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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 24 results

Edition for Educators — House History for Remote Learning

With schools closed amid the pandemic, the Offices of History, Art & Archives have put together lesson plans and resources to help everyone continue to learn about history of the House of Representatives and what role it plays in America’s unique system of government.
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Categories: Edition for Educators

“I Do Hope You Can See Me Today”

About 20 minutes before noon, on Thursday, May 16, 1991, Members and Senators packed the House Chamber for a historic Joint Meeting of Congress. A small platform had been placed on the middle level of the rostrum, hidden from view, and a straight-backed chair a few feet over had been specially reserved. At the rostrum’s microphone stood a bespectacled woman in a peach-colored hat.
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Categories: Practice & Customs

“How Does She Do This?”: Mothers in Congress

To commemorate the centennial of the election of the first woman to Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the Office of the Historian conducted interviews with former women Members and staff. The interviews covered a range of topics, including a growing phenomenon—the election of women with young children. By 1998, more than 20 percent of women Members came to Congress with children under the age of 18.
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“Who Do You Represent?”

In March 1971 the 13 African-American Members of the U.S. House of Representatives founded the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), declaring their intention to reshape policy, legislation, and the nature of representation on Capitol Hill. For the first time, black Members worked together to draft an agenda for African-American communities across the nation.
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Dreams Can Come True

Clerk Donnald K. Anderson’s 35-year career in the U.S. House began somewhat improbably before he was even old enough to vote.
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Obstacles and Opportunities: The Experiences of Two Women Members on the Campaign Trail

Since the 1970s, women candidates running for Congress have increasingly carved out more opportunities and built new coalitions. The Office of the Historian conducted interviews with several former women Members who traveled distinct routes to Capitol Hill. Two seemingly disparate stories from the early 1990s highlight how far women candidates have come since Rankin first won election more than 100 years ago.
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House Pages Shoulder the Weight of History: The Story Behind an Iconic Image

Sixty-five years ago, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party opened fire on the House Chamber from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five Members, and causing mayhem across the Capitol. In the midst of the terror, others on the floor responded by assisting those wounded in the attack. Photographs snapped in the aftermath captured these efforts, including an iconic image of three young House Pages carrying a wounded Member down the steps of the Capitol. Perhaps more than any other image, that photo came to embody both the violence and the solemnity of the day.
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Bridging the Divide

During the second half of the 20th century, the world watched as the United States and the Soviet Union clashed in a Cold War struggle that had many fronts: military, economic, cultural, and ideological. But by the mid-1980s, that chilly relationship began to thaw as leaders in both countries engaged in renewed dialogue. Recognizing an opportune moment, Congresswoman Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island and a few of her House colleagues hoped to bridge the divide between the two nations by using new technology to open communication between Moscow and Washington.
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Unique Circumstances: A Look at the House Journal on September 11, 2001

Eve Butler-Gee pulled up to the United States Capitol under a cobalt-blue sky early on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was well before the workday began, but she hoped to complete a stack of paperwork before the legislative session started at 9 a.m. As a House journal clerk, she had to proofread the prior day’s House Journal and then report to the floor to record a new day’s proceedings.
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Everyone Loves a Good Story!

People tell stories for many reasons: to entertain, to make connections, to explain a point of view. Oral histories rely on stories of all kinds to complement other sources about past events and historic figures. Individual oral histories featuring descriptive anecdotes and personal reflections can stand on their own, but when several oral histories are woven together around a common theme or event, they work to tell a more complex and complete account.
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A Century of Women in Congress

On November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. “I may be the first woman member of Congress,” she observed upon her election. “But I won’t be the last.”

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Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling

By now, most people are familiar with the metaphorical “breaking the glass ceiling” to depict monumental gains made by women in politics, business, industry, and sports. Iconic images like Rosie the Riveter during World War II illustrated a break from tradition that made it more acceptable for women to leave the sphere of domesticity and move into the workforce. Well before the Second World War, Jeannette Rankin of Montana played her part in shattering gender stereotypes when in 1917, she became the first woman elected to Congress. This milestone paved the way for hundreds of women to follow in her footsteps.
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