Millicent Fenwick
Politician, diplomat, fashion editor
Born: February 25, 1910, in New York City
Died:  September 16, 1992 in Bedminster, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2017: Public Service

History has applied a seemingly endless string of adjectives to Millicent Fenwick: dignified, patrician, elegant, witty, eccentric, colorful, ethical, independent, conservative and progressive. Remarkably, each accurately describes this New Jersey icon.

Born Millicent Vernon Hammond, the future Hall of Famer’s ancestors included a Civil War general and the founder of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.  Her father, Ogden H. Hammond, was a New York financier; her mother, Mary Picton Stevens, died when a German submarine sank the British ocean liner Lusitania. Mary had been in Paris on a mission to build a hospital at the outset of World War I.

Raised in Bernardsville, Fenwick attended the exclusive Nightingale-Bamford School in Manhattan and Foxcroft School in Virginia. She studied at Barnard College and the New School for Social Research, but never received a degree. She scandalously fell in love with a married businessman, Hugh Fenwick, and married him after his divorce. The marriage was short-lived, but resulted in two children.

Determined to support her offspring, Fenwick, who had briefly modeled for Harper’s Bazaar, took a job as a writer and editor at Vogue, where she stayed for more than a decade. During her tenure with the fashion magazine, she compiled “Vogue’s Book of Etiquette,” which sold a million copies around the world.

In the 1950s, Fenwick became active in local Republican Party politics and was elected to the Bernardsville Borough Council in 1957. She went statewide in 1969, winning a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly. She served until 1972, when Governor William T. Cahill appointed her the first director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. She also served from 1958-1974 on the New Jersey Committee of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Fenwick was 64 when she won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974. She would serve four terms, during which time she won recognition as a corruption fighter and for her advocacy of civil rights, women’s rights, peace in Vietnam, prison reform, gun control, campaign-spending limits, strip-mining controls, military-spending cuts and other issues not generally associated with Republican members of Congress. Among Fenwick’s notable achievements was her role in establishing a commission to monitor the 1975 Helsinki Accords on human rights.

Beyond her progressive views, Fenwick was known for her quick wit, her regal stature and her idiosyncrasies, especially her pipe-smoking habit. She is understood to have been the inspiration for the pipe-smoking Lacey Davenport character in Garry Trudeau’s popular Doonesbury cartoons.

Fenwick’s days in Congress ended when Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, narrowly stymied her bid for a Senate seat in 1982. Following Fenwick’s defeat, President Ronald Reagan appointed her as U.S. Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. She served until her retirement in March 1987.

At the New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2018, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said of Fenwick: “She broke molds. She would not be constrained by what society might have thought she ought to do.”

Intro/Acceptance Video