Overcoming Obstacles

Charlotte Reid, Patsy Mink, and Catherine May outside the House Gym. <br /><br /> Image courtesy of Box 694, Patsy Mink papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Charlotte Reid, Patsy Mink, and Catherine May outside the House Gym.

As newcomers to the U.S. Congress, women sought equal treatment on the job. Initially excluded from some areas of the Capitol, such as the House Gym, women used diverse methods to break down institutional barriers and to attain equal access to influential committee assignments and leadership positions. This collection of stories reveals how women negotiated these challenges to alter the social, cultural, and political norms of Congress, all while balancing work and family life.

Video

Protest in the Senate

The Honorable Lynn C. Woolsey recalls visiting the Senate with other House Members to discuss discrimination against women with Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The Honorable Lynn C. Woolsey, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded March 7, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Battling Discrimination

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley recalls her conversation with Congresswoman Margaret Heckler of Massachusetts about why she refused a high-ranking position on the Federal Maritime Commission.

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley, U.S. Representative of Maryland
Interview recorded March 21, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Gender, Age, and Congress

The Honorable Claudine Schneider discusses her constituents' range of opinions about electing a woman to Congress.

The Honorable Claudine Schneider, U.S. Representative of Rhode Island
Interview recorded January 20, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Support from Speaker O'Neill

Muftiah McCartin shares a personal memory of Speaker Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts, who refused her resignation.

Muftiah McCartin, Staff Director, House Committee on Rules
Interview recorded January 29, 2016 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)

Salary of a Married Woman

Patricia Schwartz describes the way marital status created inequalities in pay.

Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz, Chief Clerk/Administrator, House Committee on the Judiciary
Interview recorded June 22, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Race and Gender

The Honorable Yvonne Brathwaite Burke discusses the challenges she faced as an African-American woman.

The Honorable Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, U.S. Representative of California
Interview recorded July 22, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Accessing the Boys' Club

Kathy Gille reflects on what she learned as the lone woman among floor assistants.

Kathy Gille, Executive Floor Assistant, Representative David Bonior of Michigan
Interview recorded February 25, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Institutional Change

The Honorable Sue Myrick recalls working with other women to break House tradition surrounding women's attire.

The Honorable Sue Myrick, U.S. Representative of North Carolina
Interview recorded March 14, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Surrogate Representation

The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes the responsibilities of being a woman and a Member of Congress.

The Honorable Eva M. Clayton, U.S. Representative of North Carolina
Interview recorded May 15, 2015 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Audio

"There Were No Women on that Committee"

The Honorable Sue W. Kelly explains how gender could serve as an obstacle in Congress.

The Honorable Sue W. Kelly, U.S. Representative of New York
Interview recorded June 23, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"I Had Never Felt a Great Deal of Inequity"

The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys describes how she learned about gender inequality as a Member of Congress.

The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys, U.S. Representative of Kansas
Interview recorded June 14, 2016 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)