Tuesday, December 18, 2007

DC Councilwoman Hilda Mason

I was sorry to read today that the Honorable Hilda Mason has died. Any sensate being who lived in Washington, DC, in the 1970s and 1980s knew Hilda Mason, and those of us on the Left respected and admired her greatly.

Mason was one of those "Greatest Generation" women who never met an obstacle she couldn't cut through. I didn't know her personally, but my recollections of her work on the City Council are of a powerhouse for kids, education, the poor, the elderly, and Home Rule for the District. She had an immensely practical eye, as people tend to do who've walked in the shoes of those who are left out or overlooked by members of Congress and city councilmen. If somebody needed something to make a life whole, and if she could provide it, the chances were good that they'd get it. Despite belonging to the Statehood Party rather than the more powerful Democratic party, Mason managed to stay in office. People either loved or loathed her, but obviously, in the District, the majority loved her.

Women like Mason take up very little space, but what they lack in girth they make up for that in the volume of justice that they create. I sometimes worry that there won't be as many in my generation or the ones after. I wonder what was in the water that nurtured the women of that generation. They could and did read, think, maneuver, strategize, act, and kick butt. It never occurred to them that they couldn't or shouldn't stand up to Power. It never occurred to them that there was anything they couldn't do.

In Mason's case, it was as if the District were her living room. It would be well appointed and hospitable so long as she had anything to do with it. If she couldn't single-handedly clean up its act--who could?--she never stopped acting as if she could. As a result, it was a whole lot better for a whole lot of people than it would have been without her. Thank you so much, Hilda.