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David Nightingale: Granny D

"Back home in New Hampshire," wrote Mrs Doris Haddock, "I began walking my 10 miles a day with a heavy backpack. I am already a little stooped over, but it was manageable ..." [Ref.1, p.13]

Thus "Granny D", a then 88 year old retired shoe factory worker, described the plans for her walk across America, to raise awareness for Clean Elections and Campaign Finance reform.

My son Jim ... arrived ... I began my signature-gathering work on the sidewalk along the Santa Monica beach. I knew signatures didn't count for much in Washington anymore, but it was a good way to interact with peopleand explain the issue... [Ibid p.15]

Her walk began in January 1999.

"I put on my backpack in Pasadena and began walking eastward to Washington -- a very long way indeed. It felt wonderful. After so many years fettered by age, and the burdens of two death watches" [her husband of 62 years had died with Alzheimers and her best friend had recently died]

I felt free and in the spirit company of my late husband...

As a young woman just before the Great Depression she had been working her way through Emerson College, but had been told to leave in her junior year because she had secretly married Jim Haddock [ibid p.202]. They had had two children and often had hiked and camped as a family.

After two weeks walking, I was approaching the great Mojave desert. I had stayed each night with hosts along the road ...[but] my health was sliding ... my back was in pain despite the steel-ribbed corset... and I had a swollen left foot ... I'm going to look like such a fool to my grandchildren, I thought ... [ibid p.22]

She was hospitalized in Arizona with pneumonia [ibid p.134]. Senator John McCain was very supportive of her hopes for campaign finance reform, but Senator Kyl refused to meet with her publicly. [Ibid p.46]

Perhaps what I had done she wrote was a kind of shoving of my old self out on the ice to see if I would please die, or if I would please be reborn into something new ... in either case I knew that my old life had run its course... [ibid p.78, bottom]

At other times, especially when her hearing aids weren't working, she had long periods in which to reflect.

Walking towards Fort Worth... just up ahead were real trees -- nearly 2000 miles of desert coming to an end... When you live in green New England, you might think of the desert in the way that a young person thinks of old age. But you find that it has its own beauty...

She crossed into Arkansas in August, 8 months after leaving Pasadena.

If you are in the market for some August humidity, and some dead polecats and armadillos, I cannot recommend this stretch of road enough... [ibid p.149]

She was often invited to speak in small towns. She emphasized how corporations have bribed democracy to death. People followed her progress on the web, and would sometimes walk with her, protecting her from deadly traffic rushing by.

She arrived at the Capitol 14 months later, at age 90, in February 2000, with about 2200 supporters. Banners emblazoned "GO  GRANNY  GO !"  hung from windows on the way. [p.244]

The walk improved my health... was good for my arthritis and my emphysema. It didn't do much for my back, but what are we ever going to do with our backs! ... I will have to talk to the Creator about that some day ... [ibid p.253]

After she returned home -- old chair! Bathtub! Books! -- Emerson College awarded Doris Haddock her College degree. Two months later she was arrested with 30 others for reading the Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda [ibid p.295].    

At age 95 she ran for the US Senate but was defeated. She died in 2010, at age 100.


1. "Granny D: Walking Across America in my 90th year" by Doris Haddock with Dennis Burke; Random House (Villard Books) 2001.

2.  Goodsearch.org.

Dr. David Nightingale is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the State University of New York at New Paltz and is the co-author of the text, A Short Course in General Relativity.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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