Vivian Brooke of Missoula, a former state representative and senator who championed the causes of women and gay people during her time in the Montana Legislature, died Tuesday at the age of 75.
A former president of the Missoula chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Western Montana Diocesan Catholic Council, Brooke rose to public prominence after being elected to the first of three terms in the state House of Representatives in 1988.
During her time as a legislator, Brooke, a Democrat, sponsored legislation that led to the construction of the Montana Women’s Prison in Billings, replacing limited- capacity facilities in Warm Springs.
In both 1991 and 1993, she introduced legislation to remove consensual homosexual sex from the state law banning deviant sexual conduct, but the measures were voted down both times. Although the Montana Supreme Court upheld an injunction barring the enforcement of the law in 1997, it remained on the books until it was removed in 2013, when Brooke stood next to Gov. Steve Bullock when he signed the repeal measure.
Her son Morgan Brooke said Wednesday that as his mother’s health deteriorated, he asked what she was most proud of, and she listed those two pieces of legislation.
Morgan worked as a legislative page while his mother was in the Montana House, an experience he said was worth it, both to learn about government and watch Brooke take on big battles.
“She did all of those things and she was still a great mother,” said Morgan Brooke, the youngest of four children.
Born in New York City and raised in Florida, Brooke moved to Montana to study at Carroll College after working for an aunt and uncle near Glacier National Park during high school. According to her obituary, she died at her Missoula home.
In Missoula, she served on the board of the Missoula Art Museum — including helping to raise funds for its renovation and expansion — and helping to build the Blue Mountain Women’s Clinic.
Brooke received the Susan B. Anthony Award in 1993 from the Montana Women’s Lobby, represented Catholics for a Free choice at the U.N. International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, and in 1995 was a representative to the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women, held in China.
A wake for Brooke will be held at Spirit of Peace at 506 Toole Ave. on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a service and reception Saturday at 11 a.m. at The Wilma.
Morgan Brooke said he hopes people will come to share stories about his mother.
“I think they are going to be saying how strong of a woman she was. How determined she was and how much she fought for people who needed someone to fight for them,” he said.
Her family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Brooke’s favorite causes: Blue Mountain Women’s Clinic, the Missoula Art Museum, or the ACLU of Montana.