The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson

/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_johnsonn_homepage.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
“And it was very good because when I was elected to, first, the [Connecticut] senate, and then to Congress, it didn’t occur to me not to express my opinion or not to ask my questions. And I was good at asking questions. People often asked me to ask their question. Finally, I figured out that, actually, they needed to ask their question so I could ask my own. But it was very gratifying to serve because one of the things people don’t understand is that male or female, you’ve got one vote. And the more articulate you are, and the more studious you are in developing your position on an issue, frankly, the more influence you have the more people will follow your vote because you can’t be expert on everything. So, you choose people whose expertise you believe in and whose balanced approach you believe in, and you see how they vote. And if you’re uncertain, you’re likely to vote with them, as others often vote with you. So, of the moderates, I became someone that you wanted to see how they were going to vote because I had such a diverse district.”
—The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, December 3, 2015

Abstract & Transcript

U.S. Representative from Connecticut (January 3, 1983-January 3, 2007)

Influenced by her mother, a high school history teacher and department chair, and her father, a law school dean, Nancy Lee Johnson’s political background grew from a family commitment to community activism. Building upon a successful career in the Connecticut state senate, Johnson came to the House in 1983 well-equipped to handle the rigors of Congress. She made history by becoming the first Republican woman to win a seat on the influential Ways and Means Committee and was one of a small number of women to chair a full House committee (Standards of Official Conduct). In her oral history, Johnson provides a behind-the-scenes look at committee work, including her approach to policy and legislation.

Johnson speaks about the role of women in the Republican Party and the changing position of moderates in Congress during the 24 years she served in the House. Known as a policy expert in the House, Johnson describes her efforts to secure legislation to help her Connecticut district, as well as bills aimed at improving the welfare of women and children. She also shares her impressions of the Congresswomen’s Caucus—including her time as co-chair—and the efforts of women to secure equitable resources in the institution such as the gym for women Members. By the end of her career, Johnson was one of the deans of the Congresswomen. Her interview reveals the different approaches available to women who served in Congress—in Johnson’s case as a Representative who worked within the system using seniority, personal relationships, and policy expertise to achieve success.

Biography

JOHNSON, Nancy Lee, a Representative from Connecticut; born Nancy Elizabeth Lee in Chicago, Cook County, Ill., January 5, 1935; graduated from elementary and secondary classes of the University of Chicago Laboratory School, Chicago, Ill., 1953; B.A., Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass., 1957; attended, University of London Courtauld Institute, 1957–1958; teacher; member of the Connecticut state senate, 1977–1982; delegate, Republican National Convention, 1980; elected as a Republican to the Ninety–eighth and to the eleven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1983–January 3, 2007); chair, Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (One Hundred Fourth Congress); unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the One Hundred Tenth Congress in 2006.

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Video

On the Campaign Trail

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson recalls campaign decorum in 1982.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Campaign Literature

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson recalls her campaign strategy.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Freshmen Are to Be Seen but Not Heard"

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson describes speaking on the House Floor.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Those Machines Only Build Muscles"

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson protests inequalities in the separate House gym facilities for men and women.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Attracting the Interest of the Press

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson recalls limited interested of the Washington press corps.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Balancing Family and Congress

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson recalls the importance of balancing family responsibilities and her work as a Member of Congress.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Overcoming Resistance

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson describes the way she maneuvered for a seat on the Ways and Means Committee.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Rules of the Game"

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson describes her willingness to challenge the powerful chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Women's Perspectives and Committee Service

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson discusses the ways women gained influence in Congress.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Ways and Means Subcommittee Chair

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson emphasizes the value of debate and input from others when considering amendments and drafting legislation.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Women Representing Rural Districts

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson discusses the challenges women from rural districts faced when running for Congress.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Women Members in Leadership

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson relays her thoughts on women as policy makers and the value of a collaborative approach.

The Honorable Nancy Lee Johnson, U.S. Representative of Connecticut
Interview recorded December 3, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Nancy Lee Johnson Lapel Pin
Nancy Lee Johnson Lapel Pin/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_njohnson_button.xml
In her interview, Representative Nancy Johnson talks about using the star as a motif on her campaign literature, including this button.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Congresswoman Nancy Lee Johnson of Connecticut
Congresswoman Nancy Lee Johnson of Connecticut/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_njohnson_portrait.xml
Representative Nancy Johnson, pictured here in 1982, won her first congressional campaign that same year.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Nancy Lee Johnson, 1983
Nancy Lee Johnson, 1983/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_njohnson_camera.xml
Representative Johnson being interviewed during her first term in Congress (1983–1985).
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
District Office
District Office/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_johnsonn_district.xml
Representative Nancy Johnson outside her Connecticut district office in 1983.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
In Committee
In Committee/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_njohnson_committee.xml
Representative Nancy Johnson (fourth from left) in committee during her first term in Congress in 1983.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Congresswoman Nancy Lee Johnson
Congresswoman Nancy Lee Johnson/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_johnsonn_homepage.xml
Representative Johnson during her final term in Congress (2005–2007).
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives