Maureen Dowd: Fighting Irish girl
Maureen’s father was 61 when she was born, but he wrote his age as 50 on the birth certificate.
“It was hilarious that he lied,” Maureen says now, “and as a policeman, he was lying on an official document.”
The Dowds had it rough. Years later when Maureen would sometimes romanticize the 1930s, her mother would wag her finger. “Those were tough and mean times,” mother would tell daughter.
Now Maureen says she knows what she was talking about. “We’re back there,” she says referring to the current economic crisis. “We’re back in a soup can economy.”
The sisters describe Michael as the cool, clean hero, devout and chivalrous to a fault, a man adept at sizing up people and situations like no other. Peggy says Maureen had the same gift from an early age and that she got it from her father.
He loved to read, especially newspapers. “He’d grab a morning, an afternoon and evening paper every day,” says Peggy.
Their strongest memories are of Michael engrossed in the newspaper sitting under a portrait of JFK, one of his heroes. So it is not surprising that Maureen felt the pull to write from an early age.
There were already other powerful role models in the family pantheon. Tommy Corcoran, married to a Dowd relative, was FDR’s closest confidant, known to the president as “Tommy the Cork.” He drafted much of the New Deal legislation and reputedly coined the phrases “nothing to fear but fear itself” and “rendezvous with destiny.” Roosevelt’s son Elliott wrote, “Apart from my father, Tom (Corcoran) was the single most influential individual in the country.”
So being around power was also an early experience for the Dowd clan. And Ireland permeated the family’s early years.
Maureen is pictured in the Washington Post at age 2 in 1954, plump and pretty in a shamrock-bedecked dress, posing on St. Patrick’s Day. Typically she critiques her first media appearance – “Look, they had to give me potato chips to make me smile.”
Like Maureen, her dad had political favorites – Truman was one.
“Dad tended to judge politicians by whether he thought they were phonies or not,” says Maureen. “I think that’s one thing I inherited, besides wearing sunglasses indoors.”
As part of his job Michael Dowd guarded FDR and Joe McCarthy during the Red Scare. He loved Truman but didn’t like Bobby Kennedy, who let the side down by not hiring some Irish who needed work on the Hill.
Michael won a medal for bravery and befriended high people, and saw places a young Irish emigrant had no right to dream of. He rose through the ranks of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to become head of the largest Irish organization in America.
Her mother was an Irish rebel. In the 1970s, Peggy Dowd led a demonstration at the British Embassy after Bloody Sunday when 14 were shot by British forces in Derry. To her eternal satisfaction, the then British ambassador had to sneak in through the underground garage.
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