Emilie F. Miller papers, 1987-1991, #C0048

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Emilie F. Miller papers, 1987-1991, #C0048


Emilie F. Miller is a former politician and activist in Northern Virginia and was the first woman senator to represent the Fairfax area. In 1968 she joined the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and served as its chair from 1976 to 1980. In that same year she was hired as long serving Senator Adelrad L. Brault's (1966-1982) legislative aid. Two years later, Senator Brault retired and endorsed Miller's candidacy for the post. Miller's opponent in 1983 was three-term Republican mayor of Fairfax City John W. Russell, whom Miller disagreed with over his opposition to the Equal Rights Act and negative comments about women serving in combat. Miller lost the election by one percent of the vote.

During the interim between her candidacies, Miller remained active in state and local politics. Virginia Governor Charles S. Robb appointed her to the State Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board (1982- 1988). The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed her to the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force (1984-1987). She was also hired as legislative consultant to the Virginia Federation of Business and Professional Women (1986-1987). Her activism in mental health, family and community services, and women's rights carried over into her term as Virginia senator.

In 1987 Miller ran for a second time against Russell, and maintained strong support from feminists and was endorsed by the National Women's Political Caucus of Northern Virginia. Narrowly defeating Russell by 180 votes, Miller set off on an ambitious and successful freshman term. She was the only freshman to receive four committee assignments, the only woman to serve on the Education and Health Committee, and was the first Virginia legislator to serve on the Labor Committee of the National Conference of State Legislators.

While a senator, Miller was assigned to four standing committees: Education and Health, General Laws, Local Government, and Rehabilitation and Social Services. She was further assigned to several legislative subcommittees, such as the Parental Drug Exposure and Abuse Committee and the Early Intervention Services for Handicapped Infants and Toddlers Committee.

During her first and second sessions (1988-1989) Miller focused on issues dealing with mental health and substance abuse. She introduced many bills and several were passed. One successful bill allowed future funding for mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse services; another allowed the study of the criminal prosecution of individuals who abuse patients of state facilities for the mentally disabled. One piece of the latter bill established of the State Board of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services, which developed regulations defining abuse and facilitated prosecution of people who abused others with disabilities. Miller successfully amended the state budget by two million dollars for use by mental health services, and ensured that state funding would follow the six-year plan established by the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse.

The dominating concern of Miller's 1990 and 1991 sessions was the nationally covered Virginia Military Institute controversy. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the Commonwealth of Virginia for denying admittance to a woman who had applied to VMI. Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry stood behind VMI's decision not to enroll women at the traditionally all-male institution. Miller objected to the practice and considered it sexist and unconstitutional, especially because the school was publicly funded. In response to this controversy, Miller introduced legislation stating that "all public institutions of higher education shall admit qualified students without regard to race, sex, religion, national origin, or political affiliation."

After the VMI controversy, Miller continued to legislate for mental health, women's rights, and family services. Her successful legislation includes the consideration of a defendant's mental health in death penalty cases, the regulation of advertising by licensed treatment facilities for the mentally ill, and authorization for Fairfax County and Fairfax City to regulate child care services and facilities. In addition to this legislation, Miller also introduced legislation that designated April 22, 1990 as Earth Day in Virginia.

Other achievements during her first term include a public-private partnership on pilot projects testing the use of natural gas in Virginia Department of Transportation vehicles, simplified procedures for citizens to obtain government information, and increased civil penalties for zoning code violations.

Miller attempted reelection in 1991, focusing on education and abortion issues, but lost to Republican opponent Jane H. Woods.

The Emile F. Miller Papers contain materials pertaining to her service in the Virginia State Legislature. Included in the collection are campaign material, subject files, bills and resolutions, correspondence, committee information, constituent files, and information on the Virginia Military Institute controversy.


Miller, Emily F.


George Mason University Libraries





Collection Items

Note from the Chair of the ERA Ratification Council to Virginia State Senator, Emilie F. Miller
Note from the Chair of Virginia's Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council to Virginia State Senator Emilie F. Miller thanking her for supporting the ERA.

Remarks of Virginia Senator Emilie F. Miller on admission of women to Virginia Military Institute (VMI)
Speech by Virginia State Senator Emilie Miller supporting the withdrawl of state funding to VMI if it remained all-male. The court case regarding women's admission to the all-male VMI went to the US Supreme Court, which declared that excluding women…
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