2009/04/17:We all will miss you, Midge!

MIDGE MILLER, a lifelong peace activist, former Democratic lawmaker, and co-founder of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, passed away Friday at age 86. Midge (holding the "It's Time for Peace" sign) was a founder of WNPJ in 1991, along with former State Rep. Frank Boyle, Superior, giving the peace sign, State Sen. Fred Risser, and Nan Cheney, with "War Is Not The Answer" sign. Midge was being honored for a WNPJ Lifetime Achievement Award at this event in 2004. Among her achievements was sponsorship of a nuclear weapons freeze campaign which passed in a statewide referendum in 1982.

It was a great honor to have worked with Midge and she will be greatly missed.  Read John Nichols's Capital Times column. A tribute by Stuart Levitan on Isthmus Daily Page. Paul Soglin's blog. A  memorial event is planned for Mothers Day, May 10, at 4 pm, at the First United Methodist Church, Wisconsin Ave. Madison.


Miller, of Madison, represented the city’s west side in the state Assembly from 1971-1985, and played an integral part in state Democratic politics for decades. She was an influential voice in the presidential run of former Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and was instrumental in the Legislature for, among other accomplishments, introducing the state’s Equal Rights Amendment. --WisPolitics. (Read WisPolitics coverage hereWisconsin State Journal story here, Wisconsin's political leaders remember Midge here, Capital Times editorial response here, The Madison Institute editorial here, .)
Personal stories from WNPJ members about Midge:
Midge wasn't a legislator who played it safe or hesitated to introduce things that might be controversial or fail to pass.  If she was convinced the cause was righteous, she'd plunge ahead.
I was working at Nukewatch in 1982 when a student, recently transplanted from New York, called to say he'd heard about this idea, a nuclear weapons freeze, that had been passed at some town meetings on the East Coast.  He thought maybe Wisconsin could pass something, but didn't know how to get started, or even who his state legislators were.
We determined he lived in Midge Miller's Assembly district and suggested he contact her, thinking that would be the last we'd hear of it. 
In short order, Midge had introduced a nuclear freeze resolution in the legislature that put the question to a statewide advisory referendum in September 1982.  She worked closely with a coalition of peace groups to get it through the legislature, and then to get it passed by the voters.
Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass a statewide nuclear freeze referendum, and by a 3 to 1 margin, thanks to Midge's efforts.  And it all started with a phone call from a constituent who  had never voted for her and didn't even know her name.
It somehow seems appropriate that after not having seen her for years, I last ran into her in September  -- at Fighting Bob Fest, of course.  To the end, she was a vital part of Wisconsin's progressive community.    
Bill Christofferson, WNPJ co-chair
Campaign Communications
2937 S Superior
Milwaukee WI 53207
414/486-9651    fax 414/486-9652


Fred Brancel of Monona writes:

Condolences to the Leeper-Miller family.  We have just read with much appreciation the fine article in today's State Journal: a fitting tribute to your very exceptional mother.  I believe that you, Dave, and others know that your mother was a close friend and role-model for my late-wife, Joyce Ecklund.  She was widowed with five children and became the step-mother of four, with seven of the nine being sons.  We have cherished the friendship and example of your mother and family since we first met in the '60s.  My fond memories are cause for thanksgiving and I trust that yours will provide comfort and strength and continued 'direction' down the right-path.
Gratefully, with esteem and affection,
Fred, for Mary Ann, too
PS  It seems appropriate that Jason compiled/wrote the article since he and his extended family are also close and admired friends, a source of inspiration like that of the Leeper-Miller family.


Nan Cheney writes:

(2004 - at the time of the Lifetime Achievement Awards through WNPJ) - “It’s a special pleasure to be honored with Midge Miller, who has gotten me into more trouble than I can even remember and has supported me in almost all of the trouble we’ve caused.

I was especially delighted to hear about the lifetime achievement award -- thinking I could now truly retire to boxes of chocolates and my feather boa while reading my back issues of the Progressive Magazine. But Midge is ten years older than I am and has not even slowed down. Looks like the feather boa will not make it out of storage.”

And today, Nan writes: As a member of the WNPJ Board her presence and counsel were so important in our early years. She ( and her husband Ed) never missed a Fall Assembly -- Midge often as a speaker or Mistress of Ceremony.

Midge never did give up and was vitally active right up until the time she died. She even left hopes and dreams for us to carry out when she was gone. We’ll have to work double time.