The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys
"Well, again, I didn’t feel sexism particularly. Sure, some of the old Southern guys might call you ‘Dear’ or something. I ignored that. I knew people that said, ‘I wouldn’t put up with that.’ To me that had no meaning. What was meaningful was the conversation that you had with them. Again, I had never felt a great deal of inequity. I had to learn in reality. I had to get into Congress and learn the statistics to understand the tremendous inequity that women had in the law. I had never felt it in my home. I certainly was never taught that growing up. I was always taught that I was smart and capable of making my own decisions. That was what my father really insisted on me. So I didn’t feel that greatly. And I didn’t feel it in Congress. Of course, part of it, once you get on Ways and Means, that kind of—no one feels sorry for you and they can’t look down on you too much either."
—The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys, June 14, 2016
U.S. Representative from Kansas (January 3, 1975–January 3, 1979)
One of the large number of Democratic freshmen elected to the House in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Martha Elizabeth Keys quickly stood out among her colleagues when she became only the second woman to serve on the influential Ways and Means Committee. Much of Keys’ oral history focuses on her tenure on Ways and Means where she recalls the heavy workload of the panel and compares the leadership of two committee chairmen, Dan Rostenkowski and Al Ullman.
The sister-in-law of Colorado Senator Gary Hart, Keys gained valuable political experience in Kansas as a volunteer for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign. Keys’ skillful work for McGovern garnered the attention of national politicians like Representative Patricia Schroeder of Colorado who suggested that Keys run for Congress. In her interview, Keys reflects on her three campaigns for a Kansas House seat, including observations of the role of gender and the assistance she received from her family. The Kansas Congresswoman made headlines in 1976 when she married fellow Representative Andy Jacobs of Indiana. Keys describes the challenges she faced in marrying a House colleague who also served on Ways and Means. A founding member of the Congresswomen’s Caucus, Keys speaks about its formation and about the role of women in Congress during the 1970s.
KEYS, Martha Elizabeth, (wife of Andrew Jacobs Jr.), a Representative from Kansas; born Martha Elizabeth Ludwig in Hutchinson, Reno County, Kans., August 10, 1930; graduated from Paseo High School, Kansas City, Mo., 1945; attended Olivet College, Kankakee, Ill., 1946–1947; B.A., University of Missouri, Kansas City, Mo., 1951; elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-fourth and to the Ninety-fifth Congresses (January 3, 1975–January 3, 1979); unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Ninety-sixth Congress in 1978; special adviser to the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, February 1979–May 1980; Assistant Secretary of Education, June 1980–January 1981; consultant; director, Center for a New Democracy, 1985–1986.
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Early Political Experience
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys describes the value of her experience as a volunteer for George McGovern's presidential campaign.
"Thinking About Running for Congress"
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys explains how she made the jump from working on campaigns to running for Congress.
Not an Obstacle
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys shares her observations about the role of gender in her congressional campaigns.
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys recalls the family support she received when she ran for Congress.
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys describes her congressional district in the 1970s.
"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 remembers the initial obstacles when forming a caucus for women Members.
"Not In Tune with the Times"
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys describes the changing atmosphere in the House during the post-Watergate era and its effect on committee chairmen.
Waging a Campaign for Ways and Means
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys recalls her campaign to win a spot on the influential House Ways and Means Committee.
Ways and Means Chairmen
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys compares the leadership of Ways and Means Committee chairmen Al Ullman of Oregon and Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois.
Married Couple in Congress
The Honorable Martha Elizabeth Keys recalls how she balanced married life with Representative Andy Jacobs of Indiana and her job as a Congresswoman from Kansas.
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