Interview with Dorothy Haener2019-08-06T12:25:42+00:00

THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT

Dorothy Haener

1917-2001

Salute to Pioneer Feminists, May 1994, Sewall Belmont House in Washington, DC, home of the National Women’s Party. Congressman William Ford Honors Dorothy Haener

Congressman Ford

This is a very special honor for me. I’m leaving Congress this year and I will have 40 years of elected public office when I leave at the end of January. I don’t remember when Dorothy and I first got acquainted, but I can’t remember ever being in public service without her advice. Now when I say her advice – sometimes it was direction.

Dorothy, I first came to know when I was practicing law and she was a UAW activist. She’s a veteran of the Building of the Bombers at Willow Run and one of the earliest activist women in my part of the state of Michigan in the labor movement that I came to know. From that point until her retirement recently, I can’t remember any time when something was going on in the political campaign, or it was an effort of one kind or another that was her effort that she was in, when she wasn’t always there with the boys.

Now, I come from age in a time where only the men did things. Dorothy is one of the people who taught the labor movement that the women can do things too. She did it on no uncertain terms. There were some people who lived in her own townships who thought she was kind of a pushy lady. And for her time, she was.

When I walked in, I saw her sitting here at the table with Martha Griffiths who really brought me into this job. And they would be back together because they represent in my lifetime two of the women who were real trailblazers in our state. And in a whole lot of ways doing things that women had not succeeded at before and encouraging others to do as well but doing something even more important.

As a young whippersnapper fresh out of the Navy at the end of World War II, I went off to law school. I came home, and I thought, I’m really smart now. And there were a lot of things I had to learn, but one of the things I had to learn was even then I was smart enough, with the help of people like Dorothy Haener – who would sort of grab me by the ear to talk to me – to realize that a change was happening in this country.

And now, as I approach my 67th birthday, I find myself happily married to a very successful lawyer who does much better than I ever did at the practice of law and not ashamed to say it and not at all ashamed for people to say it to me. Dorothy taught me that a long time ago.

And you honor yourself by honoring her. She didn’t do it the easy way. She did it in a man’s world – a man’s battleground – and did it well. And Bill Ford’s career in Congress never would have started but for Dorothy Haener as one of the organizers who whipped the UAW into doing its job for me. Thank you.

Dorothy Haener

Thank you Bill, thank you very much. I really feel very sad about Bill Ford leaving his position, because over the years [he] has always been right. Not only on women’s issues, but many other issues that we are concerned about. And in particular in all the time in Congress, to my knowledge, when I talked to him about a women’s issue that I was really concerned about, he has always voted the right way.

Now Martha took credit for that too, she directed him also. I will tell you that when they asked me to have someone present this medal to me, someone suggested that I certainly could find a female congresswoman or a female senator to present it to me.

And I said, “I’m from Bill Ford’s district and as far as I’m concerned I really don’t know anyone in Congress [who] has voted as well as he has over the years on women’s issues. And by God, if  I’m going to get a medal from someone in the Senate Congress,  it’s going to be Bill Ford.  

I want to thank you all for this honor. I appreciate the honor, but I also appreciate the opportunity to get together and reminisce. I won’t give you any history of my involvement – you all know it. I just want you to know that I think an organization like this is very much needed and we need to keep in touch with our roots and where we came from and thank you again.