Antonina Uccello

Antonina Uccello
"I really don’t dwell on ‘I could have’ or ‘I should have,’ but what I did. And I’m proud of it."
- Antonina Uccello

Induction Category:
Politics, Government & Law

Born: 1922

Inducted: 1999

Town: Hartford

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, city streets all over the United States were filled with riots as people were deeply affected by the loss of such a strong leader, outraged by the violence sweeping the nation, and fearful of its consequences. In Hartford, Mayor Antonina Uccello helped city residents find peace and comfort in a troubled time. “Mayor Ann,” as she was known, quelled demonstrations and spent the night visiting with residents in the street, connecting with her constituents and helping to ease the pain and confusion surrounding Dr. King’s loss. As the first woman in Connecticut to be elected mayor of a municipality, Uccello’s career in Hartford politics blended leadership and care for the city’s people, earning her much respect.

Antonina Uccello was born and raised in Hartford, Conn., and was the second of five daughters in a closely-knit Italian family. Always hardworking, Uccello graduated with honors from both Weavers High School and St. Joseph College. Her interest in politics led her to pursue graduate work in American government at Trinity College and at the University of Connecticut Law School. Uccello taught high school history before entering the business world, working in a variety of management positions at G. Fox & Company, Hartford’s leading department store. It was during this time, working in close quarters with Beatrice Fox Auerbach, that Uccello’s dreams began moving in the direction of politics. Auerbach was one of Uccello’s biggest supporters, encouraging her to pursue political office. When Republican Uccello ran successfully for a seat on the Democratically-controlled Hartford City Council in 1963, Auerbach even predicted, “Dear, you’re going to be mayor of the city one day.”

During her time on the City Council, Uccello chaired several key committees and quickly rose through the political ranks. By 1967, she was ready to run for mayor. In an upset victory over Hartford’s incumbent mayor George Kinsella, Uccello became not only the first woman mayor of any Connecticut municipality, but also Hartford’s first Republican mayor since World War II. She was also the only female to head a major U.S. city during the turbulent Civil Rights era. Uccello’s inaugural address promised a liberal social agenda combined with fiscal conservatism. Her many proposals included legislation protecting children from lead poisoning, creating low- and moderate-income housing in and outside the city, and establishing an Info-Mobile to travel the city with news of jobs and services. Uccello received national attention for her leadership and in a 1970 poll, 81 percent of the Greater Hartford public approved of her job performance. She was even voted Connecticut's second most favorite political personality after Senator Abraham Ribicoff.

In 1970, Uccello considered running for a seat in the U.S. Senate and for Connecticut’s governorship but, at the urging of President Nixon and Vice President Agnew, opted for a bid for the 1st Congressional seat. The race was close, but Uccello lost to Democrat William Cotter. Uccello then went to Washington as Director of the newly-created Office of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Transportation, thus becoming one of the highest-ranking women in the Nixon administration. In 1975, she was selected to deliver the keynote address at the First International Conference on Public Transport and the People in Paris, France.

Antonina Uccello returned home to Connecticut in 1979 to tend to family matters and work in her family’s insurance business. She has remained active locally as a trustee of numerous organizations including Hartford Hospital, the Hartford Boys' and Girls’ Club, and the American Association of University Women. She has also served as President of the Hartford Public Library Board. She holds an honorary doctorate from St. Joseph College and has received the Amita Award in Government and the Salvation Army Leadership Award. In 2008, Ann Uccello Street in Hartford was named in her honor.

During This Time
1946 - 1965: Women’s Activism in Conservative Times