Mary Teresa Norton
"Battling Mary" Norton represented her Jersey City, New Jersey district for 12 terms, defending the interests of her blue collar constituency. Norton’s career was marked by her chairmanship of four committees, most notably the Committee on Labor, during which she accomplished greatest legislative achievement. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 established the 40 hour work week, outlawed child labor, and set a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour. Dedicated to improving the lives of the working class, Norton said, "I’m prouder of getting that bill through the House than anything else I’ve done in my life."
Leonor Kretzer Sullivan
Shown here in the Chair portrait commemorating her leadership of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries (now Natural Resources), Leonor Sullivan was the first Missouri woman elected to Congress. Sullivan was an early advocate for consumers, working on legislation including the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 and consumer protection from hazardous substances.
Shirley Anita Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, represented a Brooklyn district for more than a decade. In 2009, the House of Representatives honored her pathbreaking service with a newly commissioned portrait. Congresswoman Chisholm’s independence and outspokenness are on full display in the portrait’s bold portrayal of the legendary lawmaker.
Katherine Langley Campaign Card
After her husband, John Langley of Kentucky was convicted of “conspiracy to violate the Prohibition Act,” Katherine Langley won his former seat, and served two terms in Congress.
Edith Nourse Rogers Handbill
This handbill for Massachusetts Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers’ second term campaign touts her experience and judgment as a legislator. It also includes praise from fellow Bay State Representative A. Platt Andrew who stated that her “experience with public men and affairs is equaled by very few of her contemporaries, whether men or women.” At a time when few women served beyond the “widow’s mandate,” Rogers’ was forming the basis of a long and successful career in the House, becoming the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee in 1947.
Winifred Stanley Postcard
Winifred Stanley, an accomplished attorney and women’s rights advocate, served a single term representing Erie County, NY. She was the first Member to introduce an equal pay for equal work bill, and supported a constitutional elimination of the poll tax. Though she won her one election in a landslide, her at-large district was destined to be redrawn, and the Republican party did not support her renomination in the new district.
Marguerite Stitt Church Advertisement
When questioned as to whether her foreign aid investigations in Asia were proper for a lady, Marguerite Stitt Church of Illinois replied, “I’m no lady, I’m a Member of Congress.” The lecture advertised in this flyer occurred at the beginning of her 12-year House career, which began when she won her deceased husband’s vacated seat in 1951.
Cecil Harden Thimble
Early in her career, Cecil Murray Harden of Indiana stated the “the more interest you take in politics, the more you meet your responsibilities as a citizen.” A Republican who represented her Indiana district from 1949–1959, Harden encouraged her party to add women’s issues to their platform, and co-sponsored a 1957 equal pay for women bill. The choice of the thimble for a campaign hand-out suggests Harden’s targeting of women voters and hopes for engaging them as fully as possible as citizens.
Edith Green Notepad
After a career as an educator, radio announcer, and legislative chairperson of the Oregon Congress of Parents and Teachers, Edith Green ran for Congress in 1954. This notepad hails from that first campaign, which began her 20 year career as a Member.
Catherine May Postcard
Upon her election to the House in 1965, Catherine May of Washington stated that she felt “a tremendous feeling of responsibility toward all women.” Shown here in a re-election campaign postcard, May was a great supporter of the agricultural needs of her constituents, as well as women’s issues such as the sex discrimination clause in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Frances Bolton Postcard
This re-election postcard shows Frances Bolton, Republican from Ohio, who served in Congress from 1940–1968. Bolton began her long House career by winning her late husband’s seat, becoming the first woman elected from Ohio. She was later the first woman to serve simultaneously with her son, Oliver Bolton.
Bella Abzug Handbill
This campaign handbill outlines colorful New York Member Bella Abzug’s strong opinions on a number of issues—her stance against the Vietnam War, her support of working families and affordable health care. A feminist and community activist, Abzug was distinctive for both her signature hats and her outspoken style.
Margaret Heckler Bumper Sticker
A Republican representing a heavily Democratic-leaning Massachusetts district, Margaret Heckler focused on constituent issues and women’s rights throughout her 16-year career in the House. Co-chairing the first congressional Women’s Caucus with Elizabeth Holtzman, Heckler supported legislation on domestic violence prevention and prohibition of discrimination in acquiring credit.
Florence Prag Kahn
In 1925, Florence Prag Kahn succeeded her late husband Julius in a San Francisco-based U.S. House seat. Most early congressional widows served as temporary placeholders until party leaders chose long-term, male successors. But Kahn was no ordinary political widow. With an insider’s knowledge of House operations and a gift for turning a phrase, she set herself to “attending to business”—expanding the Bay Area’s infrastructure and military installations during her 12-year career, while blazing a trail for women seeking political office.
This Visitor’s Gallery pass was signed by Jeannette Rankin in 1917, the year she entered Congress as its first and only woman Member. During her first floor debate on women’s suffrage, she challenged her fellow Members asking, “How shall we explain…the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”
Edith Nourse Rogers
Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts served as the presiding officer in 1926. The longest serving woman in House history with 35 years of experience, Rogers later became one of the first women to chair a standing committee.
World's Fastest Tank Demonstrated Before Congressmen at the Capitol
Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts, along with John Cooper of Ohio and Randolph Perkins of New Jersey, experience first-hand the world’s fastest tank in an early 1930s military demonstration at the Capitol. Rogers’ legislative career focused upon military and veterans’ issues, and included work on the G.I. Bill, which assisted many military veterans attending college.
The daughter of William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, Ruth Bryan Owen of Florida followed her father’s example by pursuing a reform agenda in the House. This 1932 Visitor’s Gallery pass, with Owen's signature, serves as an apt symbol for her service, as she was dedicated to her constituents, utilizing a “resident secretary” in her large Florida district to poll constituents and keep abreast of local happenings. She also hosted groups of district high school students annually to educate them on public service and enable a visit to the capital.
Virginia Ellis Jenckes
Virginia Jenckes of Indiana worked to end the luxury tax on cosmetics in 1936, arguing that lipstick was a necessity for many women. She stated publically that women needed to organize and protest to fight the unfair levy.
Clare Boothe Luce
Clare Boothe Luce of Connecticut visits with a soldier in a South African hospital in Italy in March of 1945. Luce’s interests as a legislator had an internationalist bent, and she described her guiding philosophy as “America first but not only.” Luce supported much of the Roosevelt administration’s foreign policy, including a strong alliance with Britain and the U.S.’s involvement in the United Nations Refugee Relief Agency.
Women Members of the 83rd Congress
This group photo taken at the beginning of the 83rd Congress (1953–1955) includes Edna Kelly of New York, Katherine St. George of New York, Gracie Pfost of Idaho, Ruth Thompson of Michigan, Elizabeth Kee of West Virginia, Leonor Sullivan of Missouri, Vera Buchanan of Pennsylvania and Marguerite Church of Illinois.
Shirley Pettis Greeting Card
In this holiday card to constituents, California Republican Shirley Pettis poses in front of the memorial chapel dedicated to her late husband, Representative Jerry Pettis. Shirley won his seat and made her mark in Congress addressing environmental issues effecting her CA district, including the establishment of the first solar power plant in the nation in her district, and securing the California desert as a conservation area.
Margaret Chase Smith Supersisters Card
This 1979 Supersisters card for Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was issued after she left the Senate in 1972, a testament to her status as a role model for women in Congress. The first woman to serve in both branches, Smith’s long career - nine years in the House and 23 years in the Senate - was marked by independence and courageousness as a legislator. A well-known example of her fortitude is her 1950 “Declaration of Conscience” speech, in which she denounced her fellow Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin for exploiting fear and intolerance.
Gladys Noon Spellman Supersisters Card
Nicknamed “Madame Tinkerbell” by a colleague early in her political career due to her ebullient and engaging personality, Gladys Noon Spellman of Maryland appears characteristically cheerful in a Supersisters card - a group of woman Members supporting their party’s Congressional Baseball team. A great advocate of federal workers and a reformer of House procedures, Spellman became one of the most popular figures in Maryland politics.
In the year she that she earned national recognition for wielding the gavel as Vice-Chair at the sometimes-raucous 1972 Democratic National Convention, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke is featured on the cover of Jet magazine. That same year, she won a seat in Congress, becoming the first black woman to represent California, and the third black woman in Congress.