DORIS "GRANNY D" HADDOCK, Bright-Eyed, Energetic and Full of Moxie and Sass

I am so grateful that I was able to have Doris “Granny D” Haddock spend a day with me and sit for a portrait.

Doris "Granny D" Haddock, Oil on Linen, 20" x 24" (click to enlarge) by Karin Wells 

  At the age of 90, she began a 3,200 mile walk across America to raise awareness of the need for Campaign Finance Reform. 

Sitting for long periods of time would have been difficult for her, so I took reference photos to use at the easel. 

Frankly, I want to be just like her when I grow up. Her words still inspire me: 

 “We have a duty to look after each other. If we lose control of our government, then we lose our ability to dispense justice and human kindness. Our first priority today, then, is to defeat utterly those forces of greed and corruption that have come between us and our self-governance.” 

 "Never be discouraged from being an activist because people tell you that you'll not succeed. You have already succeeded if you're out there representing truth or justice or compassion or fairness or love. You already have your victory because you have changed the world; you have changed the status quo by one; you have changed the chemistry of things, and changes will spread from you, will be easier to happen again in others because of you, because, believe it or not, you are the center of the world." 

 ~ Doris "Granny D" Haddock, 1999 in her walk across the country for Campaign Finance Reform. 

Sadly Doris passed away long before my portrait was finished. I trust she would be pleased with it as I included everything she asked for. 

 Some of the elements in this painting are: 

 THE STRAW HAT: She wore out many hats in her trek across Amrica - but that hat became her trademark and she always replaced the ones that wore out with another hat exactly like it.

 THE HAT BAND: This was a colorful fabric belt that belonged to a dear friend. Unfortunately she died, but Doris used that belt on every hat she wore. Sometimes she would find a bird feather and stick it in the hat band as a decoration. 

 THE GOLD-HEADED CANE: As Dublin's oldest resident, she was awarded The Boston Post Cane. She was very proud of that and wanted it in her portrait. 

 WEDDING RING: She spoke fondly of her husband who passed away long ago and wanted me to make sure that her wedding ring was visible.

 THE SMALL STACK OF ENVELOPES AT HER ELBOW were some of her favorite letters sent from all over the world. She saved the envelopes, but cut off all of the stamps to give to a young stamp collector.

 THE PAPER IN HER HAND: One of Granny D’s favorite sayings was “Democracy is not something we have, it’s something we do.” 

THE PICTURE OF A DOVE symbolizes her anti-war activities and the dedication to peace. 

 LETTERED INTO THE BACKGROUND: In April 2000, Granny D was one of a group of protestors arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence in the Capitol Building. She entered a plea of guilty, made a statement to the court and paid a $10 fine. 

 I lettered part of her statement to the judge into the background of her portrait: 

 “Some of us do not have much power, except to put our bodies in the way of an injustice ~ to picket, to walk, or to just stand in the way. It will not change the world overnight ~ but it is all we can do.” 

 (Note: long before I began painting portraits, I was a sign painter - so this was pretty easy for me to do.) 

 THE SETTING SUN: This is a metaphor for her decision to begin this work when she turned 90 years old and her determination to make a difference in her "sunset years."  

THE SKY in the background is a reminder of all of the great big skies she saw on her coast-to-coast journey. 

 THE DRAPE: Granny D had a talent for designing and hooking rugs. She created a small (mostly red) rug called “The Trail of Tears.” She said it was a very moving experience to have followed part of that trail on her journey across America. I tried to put it in the portrait, but the color and pattern were too strong and it detracted from the portrait. However, I used her elegant rug as the drapery behind her (sans color and pattern). 

 I regret that I did not photograph this particular rug separately - it would be worth a still life painting all by itself.

The following is an article about Granny D by Marlo Poras, Filmmaker, "Run Granny Run" ~ and she describes Doris better than I do...


Doris “Granny D” Haddock was
a serial troublemaker. She died Tuesday at
her home in Dublin, N.H., at the age of 100,
having raised more hell in her last decade
than most people do in their whole lives.

In 2000, at the age of 90, Doris walked

3,200 miles across America to raise awareness
about campaign finance reform.
Racked with emphysema and arthritis, she
logged 10 miles a day for 13 months. Her
Sisyphean trek won praise from Sen. John
McCain and former President Jimmy
Carter, and it galvanized popular attention
on an electoral system gone awry.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock poses in
2004 in front of the camper she used during
her cross country walk to support campaign
finance reform.

She grabbed my attention four years later,

when I read that a 94-year-old was crisscrossing
America, registering working
women to vote in swing states. I was floored
by the idea that this nonagenarian was
putting her life on the line to fight for her
vision of democracy. I’m a documentary
filmmaker, and at the time I was on the
hunt for the subject of my next project.
Moved by her determined, seemingly
quixotic commitment to breathing life into
her ideals, I jumped on a plane to meet her.

As excited as I was to meet Doris, I had

some doubts. She was in her 90s — would
she have the pluck and presence to carry a
film? And, more delicately: Did she really
have all her marbles? But when I met her,
she was bright-eyed and energetic, full of
moxie and sass, and her gravelly, British inflected
voice was a filmmaker’s dream. I
was won over from the start.

When I began filming, Doris planned to

register voters until Election Day. I imagined
crafting a road trip movie through the
eyes of an unlikely heroine during a pivotal
election year. But true to form, Doris defied
even her own expectations of herself when,
back home for a short break from the road,
she suddenly became New Hampshire’s
Democratic nominee to the U.S. Senate.

During the campaign, she spoke out vehemently

against the Iraq War, at a time
when virtually no Democratic candidates
were doing so. She completed a 250-mile
walk around New Hampshire to reach out
to potential constituents, while refusing to
accept any PAC or special-interest money
to help fund her run. But the big moment
came when she had her first-ever debate —
on live TV — against incumbent Sen. Judd
Gregg, who had stood in for John Kerry in
Bush’s debate training.

The days, hours and minutes leading up

to the debate were the most nerve-racking
I’ve ever experienced. Doris’ schedule left
her little time for debate training: On a typical
day, she awoke at 4 a.m., drove with her
son Jim to the starting point for that day’s
five-mile walk, then walked those miles
waving at morning commuters. That would
be followed by a few interviews, speeches,
and copious hand-shaking at a couple of
events. Once home, she’d study the issues
of the day and finally go to bed around midnight.

When Doris did manage to squeeze in

time for debate training, her performance
was highly erratic. One day, she’d pack a
wallop, like when her coach asked Doris
about her opinion on gay marriage and
Doris replied, “I’m for love. I don’t think
the government belongs in my bedroom. I
don’t want them there. Not that anything’s
happening there these days!” The next day,
Doris might wax poetic about health care
reform after being asked a question about

Doris’ longtime working-partner and

close friend, Dennis Burke, who was also
her campaign manager, summed up quite
eloquently how all of us felt about the upcoming
showdown. “The way I’d like to
watch the debate tonight is with a TV tray, a
little black-and-white TV, a pastrami sandwich,
a beer, and a .38 revolver.”

I was literally shaking by the time Doris’

wrinkled face graced TV screens the
evening of the debate. Doris herself was
fearful, too, convinced that her throat
might give out on her, or that she’d be overtaken
by one of her uncontrollable coughing
fits. As the debate began, I could see
that Doris was careful to hide her trembling,
arthritic hands behind the podium.

After a slow start, though, Doris surprised

us all. When Gregg asked how she
would improve upon his lauded environmental
record, her eyes twinkled. “I saw a
picture of you fishing recently, senator,”
she replied. “I hope you didn’t eat that fish:
the lakes and rivers of our state are now
poisoned with mercury, which was certainly
not the case when you entered office.”

Our sighs of relief must have caused a

minor earthquake in New Hampshire that
night. Not only did Doris end up holding
her own in the debate, but a comfortable
majority of viewers declared her the victor
in a poll the following day. And despite
George Bush Sr.’s predictions that she
would only receive 7 percent of the vote,
Doris was embraced by a resounding 34
percent of voters’ support on Election Day.
Not bad for a last-minute, four-month run
by a great-grandmother of 16 who had never
dreamt of running for political office before.

Throughout Doris’ campaign and the

making and roll-out of my film “Run
Granny Run,” I felt blessed to spend time
with Doris, to become her friend and to
learn from her example. Independent documentary
filmmaking is a highly discouraging
practice, replete with funding problems,
impossible rights clearances, and
anxiety about securing a distributor for
your film. But every time I got discouraged,
all I had to do was think of Doris’ debate.

She will forever remind me that when you

don’t pay heed to what’s impossible, you act
as if everything is possible, and that’s the path toward extraordinary change.

Granny D didn't just inspire me, Artist Robert Shetterly wrote a wonderful book called, "Americans Who Tell The Truth" and illustrated it with his portraits. He included Granny D:

Granny D by Robert Shetterly. I apologize that this is not a good reproduction of his work. I have seen this and many other of his originals and really admire his entire body of work.... he did a nice job and I bought the book.

He included Granny D and this is what he wrote:

Born Doris Rollins in Laconia, New Hampshire, “Granny D” is best known today for her walk across America in support of campaign finance reform (1999-2000). Her trip, begun shortly before her 89th birthday, lasted 14 months, and covered 3,200 miles.
Doris Haddock’s journey was no mere publicity stunt. She had studied the issue of campaign finance reform so that she could communicate her views to the people who assembled to meet her along the way, including the more than 2,000 who greeted her arrival in Washington, D.C. She spent a year training for the physical challenges she would encounter on the trip, which would wear out four pairs of shoes and included a hundred-mile stretch that she covered on cross-country skis.

Commitment to campaign finance reform is but one facet of an activist career that included working on environmental issues in Alaska (1960) and writing and speaking against war in Iraq (2003). She tells her fellow citizens: “We must not be content to go home and watch television when there is a democracy to run, or to spend all our money on ourselves and our children. Right now, many young people will tell you to ‘get a life’ if you suggest that they get involved in community issues. But that is a life. That is the life of free people in a democracy.”

Her nickname reflects her status as great-grandmother of a large family; it also helps to define the strong, protective love she feels for her country—a love expressed in her statement: “We live in a land where each person’s voice matters. We can all do something. Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices to be heard. But it is still our free land and, my, how we all do love it.”

In her moral toughness and pragmatism, “Granny D” also knows that real love acts responsibly and fights for its object: “We have a duty to look after each other. If we lose control of our government, then we lose our ability to dispense justice and human kindness. Our first priority today, then, is to defeat utterly those forces of greed and corruption that have come between us and our self-governance.”