Harriett Woods Explained

Harriett Woods (June 2 1927 - February 8 2007) was an American politician and activist, a two-time Democratic nominee for the United States Senate from Missouri, and a former Lieutenant Governor of the state of Missouri. She was Missouri's first and so far only female Lieutenant Governor.

Born Ruth Harriett Friedman in Cleveland, Ohio, she received her BA degree in philosophy from the University of Michigan. She married Jim Woods on January 2 1953. Before beginning her career in politics, Woods worked as a journalist and TV producer.

Her political career began as a member of the University City Council in 1962, where she served for eight years. Woods was elected to the Missouri State Senate in 1976 and was re-elected in 1980. In 1982, she made a strong bid for the US Senate, running against moderate incumbent Republican John Danforth. Aided by a strong grassroots base that rallied under the slogan, "Give them hell, Harriett!" (a play on a similar slogan used by supporters of another Missourian, Harry Truman), Woods built up a political presence in the state. Danforth defeated Woods by a margin of less than two percent. Some have argued that the deciding margin in the campaign was Woods' strong support for abortion rights in a state where rural voters generally oppose abortion (http://www.umsl.edu/~whmc/guides/whm0490.htm).

Two years later, Woods ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor. Her name recognition from the Senate race gave her a significant advantage. She succeeded in her bid, even as voters elected the deeply conservative John Ashcroft as Governor and as President Ronald Reagan carried Missouri on his way to a 49-state re-election victory. Woods was the first woman elected to statewide office in Missouri.

In 1986, she once again was chosen as the Democratic nominee for the Senate, this time running against former Governor Kit Bond for the seat being vacated by retiring Senator Thomas Eagleton. In another tight race, Woods lost by a five-point margin. She served as Lieutenant Governor until 1989.

After her retirement, she remained prominent, especially as an activist for women in politics. From 1991-1995 she was president of the National Women's Political Caucus. In 1999 she was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

In January 2001 she joined other Missouri Democrats to oppose the nomination of John Ashcroft for U.S. Attorney General (http://judiciary.senate.gov/oldsite/te011601hw.htm).

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