History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

The First Congresswoman’s First Day: April 2, 1917

It was only natural that Jeannette Rankin of Montana repeatedly made history on April 2, 1917, the day she was sworn in as the first woman to serve in Congress.

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Advice to New Members

Luther Patrick Makes a Face
On March 6, 1941, Alabama Representative Luther Patrick gave advice to new Members from the House Floor. His 32-point list detailed the dos and don’ts of congressional behavior. If only he took his own advice.

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Inside the Chamber on Opening Day

Every two years, as mandated in Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives starts a new legislative session, known as a Congress. Using longstanding precedent and a few highly visible artifacts, the House embarks on the pomp and ritual of its biennial Opening Day.

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Categories: House Chamber, Opening Day

“It Isn’t a School, and I’m Not a Schoolmaster”

Do you remember having jitters on the first day at a new school? It could be a strange environment with unfamiliar classrooms, new teachers, and fidgety students who wanted to be somewhere else. New Members of Congress have had similar feelings.

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Knit One, Purl Two in the House Gallery?

Eleanor Roosevelt
Opening day of a new Congress is usually a day full of excitement and activity. A new session begins, the Members are sworn in, and the House of Representatives organizes itself for the first time in a new term. Adding to the excitement of the opening day of March 9, 1933, a special visitor was in attendance, the new First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The flurry of activity in the House Chamber can sometimes be chaotic, but the rules of the House maintain the decorum and help the “People’s House” function smoothly. But, as the First Lady’s visit soon proved, those same rules are sometimes subject to change for special visitors.

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Take a Seat

For more than a century, a desk in the House Chamber was a Member’s office. He stowed his hat beneath his chair, wrote and stored papers in the writing desk, and occasionally propped his feet up to listen to debate. Why did picking one's desk matter?

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