Historical Highlights

Representative Frances Bolton of Ohio

March 09, 1977
Representative Frances Bolton of Ohio Image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration Representative Frances Bolton of Ohio was one of eight women to be elected in the 76th Congress (1939–1941). Bolton served 14 terms in the House and became Ranking Minority Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
On this date Representative Frances Bolton of Ohio, a civil rights advocate and one-time leading woman in Congress, died. Bolton first won election to the House on February 27, 1940, to fill the unexpired term of her late husband, Representative Chester Bolton. Party leaders assumed she would serve as a temporary caretaker of the Cleveland district. Bolton had other plans and embarked on a three-decade career. An isolationist converted to the cause of American intervention in World War II, she authored the Bolton Act of 1943 that created a U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps which eventually trained thousands of wartime nurses. Reflecting her sympathy for African-American civil rights, the bill required the allocation of funds without regard to race or ethnicity. Bolton declared, “America cannot be less than herself once she awakens to the realization that freedom does not mean license and that license can be the keeping of others from sharing that freedom.” On the Foreign Affairs Committee, where she became Ranking Minority Member, she focused on economic aid and human rights in Africa. The mother of Oliver Bolton of Ohio, she remains the only woman Representative to serve simultaneously with her child.

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Since 1917, when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress, more than 300 women have followed. Women in Congress documents their service.

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