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Millicent Vernon Hammond was born in New York City, New York, on February 25, 1910. Her father, Ogden Haggerty Hammond, was a wealthy financier and New Jersey state legislator; her mother, Mary Picton Stevens Hammond, was one of the passengers who died when a German U-boat torpedoed the passenger liner Lusitania in 1915. She was educated at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, Columbia University, and the New School for Social Research. In 1934 she married businessman Hugh Fenwick, with whom she had two children -- Mary and Hugh. The couple separated after four years, however, and were divorced in 1945.
After separating from her husband, Fenwick chose to go to work rather than rely on alimony or family money for financial support. After working briefly as a model for Harper's Bazaar, she became an associate editor at Vogue, in which capacity she was employed from 1938 to 1952. She published Vogue's Book of Etiquette in 1948.
Fenwick's political career started in 1938, when she was elected to the Bernardsville, New Jersey, Board of Education; she served on that body until 1947. She supported Wendell Willkie for President in 1940, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1946, and worked on the 1954 campaign of Republican Senate candidate Clifford Case.From 1958 to 1964, she was a member of the Bernardsville Borough Council, and was a member of the New Jersey delegation to the U.C. Commission on Civil Rights from 1958 to 1972. She was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1970, and served in that body until 1973, when Governor William Cahill appointed her as the state's first Director of Consumer Affairs. In that capacity she sought to regulate auto dealerships' advertising and to require funeral homes to offer advance itemization of bills.
Cahill was defeated for re-election in 1973, and both he and Fenwick left their respective offices in 1974. Later that year Fenwick was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and she ultimately served from January 3, 1975 to January 3, 1983. During her tenure in the House, she was an outspoken advocate for fiscal conservatism, human rights, and campaign finance reform. She was also known for voting against her Republican colleagues 48 percent of the time, with support of the Equal Rights Amendment, federal funding of abortions, and the food stamp program being the most well-known of her anti-Republican views. Despite possessing very refined mannerisms, Fenwick's outspokenness and wit made her appealing to her constituents, and her habit of smoking a pipe made her an object of public curiosity. The fact that she returned more than $450,000 in office allowances and $35,000 worth of congressional pay raises to the U.S. Treasury also helped her popularity.
Fenwick was not a candidate for re-election in 1982, choosing to run for a seat in the Senate instead; she lost. On June 13, 1983, she was named U. S. representative, with the rank of ambassador, to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. She served in that capacity until retiring from politics in March of 1987.
Millicent Hammond Fenwick died in Bernardsville, New Jersey, on September 16, 1992, and is buried in Saint Bernards Cemetery.
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This page was last updated on February 24, 2018.