. In the meantime, she became a cause célèbre, and an example of the kind of politics that puts people first. Granny D’s American Century is the story of Doris Haddock both before and after these events: as a young woman whose bedrock New England values were tested during the Great Depression, and as a no-nonsense nonagenarian putting those values to work in the causes of voters’ rights, women’s rights, and campaign finance reform. Written in a clear, unsparing prose, Granny D’s American Century is a warm reflection on a life well lived, and a clear and spirited call for virtue in American civic life.

Published by: University of New Hampshire Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

We survivors of the Great Depression emerged from that time into a different world. Deep and long downturns like that one — and I suppose the present one — are occasions for new worlds to be born; the old ones never truly recover. That is mostly for the best, as these cycles...

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pp. xi-xii

There is a glory of autumn leaves outside my big windows. I am an old woman among old trees in New Hampshire. You don’t emotionally feel your true age, of course. You certainly feel it physically! But you are always something of a high schooler in your heart, and that is how...

Book 1

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1 | Full Measure

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pp. 3-5

I was born in 1910 on Walker Street in Laconia, New Hampshire. My father, a laborer, built the house, and we owned it free and clear. As a little girl I would recline in the summer lawn and pull little swords of grass apart to reveal their pale, sweet centers, which I would eat....

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2 | Steaming into Life - 1928

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pp. 6-10

On a quiet Sunday, the platform of Laconia’s modest railroad station was suddenly transformed by the steam braggadocio of an arriving southbound train. It rested impatiently to collect one passenger: me. I was eighteen. I hugged my parents, sisters, and brother. They were...

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3 | The Birthplace of Liberty, Including My Own

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pp. 11-21

It was still pouring when I arrived at Boston’s North Station: 3:31 p.m. Sunday, January 6, 1929. This exactitude derives from old train schedules and not memory, though I do remember the journey clearly and can yet smell the cigar smoke in my hair....

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4 | Castles and Princes

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pp. 22-30

Alan took me to Harvard the next morning as promised. The city was brightly enameled by the rain and was heavily scented by breakfasts wafting from cracked-open windows. People on the sidewalk seemed manifestly unfriendly, however, as if they had just read a...

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5 | At Sea

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pp. 31-48

June 1929. The Nantucket, a steamer named for its daily destination, carried on the darkened lower deck two dozen grand, gleaming automobiles, creaking back and forth like yachts at evening mooring. Topside, there were long sunny benches of veteran ferry riders —...

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6 | Bubbles Burst

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pp. 49-53

La Seville was a Spanish-themed restaurant owned by the Ginter family, well-regarded Boston restaurateurs. It was located prominently on Boylston at Tremont, across from Boston Common. We girls sometimes went there for a fancier lunch than could be provided by the...

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7 | Jim’s Girl

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pp. 54-60

My second spring in Boston found me still smiling to passersby on the sidewalks, though less generously. The city had worked its way into me, and I was aware of things I would not have noticed a year earlier: a scholarship boy on a Cambridge sidewalk could easily be...

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8 | The Bohemians

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pp. 61-74

I did not keep the letter over the years, as it was so shameful, but here it is as I remember it, and I would wager it is not ten words off. I read it a hundred times, after all, even as I walked down the sidewalk so intent with it and angry that I did not even look up to scowl at the...

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9 | Surviving by Our Wits

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pp. 75-86

There was a stream of people like us leaving Boston, New York, leaving all the big cities, leaving all those communities dedicated to the creative magnification of life, heading home to the dull cold of farms and tiny towns. Jim was lifeguard again and I was maid again on...

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10 | The Main Course of Life

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pp. 87-97

In the days to come, Jim would receive a letter from his old professor, who had just then been appointed to a considerable position in the new Roosevelt administration. It was a clear invitation to come to Washington so that the professor might introduce him around. Jim...

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11 | Back to Harvard

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pp. 98-102

I was on my deck, which extends from my kitchen out into the woods. There is a stream below that makes a lovely sound. It was evening, and I was with my new friends, collected on my long walk. In many ways, they represented — as if there are archetypes at work, I...

Book 2

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12 | On the Road Again

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pp. 105-108

After Boston we were truly on the road. It was quixotic, but it was the best thing we could think of doing to help, and we were optimistic, as always. We stopped at Yale and camped overnight in a student apartment....

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13 | Alligators, Mermaids, Etcetera

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pp. 109-122

We drove that night through the rest of North and all of South Carolina, through Georgia, through the coming and going of military towns and their radio stations with callers getting ready to go to Iraq or just coming back from Iraq, or having family in Iraq, and everybody...

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14 | Wake Up and Live

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pp. 123-139

From Miami, Jim, who knows Florida very well and goes there alone each year to recharge his batteries and give his New England skin a needed sunlight therapy, headed south into the Keys, and we went into Little Haiti after saying good-bye in Miami....

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15 | From the Very Balcony

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pp. 140-144

We roared up Louisiana and into Mississippi, stopping at dawn for breakfast and a few loads of laundry. We finally found signs of a Democratic Party: a laundry attendant in Canton could give us a good report on party organizing and registration in the area....

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16 | Finding Life Everywhere

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pp. 145-152

The concrete stairwells of Cabrini-Green in Chicago were stained with bloody handprints. Blue was appalled but fascinated. She took pictures of the unintended art. Steel shutters secured every window, and the big, brown eyes of little children often peeked through the...

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17 | The Wind Shifts

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pp. 153-158

New Hampshire’s Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate had dropped out because his campaign manager absconded with all the funds. The party needed someone to run against Judd Gregg, the immensely popular incumbent, and nobody had the nerve to do it at this...

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18 | Shared Courage

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pp. 159-163

Our relationship with the state party was rocky. They didn’t take me seriously as a candidate, even as we started to attract big news stories. I was by rights the head of the New Hampshire delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, being the candidate for...

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19 | A Campaign from Our Town

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pp. 164-169

In speeches at the end of daily walks, I talked about Senator Gregg and the influence of special interest money, of course, but mostly I slammed George Bush’s attacks on peace, Social Security, real homeland security, and the deficit. I claimed that the advances made by the...

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20 | Lessons from My Century

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pp. 170-174

There were times when I feared I was walking through the last days of the American democracy. I don’t think so anymore. Yes, the necessary human scale of politics is under fire from overlarge corporations and a government that has forgotten its own Bill of Rights, but the...

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Last Delivered Speech

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pp. 175

When I was a young woman, my husband and I were having dinner at the Dundee home of a friend, Max Foster, when a young couple rushed through the door breathless to say that they had accidentally burned down the guest cabin down by the river. Max stood up from his...

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Last Undelivered Speech

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pp. 177-182

Nations, history has shown us, have a state of mental health. A nation may be open and positive, hardworking, and fully confident of its future. It may send great white fleets around the world and humans into space. A nation may also be angry, self-destructive, cruel....

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Closing Note to the Reader

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pp. 183

I first met Doris when she was nearly ninety and walking across the United States for campaign finance reform in 1999–2000. It was my pleasure to work with her on her political efforts during her walk and in the years following. For the last several Februaries of her life she...

E-ISBN-13: 9781611682359
E-ISBN-10: 1611682355
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611682342
Print-ISBN-10: 1611682347

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 2 illus.
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Depressions -- 1929 Massachusetts -- Boston.
  • Boston (Mass.) -- Biography.
  • Young women -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Biography.
  • New Hampshire -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • Older women -- United States -- Biography.
  • Political activists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Women political activists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Haddock, Doris.
  • Haddock, Doris -- Childhood and youth.
  • Haddock, Doris -- Travel -- United States.
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