Harriet Hope Hardbarger grew up in the segregated southern cities of St. Petersburg, Florida and Mobile, Alabama. She was the daughter of a plumber, who was also a union organizer and a “rabid Democrat.” Harriet’s mother died when she was only ten and her father played a pivotal role in shaping her social values. She recalled him saying over a meal, “Remember children, you know what meat tastes like because there’s a man named Franklin Roosevelt.”
In 1948, sixteen-year-old Harriet accompanied her father, an Alabama Delegate, to the Democratic National Convention. Hearing Hubert Humphrey’s civil rights speech changed her life. “I came home from that convention a wild woman,” says Harriet. She suddenly recognized the pervasive racial divide of her community and thus began a lifelong quest for social change. By her early twenties, Harriet was organizing unions for the State AFL-CIO in Florida. In the years that followed, Harriet marched and protested against various forms social injustices, oftentimes being arrested in the process.
By 1962, Harriet had married and started a family, when they relocated to Las Vegas. She focused her activism within Nevada working against nuclear waste, on behalf of school integration, welfare rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Campaign for Choice. She ran many local and statewide political campaigns, including the 1968 Presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey in Nevada. She was the southern Nevada campaign for George McGovern. Then, she served as southern Nevada aide for Governor Mike O’Callaghan from 1974 to 1978. From 1983 to 1986, Harriet worked in Washington, D.C. as the Foreign Affairs Aide for Congressman Harry Reid.
Recognized as an expert in grassroots campaign organizing, Harriet traveled across Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana recruiting women to run for public office. She served on the National Organization for Women’s National Board and in 1992, returned to Washington, D.C. to work as a lobbyist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. In 2000, Harriet returned to Las Vegas and continues her work in Democratic politics, currently serving as Political Director for the Nevada State Democratic Party in Clark County.
As a Democratic Party advocate, feminist and civil rights activist, campaign advisor and precinct organizer – Harriet’s political acumen has earned the respect of both local voters and noted legislators, making her, in U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s words, “A local legend.”
Photo/video/audio/&tc. courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
May not be reproduced without the special permission of UNLV Special Collections.