[Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 39 (Monday, April 7, 1997)]
[Page S2795]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                      TRIBUTE TO GERALDINE DEFANT

 Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I rise today to honor my good friend 
Geraldine DeFant, a visionary leader, who recently passed away. In her 
79 years, she worked tirelessly to help others, especially her fellow 
citizens of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her accomplishments have 
established her as a legend among Upper Peninsula labor, political, and 
social leaders. She came to Marquette County in 1949 to organize the 
employees of the H.W. Gossard factory in Ishpeming for the 
International Ladies Garment Workers Union. She guided the women 
employees of the factory through a landmark strike that energized the 
local labor movement and was the first strike in the Upper Peninsula at 
a plant with primarily women workers. The organization of this plant 
had wage implications for union plants throughout the Nation. In 
addition to organizing the union at this plant, she established a 
kitchen and strike fund for them and classes on labor history. This was 
only the beginning of her efforts to improve the lives of workers and 
their families in the area.
  Geri was also a longtime activist in the Democratic party, serving as 
district chair, and coordinating campaigns from the local to the 
national levels. One of her proudest achievements was serving as Upper 
Peninsula Representative for U.S. Senator Phil Hart, who was renowned 
as the ``conscience of the Senate.'' She continued her service in 
Senator Don Riegle's U.P. office. From 1982 to 1991 she served on the 
Marquette County Board of Commissioners where she fought for economic 
development, mental health and services for seniors. She served on the 
Michigan Women's Commission for 6 years, during which time she 
pioneered legislation that allowed the Friend of the Court's office to 
garnish wages for child support. Most of our Nation now has similar 
  Geri was a founder and longtime board member of the Marquette Women's 
Center. She continued her interest in and support of labor issues and 
was inducted into the U.P. Labor Hall of Fame this past September for 
her many efforts. She was deeply committed to equality and justice. 
Geri was also a friend, mentor, and role-model to countless people over 
the years.
  Geri's family was always very important to her and a source of joy 
and pride. She was married to Probate Judge Michael DeFant from 1952 
until his death. They had three children, David, Dan, and Miriam, who 
survive her. Her warmth, humor, and dedication will be greatly missed 
by those of us who had the privilege to know Geri. I know my Senate 
colleagues join me in honoring this exceptional woman.