Midge Miller, resting in peace

Her name was Marjorie, but everyone called her Midge.

Midge Miller, the quintessential West Side Madison liberal and tireless activist for peace and progressive causes, has left us at age 86.

The Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice website has links to moving tributes from John Nichols, Stu Levitan and Paul Soglin.

A memorial service is being planned for Mothers Day, her family said. That’s appropriate. She was, among many other things, the mother of the nuclear weapons freeze campaign in Wisconsin.

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.

I hope she’s resting in peace. She certainly earned it.

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