Cross-country Grandma

by by Marisa Calleja

The land of strip-malls and stoplight highways lost a state gem this week when New Hampshire native, campaign finance reformer and all-around hearty broad Doris Haddock died at 100. Haddock, better known as “Granny D,” walked 3,200 miles across the United States to bring attention to campaign finance reform in 1999.
She was born Ethel Doris Rollins in Laconia, NH, an unruly lakeside town known for its yearly motorcycle festival, in which thousands ride in on their Harleys from around the country to enjoy the Granite State’s lax helmet laws and untaxed liquor. After Mrs. Haddock was booted from Emerson College for marrying her sweetheart, she raised a family and worked in a Manchester, NH shoe factory for 20 years.
At age 89, after the death of her husband, she embarked on the journey that made her a symbol of grassroots activism in the senior set and beyond. Infuriated by what she perceived as the demise of American democracy, the great-grandmother of 16 wanted to call attention to corporate spending in political campaigns. So she flew out to California, tied up her sneaks in Pasadena and didn’t quit walking until she reached the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington. The 14-month journey was chronicled in Marlo Pora’s documentary, Run Granny Run.
She hardly settled down after her cross-country trek: At age 94, she ran an unsuccessful campaign to represent the nation’s most tax-hating, second amendment-loving state in the US Senate, but failed to unseat the Republican incumbent. Despite the loss, she received attention for her tireless campaigning and sassy interviews. (“I don’t believe the government belongs in the bedroom,” she told a reporter, “not that anything goes on in mine anymore.”) That same year she successfully petitioned to have her middle name changed to Granny D and published an autobiography, Granny D: You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell.
Unfortunately, much of what she fought for was rolled back when the Supreme Court overturned the McCain-Feingold Act earlier this year, allowing corporations to spend freely on political campaigns. Even in her last weeks, Granny D found time to chew out the government for its corporate favoritism: She griped that the nation’s highest court “represented a radical fringe that does not share the despair of the grand majority of Americans.”
Pour out a Smutty Nose for Granny D, a tough chick that lived-free-and-died with the motto, “If our country isn’t worth fighting for, I don’t know what is.”

Marisa Calleja B’10 is not too old to raise a little hell.