Sadie Lucy White

Sadie L. White Papers, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.
Sadie L. White Papers, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.

Notable Facts

Redirected Burlington Beltline in 1960s, was the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives in 1984, honored in 1992 when Burlington celebrated Sadie White Appreciation Day

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1901

Date of Death

01/02/1999

Primary Residence

Burlington

Religion

Catholic

Ethnicity

Franco-American

Historical Significance

Born in 1901, Sadie L. White grew up on a dairy farm near Underhill, Vermont. At age 16, she began working as a weaver at the American Woolen Company mill in Winooski, Vermont. In 1965, White was elected as a state representative and served until 1984, excepting a two-year term on Burlington's City Council in 1981-1982, when she supported Bernie Sanders in his successful campaign for mayor of Burlington. A fiscally conservative Democrat, White worked for the rights of the poor, elderly, disabled, and veterans. She also fought to redirect the planned construction of the Burlington Beltline highway in 1968, and thus to preserve neighborhoods in the Old North End.

Sadie Lucy White, one of seven children, grew up on a dairy farm near Underhill, Vermont. She attended school at a one-room schoolhouse through 10th grade, when she left home to work as a weaver at the American Woolen Company mill in Winooski, Vermont. White began running one loom in 1917, and worked at the mill until it closed in 1954, at which point she was running six looms at once. After the mill closed, she worked briefly as a pastry and meat cook, and then pursued her career in politics.

White met her husband, William H. White, in the weaving room. The couple was married on September 7, 1923 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington, of which she was a life-long member. White's husband, a veteran of World War I, was gassed during the war, giving him life-long stomach pain, and helping shape Sadie White's consciousness of veteran's issues. He also helped to organize a union at the mill in 1943, and served as president of the Textile Workers Union of America (CIO-TWUA), Awhich spurred the organization of unions throughout Vermont. William White died of a stroke in 1975.

Sadie White became involved in politics while she worked at the mill, as a labor organizer, a volunteer for the VFW, and as an inspector of elections. In 1965, at the urging of a mentor, State Senator Jack O'Brien, Sadie White campaigned for a seat as state representative from Burlington's Ward 3. A longtime resident of Blodgett Street, White's Old North End and downtown constituents elected her, and she served until 1984, with the exception of a term on the Burlington City Council from 1981-1982.

Though a Democrat, White was fiscally conservative. Her issues included expanded at-home nursing, care for veterans, the elderly, and the disabled, and supporting and protecting the poor in her Old North End neighborhood. One of her major accomplishments was redirecting the Beltline highway proposed in 1968. White worked doggedly to change the Beltline's planned route, saving more than 20 houses in an Old North End neighborhood from destruction. White was a staunchly independent politician, but retained powerful friends such as Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders. She had a history of winning close elections only when absentee ballots " those of the elderly and disabled " were tallied after she collected them personally.

When Sadie White served on the Burlington City Council in 1981 and 1982, she broke ranks with Democrats and used her considerable political influence to support Bernie Sanders in 1981 in his successful run for mayor. At the end of her last term in 1984, Sadie White, at 82, was the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives. She also served as a Justice of the Peace for over 20 years.

In the 1990s, Sadie White was honored by a variety of political figures. Senator Patrick Leahy and then Representative Bernie Sanders entered statements about her into the Congressional Record in 1992, and she was honored by the Vermont Labor History Society in 1993. Peter Clavelle, then mayor of Burlington, declared August 29, 1992 Sadie White Appreciation Day.

In 2009, she was recognized as part of Vermont's Champlain Quadricentennial celebration.

Organizations or Movements

  • Textile Workers Union of American
  • American Legion Auxiliary
  • VFW Ladies Auxiliary
  • Order of Women Legislators
  • Chittenden County Democratic Women

Occupations

  • Weaver
  • Vermont State Representative
  • Burlington City Council member

Education

  • 10th grade

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Paula Routly, "Sadie White " At 91, She's seen it all in Burlington Politics, Vermont Times. Reprinted in Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the 102d Congress, Second Session. Washington, DC: Friday, August 7, 1992. Vol. 138, No. 116.

  • Rae Ellen Bradley, Biographical Sketch. Intermezzo: 14 Vermont women discuss works in progress: the composition of their lives. Newswriting, Fall 1995, Professor M.J. Alexander, St. Michaels College.

  • Roberta Strauss, Winooski Union Victory in '43 Significant to Vermont. In Krawitt, Laura, ed. The Mills at Winooski Falls: Illustrated Essays and Oral Histories.

  • Boston Sunday Globe. Sunday, June 10, 1984.