Barbara Boggs Sigmund, 1939-1990Barbara Boggs Sigmund, or "Mayor Barbara" as she was known, was Princeton Borough's first woman mayor. She was born in Louisiana, daughter of the powerful Representative Hale Boggs, Democrat of Louisiana and Corrine "Lindy" Boggs, who took over as the Congresswoman from New Orleans when Hale Boggs died in a plane crash off Alaska in 1972 following 31 years in the House of Representatives. She held the post for almost 20 more years.
Her life was always political, as a child she played in the halls of Congress, worked for President John F. Kennedy as a letter writer and in 1964 danced with President Lyndon Johnson at her wedding to political science scholar Paul Sigmund.
In 1972 Barbara launched her own political career, with a winning campaign for a seat on the Princeton borough council. By 1975 she was a Mercer County freeholder. In March 1982 she announced that she would run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with cancer, and entered a hospital to have her left eye removed. Hours after the operation, she showed up for a campaign fund-raiser wearing a red silk dress and a matching heart-shaped eye patch. She stood before the crowd, smiling broadly and drawled: "You all are a sight for a sore eye."
Despite growing statewide affection for her, Sigmund lost her bid for the senate primary in 1982. But her run for Mayor of Princeton in 1983 was a cakewalk. By then she had an eye patch to match nearly every dress. Among her accomplishments for Princeton were her campaign to save the "Dinky," the one stop rail spur that connects Princeton with the mainline Northeast rail corridor. In 1977, she also founded WomanSpace, a shelter, service and advocacy organization for battered women.
Following her re-election as mayor in 1987, with her cancer then five years in remission, Sigmund entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1989. Her campaign slogan was "I've got my eye on New Jersey," and she distributed paper eye patches to voters to help them remember her. It was in October 1989 that, despite the surgery seven years earlier, it was discovered that the cancer had metastasized.
Her mother, Lindy Boggs resigned her post as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican in 1989 to be by her daughter's bedside in the last months of Sigmund's life. When she died on Oct. 10, 1990, she was survived by her husband and the three sons they had raised in Princeton, Paul Jr., David and Stephen.
Sigmund's funeral drew thousands, including her brother, Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. a prominent Washington attorney and lobbyist, and her younger sister, Corrine "Cokie" Boggs Roberts, the NPR congressional correspondent.
To the end, she remained a Southern belle whose charm, grace, style and courage would make her one of the most beloved politicians of modern New Jersey history.
In 2001 Princeton University honored Sigmund by starting the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Symposium on Women and Poverty.