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Saturday, June 30, 2012

“Bad ole days” super courageous women politicians: Chisholm, Schroeder

Flashback 1960s, 70s, 80s
By Carolyn Bennett including editing re-reporting

The year was 1973 and Colorado had elected its first woman to the U.S. House of Representatives but the old guard was hanging on to the past when newly elected Congresswoman Patricia (Pat) Schroeder took her seat and accepted membership on the House Armed Services Committee. The committee chairman Louisiana Democrat reportedly went ballistic.

In interviews for a 2008 piece, former Congresswoman Schroeder said Representative F. Edward Hebert (Felix Edward HÉBERT, 1901 – 1979, D-LA, January 3, 1941-January 3, 1977) “went into a rage about how awful it was and how the only thing he still had control over was the number of chairs at the table. And since, in the Congressman’s eyes, African-Americans and women were only worth half a House member, he made us share a chair.”

Partners in tough woman’s world Congress

At the time Colorado Representative Schroeder was being insulted by a Democratic colleague, U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm had served two terms in the Congress and had sought the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency. So, according to the ole boy’s calculation, the interviewer comments, if women are worth one-half; then Congresswoman Chisholm was “one-quarter of a congressperson.”

Ah, those Good Ole Days

That is the air and attitude Chisholm and Schroeder endured in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Taking her seat in Congress four years after Chisholm, Schroeder said, “We had no women anywhere:

[n]o women pages,
[n]o women at the doorkeeper’s office, in the parliamentarian’s office,
[n]o women Capitol Police.

“You couldn’t go into the gym, where a lot of deals were cut—couldn’t even go out on the balcony, which is off the Speaker’s office. ...

Schroeder said, “The attitude of a lot of women when I got there was, ‘Aren’t we lucky they let us in here?’”

Chisholm, however, took the opportunity to teach another generation of women entering the Congress. She “had this very high profile with people across the country — and women in particular,” Schroeder said. “She understood women’s issues. It came from her being a teacher and from her presidential campaign. Chisholm “was always working for people who didn’t have political action committees; [she] “worked as diligently for them as if they were General Motors ….”

One of her fondest moments with Shirley Chisholm, Schroeder said, was a night during the presidential campaign when her (Schroeder’s) five-year-old daughter asked Chisholm ‘If you got elected, would you keep the White House white?’And Shirley Chisholm responded—

‘I think I’d put polka dots on it of all different colors because that’s how Americans come: in all different colors.’

In her first Congressional term Shirley Chisholm was one of ten women members of the House of Representatives.  In her final term before retirement in 1983, there were 21 women in Congress of which three were African American women.

Chisholm speaks for herself

In her autobiographical work, she reflected, “I was the first American citizen to be elected to Congress in spite of the double drawbacks of being female and having skin darkened by melanin.

“When you put it that way, it sounds like a foolish reason for fame. In a just and free society, it would be foolish. That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a member of the U.S. Congress, black and a woman proves, I would think, that our society is not either just or free.”

The nostalgists on the political left, center and right are wrong. Those were not “good days.” They were tough. But some of the most courageous women rose in those bad ole days. They took the baton and led ably, and with unparalleled humanity.

Two outstanding American women
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm
Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder

Shirley Chisholm ran for the office of U.S. President in 1972.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-first Congress and to six succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1969-January 3, 1983). She served on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. At retirement, she was the third highest-ranking member of this committee.

Before her election to the U.S. Congress in 1968, Chisholm was a member of the New York State Legislature (1964). In the 1950s she was an educator: director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center (1953-1959); educational consultant for the Division of Day Care (1959-1964).

Born in Brooklyn, New York, of immigrant British Guyanese [of Guyana in the northeastern corner of South America inhabited by indigenous people who named it Guiana (‘land of water’), the only English-speaking country of South America] and Barbadian (British Commonwealth island country in the southeastern Caribbean Sea) parents; raised from primary school age 3 to 7 in Barbados, and from 1934 on in New York City, Chisholm took her academic credentials at Brooklyn College (B.A., 1946) and Columbia University (M.A., 1952). Smith College in 1975 awarded her an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

This outstanding American former politician, educator and author (b. November 30, 1924 – d. January 1, 2005) represented New York for seven congressional terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was the first African American woman elected to Congress, the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination (Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, well known for anti-McCarthyism “Declaration of Conscience,” had previously run for the Republican presidential nomination).

Shirley Chisholm is author of Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). In 2004, the documentary film chronicling Chisholm’s 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, “Shirley Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed,” was featured at the Sundance Film Festival; on April 9, 2006, the film won a Peabody Award. Its director/producer: independent, African American filmmaker Shola Lynch. It 2005, the film aired on U.S. public television.

Pat Schroeder ran for the office of U.S. President in 1987.

Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder was elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-third Congress and to eleven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1973-January 3, 1997); and chaired the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families (One Hundred Second and One Hundred Third Congresses). She was the first congresswoman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee and was known for advocacy on work-family issues: a prime mover behind the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the 1985 Military Family Act.

Schroeder was also involved in reform of Congress and worked to weaken entrenchment, the long-standing control of committees by their chairs. She challenged the congressional ‘hideaway” (exclusive resort known to handful of the United States’ highest-ranking officials) and Members’ living in their offices tax free.

Born in Portland, Oregon (July 30, 1940), raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder took her academic credentials at the University of Minnesota (B.A., history, 1961) and Harvard Law School (J.D. 1964). In the mid 1960s, she worked for the National Labor Relations Board. In the 60s and 70s, before entering Congress, she was a lawyer in private practice and a teacher.

This outstanding American former politician represented Colorado in the United States House of Representatives from 1973–1997, was a member of the Democratic Party, and the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado. Pat Schroeder is author of 24 Years of House Work . . . And the Place is Still a Mess: My Life in Politics.

Though it is clearly not enough, today’s 112th Congress (2011–2013, House and Senate) seats close to one hundred women.
78 women in the U.S. House of Representatives and
17 women in the U.S. Senate

Sources and notes

“Chisholm Forged A Place for [not only] Black Congresswomen” (Brian Reed), November 4, 2008 [comment, emphasis added],

Biographical sketches

112th Congress, 2011–2013

Women in 112th Congress, 2011–2013, according to the website Women in Congress http://womenincongress.house.gov/historical-data/representatives-senators-by-congress.html?congress=112

Women in U.S. House of Representatives

  1. •Sandra (Sandy) Adams (Republican, FL)
  2. •Michele Bachmann (Republican, MN)
  3. •Tammy Baldwin (Democrat, WI)
  4. •Karen Bass (Democrat, CA)
  5. •Shelley Berkley (Democrat, NV)
  6. •Judy Borg Biggert (Republican, IL)
  7. •Diane Black (Republican, TN)
  8. •Marsha Blackburn (Republican, TN)
  9. •Suzanne Bonamici (Democrat, OR)1
  10. •Mary Bono Mack (Republican, CA)
  11. •Madeleine Z. Bordallo (Democrat, GU)
  12. •Corrine Brown (Democrat, FL)
  13. •Ann Marie Buerkle (Republican, NY)
  14. •Shelley Moore Capito (Republican, WV)
  15. •Lois Capps (Democrat, CA)
  16. •Kathy Castor (Democrat, FL)
  17. •Donna M. Christensen (Democrat, VI)
  18. •Judy Chu (Democrat, CA)
  19. •Yvette D. Clarke (Democrat, NY)
  20. •Susan A. Davis (Democrat, CA)
  21. •Diana L. DeGette (Democrat, CO)
  22. •Rosa DeLauro (Democrat, CT)
  23. •Donna F. Edwards (Democrat, MD)
  24. •Renee Ellmers (Republican, NC)
  25. •Jo Ann Emerson (Republican, MO)
  26. •Anna Georges Eshoo (Democrat, CA)
  27. •Virginia Foxx (Republican, NC)
  28. •Marcia L. Fudge (Democrat, OH)
  29. •Gabrielle Giffords (Democrat, AZ)2
  30. •Kay Granger (Republican, TX)
  31. •Janice Hahn (Democrat, CA)
  32. •Colleen Hanabusa (Democrat, HI)
  33. •Jane F. Harman (Democrat, CA)3
  34. •Vicky Hartzler (Republican, MO)
  35. •Nan Hayworth (Republican, NY)
  36. •Jaime Herrera Beutler (Republican, WA)
  37. •Mazie Hirono (Democrat, HI)
  38. •Kathleen C. Hochul (Democrat, NY)4
  39. •Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat, TX)
  40. •Lynn Jenkins (Republican, KS)
  41. •Eddie Bernice Johnson (Democrat, TX)
  42. •Marcia C. (Marcy) Kaptur (Democrat, OH)
  43. •Barbara Lee (Democrat, CA)
  44. •Zoe Lofgren (Democrat, CA)
  45. •Nita M. Lowey (Democrat, NY)
  46. •Cynthia M. Lummis (Republican, WY)
  47. •Carolyn B. Maloney (Democrat, NY)
  48. •Doris Matsui (Democrat, CA)
  49. •Carolyn McCarthy (Democrat, NY)
  50. •Betty McCollum (Democrat, MN)
  51. •Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican, WA)
  52. •Candice Miller (Republican, MI)
  53. •Gwen Moore (Democrat, WI)
  54. •Sue Myrick (Republican, NC)
  55. •Grace Flores Napolitano (Democrat, CA)
  56. •Kristi Noem (Republican, SD)
  57. •Eleanor Holmes Norton (Democrat, DC)
  58. •Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, CA)
  59. •Chellie Pingree (Democrat, ME)
  60. •Laura Richardson (Democrat, CA)
  61. •Martha Roby (Republican, AL)
  62. •Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, FL)
  63. •Lucille Roybal-Allard (Democrat, CA)
  64. •Linda T. Sánchez (Democrat, CA)
  65. •Loretta Sanchez (Democrat, CA)
  66. •Janice Schakowsky (Democrat, IL)
  67. •Jean Schmidt (Republican, OH)
  68. •Allyson Schwartz (Democrat, PA)
  69. •Terri Sewell (Democrat, AL)
  70. •Louise M. Slaughter (Democrat, NY)
  71. •Jackie Speier (Democrat, CA)
  72. •Betty Sutton (Democrat, OH)
  73. •Nicola S. (Niki) Tsongas (Democrat, MA)
  74. •Nydia M. Velázquez (Democrat, NY)
  75. •Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Democrat, FL)
  76. •Maxine Waters (Democrat, CA)
  77. •Frederica Wilson (Democrat, FL)
  78. •Lynn C. Woolsey (Democrat, CA)
Women in U.S. Senate

  1. •Kelly Ayotte (Republican, NH)
  2. •Barbara Boxer (Democrat, CA)
  3. •Maria E. Cantwell (Democrat, WA)
  4. •Susan Margaret Collins (Republican, ME)
  5. •Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, CA)
  6. •Kirsten Gillibrand (Democrat, NY)
  7. •Kay Hagan (Democrat, NC)
  8. •Kathryn Ann Bailey Hutchison (Republican, TX)
  9. •Amy Klobuchar (Democrat, MN)
  10. •Mary Landrieu (Democrat, LA)
  11. •Claire McCaskill (Democrat, MO)
  12. •Barbara Ann Mikulski (Democrat, MD)
  13. •Lisa Murkowski (Republican, AK)
  14. •Patty Murray (Democrat, WA)
  15. •Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat, NH)
  16. •Olympia Jean Snowe (Republican, ME)
  17. •Deborah A. Stabenow (Democrat, MI)
WIC Footnotes
1. Suzanne Bonamici was elected in a special election on January 31, 2012, to succeed David Wu.
2. Gabrielle Giffords resigned on January 25, 2012.
3. Jane Harman resigned on February 28, 2011, and was succeeded in a special election by Janice Hahn on July 19, 2011.
4. Kathleen C. Hochul was elected by special election on May 24, 2011, to succeed Christopher Lee.

112th Congress, 2011–2013, http://womenincongress.house.gov/historical-data/representatives-senators-by-congress.html?congress=112

Images: http://www.jofreeman.com/politics/womprez03.htm

Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire http://www.facebook.com/#!/bennetts2ndstudy

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