Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators - Women in Congress in their Own Words

Cardiss Collins Campaign Button, 1973-1978/tiles/non-collection/2/2007_238_004.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Cardiss Collins was elected to 12 consecutive terms and became one of Congress' longest-serving African-
American women. 

New York Representative Bella Abzug famously campaigned on the slogan, “This woman’s place is in the House … the House of Representatives!” Since 1917, more than 275 women have served in the House of Representatives. Some, like Jeannette Rankin of Montana, Shirley Chisholm of New York, or Martha Griffiths of Michigan left an enduring mark on the institution through historic firsts and groundbreaking legislation. The history of women who served in Congress is one shaped by changes in American society and in the House. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we invite you to learn more about these Members in their own words.

“How shall we answer the challenge, gentlemen? How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”
—Jeannette Rankin of Montana

“We will no longer wait for political power to be shared with us, we will take it.”
—Cardiss Collins of Illinois 

Coya Knutson Campaign Button, 1956-1958/tiles/non-collection/2/2007_243_005.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Next to the familiar symbol of the Capitol, and in patriotic red, white, and blue, this campaign button touts Coya Knutson’s position as the first woman to represent Minnesota in Congress.

“I am not a feminist or anything else of that sort. I do not use my womanhood as a weapon or a tool. . . . What I want most is to be respected and thought of as a person rather than as a woman in this particular job. I would like to feel that I am respected for my ability, my honesty, my judgment, my imagination, and my vision.”
—Coya Knutson of Minnesota 

“The error of most women was they were trying to make the men who sat in Congress not disapprove of them. I think they wanted to be liked, they didn’t want to make enemies. So they didn’t try to do things they thought the men would disapprove of. I didn’t give a damn whether the men approved or not.”
—Martha Griffiths of Michigan

“I am neither a black politician nor a woman politician. Just a politician, a professional politician.”
—Barbara Jordan of Texas

“I don’t like to act only on behalf of women. Wherever injustice occurs, we all need to be concerned.”
—Millicent Fenwick of New Jersey

Featured Oral History

Cokie Roberts talks about her mother, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana.

Cokie Roberts, Congressional Correspondent and Daughter of Representatives Hale and Lindy Boggs of Louisiana Interview recorded July 11, 2008 Transcript (PDF)

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.