Esther Hartigan Sorrell
1940 to Today
Subject CategoriesGovernment / Politics
Nicknamed "Mother of the Democratic Party." Served as Vermont State Senator (1973-1983. Helped launch the political careers of many people, including Governors Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean.
Date of Birth04/24/1920
Date of Death04/01/1990
Esther Hartigan Sorrell was a Vermont State Senator (1973-1983) who helped launch the political careers of many people, including Governors Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean.
Esther Hartigan was born on April 24, 1920 in Burlington, Vermont and remained a local for her entire life. She attended Cathedral High School and Trinity College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1942. That summer, on June 20, she married Thomas W. Sorrell, with whom she had five children. Her son, William H. Sorrell, is currently the Attorney General of the State of Vermont. Sorrell was always active in politics and was nicknamed "Mother of the Democratic Party." In the beginning, she spent time stuffing envelopes and working on check lists, but her influence quickly grew. She tirelessly worked to get others elected, and the base of many Democratic political campaigns was her kitchen table. In 1972, she and some of her female friends realized that, in addition to working for male candidates, they could be candidates for office too. She was particularly involved with the Women's Political Caucus, and, at one meeting, she was persuaded to run for office. Sorrell served five terms in the Vermont State Senate from 1973-1983, when she decided not to run for re-election. For several years, she was the only female senator. While Sorrell served in office, she continued to recruit others to join politics, most notably two future governors of Vermont, Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean. Sorrell will also be remembered for her "Good Friday Speech" which helped gain legislative approval for an increase in the Aid to Needy Families with Children Program. She supported Jimmy Carter in his 1976 presidential campaign, carried his banner at the Democatic National Convention, and was his Vermont Coordinator. Sorrell was also involved with the League of Women Voters. The Esther Sorrell Lecture Series at Saint Michael's College was named in her honor. Sorrell lost her battle with cancer on April 1, 1990.
Organizations or Movements
- Democratic Party
- Esther Sorrell Lecture Series at Saint Michael's College
- Women's Political Caucus
- Aid to Needy Families With Children Program
- League of Women Voters.
- Vermont State Senator (1973-1983)
- Nicknamed "Mother of the Democratic Party" in Vermont because of her tireless efforts to support the growth of the Democratic Party in Vermont and her support for Democratic candidates and causes
- Vermont coordinator for Jimmy Carter for President campaign.
- Cathedral High School
- Trinity College, Burlington, Vermont, (1942).