Phil Hart family Christmas card, 1958
Narrative by my mother, written and originally posted in 2008
Phil Hart was Lt. Governor of Michigan and soon to be our U.S. Senator, where he became known as the “conscience of the Senate.” At one point he asked a famous segregationist governor, “Is Heaven segregated?” Later, the old Senate Office Building was named for him while he was still living -- a one-time occurrence, and indicative of the esteem in which he was held.
Jane Hart, degreed in anthropology, was a political activist all her life, early on organizing grass-roots Democratic campaigns, and calling government officials to express her opinions. She was a founding member of the National Organization for Women. A Catholic, she publicly opposed and lobbied the Vatican to change its policy on women’s role in the church, and birth control (while personally hewing to the church doctrine on the matter).
Janey captained her own sailboat. She could fly a helicopter. She was a Captain in the Civil Air Patrol. She personally flew her husband around during his political campaigns.
In 1961, the Hart children were between the ages of 4 and 14 when she was chosen to participate in NASA's Mercury 13 program for women. She loaded up her freezer in their Washington D.C. home to keep her family fed during her absence, and headed to New Mexico for testing; and at 40 was the oldest of the 13 pilots accepted.
The program ended abruptly within a year. It would be another 30 years before women were included in the space program.
I remember Jane's no-nonsense haircut. It was a time of teasing, permanents, and “fussing.” Janey simply didn't have time for that, and looked fetching in her simplicity anyway. Now, of course it's a basic cut seen on many busy women.
Jane Hart now lives on Michigan's Mackinac Island, winter and summer. She says she likes the isolation of it in winter as she writes her memoirs.
Postscript: Jane Briggs Hart died June 5, 2015. She was 93.