The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley

/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_homepage.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
"I mean, when I was coming through there was nobody I could reach out to because they weren’t there. They weren’t there. I had to bust my way myself."
The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley, March 21, 2016

Abstract & Transcript

U.S. Representative from Maryland (January 3, 1985–January 3, 1995)

Helen Delich Bentley came to Congress in 1985 as a well-known figure in her Baltimore-based district. As a longtime journalist for the Baltimore Sun, a producer of a local television show, and an acknowledged expert on maritime affairs, Bentley had an impressive resume that also included government service as Federal Maritime Commissioner. Much of Bentley’s oral history focuses on her career before she won election to the House. (The former Congresswoman passed away before a second planned interview with the Office of the Historian transpired.) She discusses, for example, her first foray into politics as a volunteer for U.S. Representative Jim Scrugham’s successful run for one of Nevada's U.S. Senate seats in 1942. Bentley briefly worked for Senator Scrugham, but left Washington, D.C., for Maryland when offered a job with the Sun. Initially assigned to cover labor, she quickly switched to reporting on the Baltimore docks and maritime issues. Her work led her to cross paths with local and national political figures and influenced her decision to make the jump to public office.

In 1980, Bentley ran for Congress against the incumbent Representative, Clarence “Doc” Long. Bentley recalls her three campaigns against Long—she defeated him on her third try—and her defining issue of protecting the Baltimore Harbor. Throughout her decade in the House, she emphasized constituent service and focused on many local issues. In her interview, Bentley discusses the role of women in politics and the impact of gender discrimination on her public career. Bentley also talks about her women colleagues from Maryland and reflects on her role as a mentor and inspiration to younger women.

Biography

BENTLEY, Helen Delich, a Representative from Maryland; born in Ruth, White Pine County, Nev., November 28, 1923; attended the University of Nevada, and Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; B.A., University of Missouri, 1944; journalist; television producer; chair, Federal Maritime Commission, 1969–1975; international business consultant; unsuccessful candidate for election to the Ninety-seventh in 1980 and Ninety-eighth Congresses in 1982; elected as a Republican to the Ninety-ninth and to the four succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1985–January 3, 1995); was not a candidate for reelection to the One Hundred Fourth Congress in 1994, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for Governor of Maryland; private advocate; unsuccessful candidate for election to the One Hundred Eighth Congress in 2002; died on August 6, 2016, in Timonium, Md.

Read full biography

Video

First Political Experience: Part One

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley describes working on Nevada Representative Jim Scrugham's U.S. Senate campaign.

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

First Political Experience: Part Two

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley reflects on the nature of campaigning.

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

"The Port That Built a City"

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley explains the intersection between politics and her television career.

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

Running for Congress

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley describes her early campaigns for Congress against Representative Clarence Long of Maryland.

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

Experience, Not Gender

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley describes how her experience as a journalist and knowledge of her district were more important than her gender in congressional campaigns.

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

"We Just Had to Out-Bentley Them"

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley recalls a memorable re-election campaign.

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley, U.S. Representative of Maryland
Interview recorded March 21, 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)

Importance of Constituent Service

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley recalls how her time as the Federal Maritime Commissioner (FMC) prepared her for being a Member of Congress and managing constituent service.

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

"Working Together as a Team"

The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley explains the importance of helping women candidates and hiring women in congressional offices.

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

Images & Artifacts

Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley
Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_homepage.xml
Representative Bentley photographed during her first term in Congress (1985-1987).
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Helen Delich Bentley Lapel Pin
Helen Delich Bentley Lapel Pin/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_button.xml
Congresswoman Bentley chose this design for her re-election buttons. In her interview, she describes what makes a successful congressional campaign.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Committee Hearings
Committee Hearings/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_committee.xml
Representative Bentley attended an Armed Services Committee hearing in the late 1980s.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
"Helen the Determined"
"Helen the Determined"/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_committee2.xml
A high-ranking state Republican once observed of Congresswoman Bentley, "If this were the Middle Ages, she would be called Helen the Determined."
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
A Good Laugh
A Good Laugh/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_laugh.xml
Representative Bentley shared a light moment before a Budget Committee hearing in 1993.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Fourth of July
Fourth of July/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_parade_flags.xml
Representative Bentley waved to her constituents in a Fourth of July parade in 1993.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Demonstration on the East Front
Demonstration on the East Front/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_radio.xml
Frustrated with Japanese trade policy, Congresswoman Bentley and fellow colleagues symbolically destroyed a Japanese radio on the Capitol lawn in 1987.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
"BUY USA"
"BUY USA"/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_bentley_usa.xml
Congresswoman Bentley posed next to a personalized license plate in 1987.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office