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'Granny D' plants electorate activism

Doris Haddock of New Hampshire arrives in Tampa in her 36-state walking and driving mission to register women to vote.

By MELANIE AVE
Published February 7, 2004

TAMPA - The morning was still young Friday when Doris Haddock pulled her little red wagon in front of the Tampa General Hospital Family Care Center on Kennedy Boulevard. The 94-year-old great-grandmother from Dublin, N.H., was on a mission: Find women and register them to vote.

"There are 64-million working women in the United States," Haddock said as she walked up to the family care center door, her gray curls peeking out from a tattered straw hat, her shoulders stooped from arthritis. "Only half of them vote."

Haddock, also known as "Granny D," has brought her campaign to get working women to vote to Tampa Bay. Her 36-state walking and driving trek started last in Boston.

She arrived in Tampa on Thursday. One of her stops that day was the Mons Venus nude club.

"They're nice girls," Haddock said of the dancers. "They work all night."

Wearing a navy Mons Venus T-shirt Friday, Haddock stopped at businesses along Kennedy Boulevard. At the Tampa General family center, Haddock waited patiently with Ohio volunteer Kathleen Boston for the manager after being told by a clerk that no solicitation was allowed.

"It's not solicitation," Haddock asserted softly, her 5-foot frame barely clearing the front counter. "It's registering people to vote."

Manager Barbara Otto told Haddock she could leave a dozen registration forms, but because of patient confidentiality, she could not stay.

"Voting is the only voice we have," Haddock told her.

Outside, Haddock hit on a mother and daughter, who admitted they were not registered. She handed them two forms. "Fill it out," she said.

Next door, at Diamond Furniture Gallery, she gave saleswoman Yvette Westcott two forms, one for a co-worker and another for anyone she knows who is not registered.

"Double your vote," Haddock said.

A registered Democrat, Haddock is a former secretary and shoe factory worker who first gained national attention with a trek across America to promote changes in campaign finance laws. She began her walk in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 1999. It ended 400 days and 3,200 miles later with a rally on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

She and fellow volunteer Dennis Burke outlined her adventures in a book, Granny D.: Walking Across America in My Ninetieth Year.

On Friday, Haddock, her L.A. Gear basketball shoes looking a little ragged - "800 miles is all they'll get" - was a bit disappointed in her Tampa voter recruiting efforts.

She encountered bar patrons who were a bit "too happy" for the seriousness of her message. But a gravel truck driver did pull over and snatch up a registration form.

"I'm not getting hundreds registered," Haddock said. "But I am getting the word out."

At the office of Buddy Johnson, Hillsborough's supervisor of elections, Haddock received a round of applause from workers.

"She's living what we teach," said Johnson, who snapped a few photos with Haddock. "Every single vote is critical."

Despite her age and problems with emphysema, Haddock said she does not worry about her walking campaign's effect on her health.

"If you don't think about it, it goes away," she said, taking a break inside her brightly painted 1989 Ford Econoline that proclaims: Vote Dammit. "I'm 94 years old. I could die in the next 10 minutes. I might as well be doing something I care about."

- Melanie Ave can be reached at 226-3400 or melanie@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 7, 2004, 01:15:13]


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