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 Missouri. She was Missouri's first and so far only female Lieutenant Governor.
Born Ruth Harriett Friedman in Cleveland, Ohio, she received her Bachelor of Arts 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 (). Still in the 1982 election, Harriett Woods carried the the rural areas of the state including every county in the southeast part of the state. She also carried the "Little Dixie" area of the state—the northeast section of Missouri—along with the heavily Democratic Kanas City area. However, Harriett Woods had problems in the other traditionally Democratic area of Missouri as she lost the St. Louis area to Danforth, despite the fact that she lived and worked as a television producer and newpaper reporter in University City, a suburb of St. Louis. Danforth was also from the St. Louis area. Being a former television producer, Harriett Woods was able to communicate her message effectively over television. By mid-October, she was running dead even in the polls with the more widely-known incumbant—Danforth.
However, an important reason for Hariett Wood's narrow loss to Danforth the Republican incumbant Danforth by a mere 26,200 votes in the 1982 election was fact that she was outspent ($1,849,025 for Danforth and $1,193,966 for Woods) and she ran out money during the campaign forcing her to pull her very effective television ads for an entire week late in the campaign. Nationwide, publicity over the narrow loss of a person, who with a little more money, might have been the first woman ever elected Senator from the State of Missouri led to the creation of the political action committee called Emily's List in 1985.
In 1984, 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.
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