Hartford trailblazer Ann Uccello, first CT woman mayor, dies at 100
Ann Uccello, former mayor of Hartford who was the first woman to be elected mayor of any municipality in Connecticut and the first woman to be elected mayor of a U.S. capital city, has died.
She was 100 years old.
“Ann Uccello was a trailblazer who was born and raised in Hartford and dedicated her career in public service to the city she loved," Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. "She fought to expand housing, ensure that children have access to essential services, and encouraged job growth and opportunities in Hartford."
A Republican, Uccello was elected in 1967 as the first female mayor of the city of Hartford. She was also the first female mayor of any U.S. capital, according to Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
“Ann Uccello made history as the first woman to serve as mayor of a capitol city, shattering glass ceilings and commanding attention not just here, but across the globe," Bysiewicz said in a statement. "A beloved mayor and trailblazer, she will be remembered for her energy, grace, and above all, her passion."
Support from women
Women were key to her victory in the late 1960s, Uccello recalled in an interview for a tribute video from the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.
“The thing that impressed me the most about my election as mayor was the tremendous support that I had from women right across the board,” she said.
She's noted for the role she played in Hartford after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.
On the night of the assassination, Uccello recalled getting a phone call from police officials that people were throwing bottles in Hartford's North End. She drove to police headquarters and insisted to police and city leaders that she was going to go out to the neighborhood.
“And they said, ‘Oh, no, you're not,’” Uccello recalled in the Hall of Fame video.
“I said, ‘What do you mean, I'm not going out there?’”
She told them: “If I were a male mayor, you would never tell him that he could not go out there. I'm going out.”
Uccello made her way to the neighborhood, visiting a large crowd of people upset about what happened to King.
“They were saying: ‘They killed our leader; they killed our leader,’” she recalled. “’Why did they do that?’”
Uccello told them: “It was some deranged person just as some deranged person killed John Kennedy. This does happen and it's unfortunate.”
Served with 'empathy, understanding, care'
Bysiewicz reflected on that night.
"When the threat of riots overcame Hartford, Ann took to the neighborhoods to speak and mourn with residents, encouraging peace," Bysiewicz said. "She served with a level of empathy, understanding, and care that is so needed in politics."
Uccello, who was elected mayor in 1967 and 1969, "ran as a Republican in a mainly Democratic city, and is Hartford’s last Republican mayor to date," according to NBC Connecticut.
In her interview for the tribute video, Uccello reflected on the 1967 election.
“I spent the whole Election Day going from voting place to voting place meeting the voters, passing out my little cards,” she recalled.
Uccello sat in her living room to listen to the election results. Once she had won, “there was pandemonium over the place,” she said.
“And I said ‘I just don't believe it,’” she recalled.
A TV station wanted to interview her, so a police cruiser escorted her to the studios. As she approached the station, police officers saluted her.
Hartford, then D.C.
Following her time in Hartford, Uccello moved to Washington, D.C., for stints in federal service beginning with the administration of former President Richard Nixon.
She eventually returned to Connecticut. In 2008, Hartford's Ann Street was renamed Ann Uccello Street. Bysiewicz recalled celebrating with Uccello at her 100th birthday party last May.
"Ann Uccello was a pioneer. I admired her ground-breaking work as mayor of Hartford, and one of the highest-ranking women in the Nixon administration, she leaves a legacy that has and will continue to inspire generations of women to pursue careers in politics and public service," Bysiewicz said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said Uccello did more than break glass ceilings.
"She led Hartford through an enormously challenging [and] consequential time with courage, clarity, and compassion," Bronin said on Facebook. "She was a lifelong champion for Hartford.
"Grateful for her life of service."
Learn more: Tributes to Ann Uccello
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Uccello dedicated her life to public service.
“As the first woman to be elected mayor of a U.S. capital city and the first female mayor in Connecticut, she was a trailblazer who charted a new path for women in politics,” Murphy said in a statement. “Her legacy and lasting impact on the city of Hartford will far outlive her, and my thoughts are with her family and loved ones.”
Uccello graduated from the University of Saint Joseph in 1944. She received a doctoral honorary degree in 1971 and received the Distinguished Alumna Award in 1978.
"She was a strong, accomplished, and fearless woman who gave her talents to the community, university and city that she loved,” president Rhona Free said in a statement. “She inspired women to believe in and pursue their potential, and she inspired all those with whom she worked to believe that harnessing the talents of all citizens would advance the common good."
Connecticut Public's Eric Aasen contributed to this report.