The Honorable Elizabeth Furse

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
“Well, five sisters and a mother who was quite strong, very strong, I knew that I could do anything I wanted to do. My mother always said, ‘Women can do anything they want to do; whatever you choose you can do.’ And she also felt very strongly that if there was something going wrong in your community, you have to get out and do it. Now that wasn’t always comfortable for a teenager who wants to be like their friends, but I was more afraid of my mother than I was of my friends and so I did demonstrate and it was very liberating.”
—The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, June 8, 2017

Abstract & Transcript

U.S. Representative from Oregon (January 3, 1993–January 3, 1999)

Elizabeth Furse’s path to Congress began as a young woman involved in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Greatly influenced by her mother’s activism, Furse followed in her footsteps becoming a community organizer and voice for those in need. Before running for elected office, she advised Native American tribes about the intricacies of lobbying Congress and writing legislation—an experience that provided her valuable training and insight for her future House career.

In her oral history, Furse describes how her pacifist background and a desire to slash military spending propelled her from activism to politics. Her community engagement contributed to her ability to appeal to and work with a diverse Oregon constituency. Elected in 1992—the “Year of the Woman”—Furse shares her observations about the role of women in the institution and the bonds that formed among Congresswomen during her three terms. She also describes her tenure on the Armed Services Committee and her commitment to reduce the military budget and the production of nuclear weapons. During her interview, Furse shares her thoughts on how women Members balance work and family life, as well as her personal reasons for founding the Congressional Diabetes Caucus.

Biography

FURSE, Elizabeth, a Representative from Oregon; born in Nairobi, Kenya, October 13, 1936; B.A., Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash., 1974; director, Oregon Legal Services restoration program for Native American tribes, 1980–1986; co-founded the Oregon Peace Institute in 1985; co-owner and co-operator of a vineyard; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Third and to the two succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1993–January 3, 1999); was not a candidate for reelection to the One Hundred Sixth Congress in 1998; was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination as Washington County, Oreg. commissioner in 2014.

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Audio

Strong Women

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse discusses the impact her mother had on her upbringing and her views on gender equality.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Early Activism

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse describes her involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

A Surprise Victory

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse recollects her first campaign for Congress.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"It's a Very, Very Tough Life on Families"

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse explains the challenges women Members face when balancing family life with a congressional career.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Congressional Diabetes Caucus

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse describes the creation of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Mixing Bowl

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse explains the importance of including Members from diverse backgrounds in Congress.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Learn to Listen"

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse offers advice to people considering running for public office.

The Honorable Elizabeth Furse, U.S. Representative of Oregon
Interview recorded June 8, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Armed Services Committee
<i>Armed Services Committee</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_furse_armedservices.xml
Representative Furse led an Armed Services subcommittee meeting in Chairwoman Patricia Schroeder's absence in 1994.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Press Conference on the East Front
<i>Press Conference on the East Front</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_furse_bomber.xml
Congresswoman Furse proposed an alternative to defense spending in 1996.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Technology in the House
<i>Technology in the House</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_furse_computer.xml
Representative Furse pictured in her office in 1994.

 

Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Campaign Material
<i>Campaign Material</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_furse_button.xml
Representative Furse chose this design for her campaign buttons. In her oral history, she discusses her congressional races.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Congresswoman Furse
<i>Congresswoman Furse</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_furse_portrait.xml
Representative Furse photographed during her last term in Congress (1997-1999).
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives