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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 17 results

Bridging the Divide

During the second half of the 20th century, the world watched as the United States and the Soviet Union clashed in a Cold War struggle that had many fronts: military, economic, cultural, and ideological. But by the mid-1980s, that chilly relationship began to thaw as leaders in both countries engaged in renewed dialogue. Recognizing an opportune moment, Congresswoman Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island and a few of her House colleagues hoped to bridge the divide between the two nations by using new technology to open communication between Moscow and Washington.
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Unique Circumstances: A Look at the House Journal on September 11, 2001

Eve Butler-Gee pulled up to the United States Capitol under a cobalt-blue sky early on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was well before the workday began, but she hoped to complete a stack of paperwork before the legislative session started at 9 a.m. As a House journal clerk, she had to proofread the prior day’s House Journal and then report to the floor to record a new day’s proceedings.
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Everyone Loves a Good Story!

People tell stories for many reasons: to entertain, to make connections, to explain a point of view. Oral histories rely on stories of all kinds to complement other sources about past events and historic figures. Individual oral histories featuring descriptive anecdotes and personal reflections can stand on their own, but when several oral histories are woven together around a common theme or event, they work to tell a more complex and complete account.
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A Century of Women in Congress

On November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. “I may be the first woman member of Congress,” she observed upon her election. “But I won’t be the last.”

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Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling

By now, most people are familiar with the metaphorical “breaking the glass ceiling” to depict monumental gains made by women in politics, business, industry, and sports. Iconic images like Rosie the Riveter during World War II illustrated a break from tradition that made it more acceptable for women to leave the sphere of domesticity and move into the workforce. Well before the Second World War, Jeannette Rankin of Montana played her part in shattering gender stereotypes when in 1917, she became the first woman elected to Congress. This milestone paved the way for hundreds of women to follow in her footsteps.
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From Candidate to Congresswoman

Early on November 7, 1916, households with telephones in Montana received a call. “Good morning! Have you voted for Jeannette Rankin?”
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Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11

On the evening of September 11, 2001, congressional leadership prepared to make their first collective response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hours earlier. Members of Congress assembled on the Capitol steps to join leaders in a public demonstration of unity. Broadcast across the country, it became a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation and resolve, ending with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” This gathering became a symbol of national unity in the ensuing weeks and months.
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Through Her Lens

With a bounce in her step and a camera in hand, Dolly Seelmeyer walked through the halls of the United States Capitol, from 1972 to 2004, as the first female House photographer, ready to prove she could do anything a male photographer could do—“and do it better.”
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"You've Won Your Way Into Our Hearts"

Tucked away in a corner of the L-shaped Republican Cloakroom reserved for Members of Congress, a hard-working, modest woman ran a cramped lunch counter. Part of a world built upon power and influence, Helen Sewell did not use her position for political gain, but focused instead on caring for the people she considered family for more than 70 years.
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September 12, 2001: “We All Went Back to Work”

After the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the country spent time mourning and reflecting on the tragedy. For many people at the U.S. Capitol, September 12th meant a return to work, but it was far from business as usual.
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Categories: Interviews

Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage “Like Going to Normandy with Dwight Eisenhower”

Annual Selma Pilgrimmage
Rarely do we visit a historic site with someone who helped to make history there. But this weekend, more than 60 Members of Congress will travel to Alabama with Selma veteran and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage will commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches which spurred passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The pilgrimage is an important congressional tradition and one the Office of the Historian chronicles through its civil rights oral history project.
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“The Only Thing You Could Hear Was People Crying”

President Kennedy's body in the Capitol Rotunda
“Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?” became a defining question for a generation of Americans stunned by the violent act which took the life of the 35th U.S. President. As the nation sought to come to terms with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Capitol prepared for a rare lying-in-state ceremony reserved for the country’s most distinguished citizens. Countless staff worked behind the scenes to quickly assemble a memorial service to honor a fallen President and to help a distraught nation mourn the untimely passing of a popular American leader.
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