Becoming the Women's Reading Room
The Capitol, designed long before women could actively participate in lawmaking, was ill-prepared for the changes in Congress during the 20th century. In the 1950s, the number of women in Congress more than doubled, bringing to light the lack of women’s restroom facilities anywhere near the House Chamber. In 1958, women in Congress began to press for a retiring room of their own. Edith Green of Oregon was the first to officially suggest a “ladies retiring room.”
From Lavatory to a Reading Room
In 1961, Speaker Sam Rayburn assigned a room on the first floor of the Capitol for the women Members’ use. But this was not a workable solution, as 17 women shared a single lavatory, far from the Chamber. The following year, with Edith Green's leadership, the Congresswomen’s petition for control of room H-235, the eventual Boggs room, was granted, giving them additional space and a new powder room. Representative Frances Bolton showed a particular interest in outfitting the space, taking the lead in acquiring furniture and choosing upholsteries.
Although not as close to the Chamber as the Members’ Retiring Room, which is adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby, the Congressional Ladies Retiring Room, as it was first officially called, was a great improvement in convenience. In 1991, room H-235 was renamed the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room to honor Lindy Boggs’s 50-year association with Congress. It was the first—and, so far, the only—room in the Capitol named for a woman. Today, the room serves as a gathering place for Congresswomen, as well as a place for rest and refreshment, with its walls lined with photographs of each Congresswoman who served in the House.
The Honorable Constance A. Morella shares memories of the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Room:
View similar videos from the Oral History project, A Century of Women in Congress.