Pioneering Aviator, Activist, and Political Spouse Janey Hart Dies at 93

Jane B. Hart was a helicpoter pilot, mother of eight, civil rights activist, and the wife of Sen. Philip Hart (D-Mich.). (Photo: UPI)

Pioneering Aviator, Activist, and Political Spouse Janey Hart Dies at 93

'I cannot contribute one more dollar toward the purchase of more bombs and bullets,' Janey Hart wrote to the IRS in 1972

Jane Hart, an aviator, activist, and "American heroine," died June 5 at the age of 93 from complications arising from Alzheimer's disease.

Though her husband, Philip Hart (D-Mich.) was a long-serving and well-respected U.S. senator--sometimes described as the "conscience of the Senate"--Jane Hart, known as Janey, transcended the traditional role of a political spouse, charting her own course and claiming her own victories.

"It was and is a union of opposites," the Toledo Bladewrote of the couple in 1968. "Phil Hart is quiet, gentle, easy-going, and judicious. Jane is forceful, direct, impatient, and somewhat distant." Phil Hart died of cancer in 1976.

"Few spouses of high-ranking public officials were as well known for their outspokenness on public matters as Mrs. Hart," the Washington Postdeclared in its obituary.

We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit news service. All of our content is free to you - no subscriptions; no ads. We are funded by donations from our readers. This media model only works if enough readers pitch in. We have millions of readers every month and, it seems, too many take our survival for granted. It isn't. Our critical Mid-Year fundraiser is off to a very slow start - only 301 readers have contributed a total of $11,000 so far. We must raise $39,000 more before we can end this fundraising campaign and get back to focusing on what we do best.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, we need you.
Please make a tax-deductible gift to our Mid-Year Fundraiser now!

From helping found the National Organization of Women to campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, Janey Hart was outspoken on women's issues in the political sphere. But her personal and professional accomplishments did as much to reflect her commitment to equality. She earned a pilot's license at the age of 18 in 1939 when there were few women pilots; she qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1958; and at the age of 40, she was one of just 13 women (the 'Mercury 13') to pass physical and psychological tests for astronaut training.

According to one biography, "her eight children were between the ages of 4 and 14 when she left Washington D.C. for the weeklong testing. Prior to leaving, she loaded up the freezer with roasts and vegetables for her family."

Janey Hart also opposed the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. In 1969, she was arrested outside the Pentagon during a peace demonstration, and in 1972 she stopped paying her federal income taxes to protest the U.S. role in the Vietnam War. "I cannot contribute one more dollar toward the purchase of more bombs and bullets," she wrote to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the Post, "Philip Hart told his wife that he did not think withholding taxes was the best form of protest. Earnest discussions ensued, but she remained resolute. Her conscience, she said, would not permit her to accept the 'killing of innocent people without cause'."

In nominating her for the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2007, fellow Mercury 13 member Bernice Steadman wrote of Janey Hart: "Pilot, truck driver, feminist, peace and civil rights activist, mother of eight, grandmother, great-grandmother, and political celebrity in her own right...Add to this expertise in sailing, horse breeding, and numerous other interests. These are the hallmarks of a fully engaged life worthy of recognition in the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame."

In this December 28, 1975 Meet the Press appearance, Janey and Phil Hart talk about women's rights, oil pipelines, raising eight children, and the overlap between their political and private lives.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.