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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 25–36 of 41 results

Jeannette Rankin’s Fight to Make Mines Safe for Democracy

On August 18, 1917, 15,000 people packed into a baseball park in the mining town of Butte, Montana, to listen as Representative Jeannette Rankin assailed the Anaconda Copper Mining Company for its role in an ongoing labor dispute. Two months earlier, on June 8, an inferno had engulfed the nearby Speculator Mine, killing 168 miners. In the aftermath, the surviving miners went on strike, and Rankin traveled to her home state to offer her full-throated support for the walk out. The Washington Times reported, “Miss Jeannette Rankin is a friend of the striking miners.”
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Representing the President

In the spring of 1921, Republican Walter Folger Brown of Ohio, the chairman of Congress’s Joint Committee on the Reorganization of the Administrative Branch of the Government, began overhauling the size and shape of the federal bureaucracy. On paper, he seemed like a natural choice to lead Congress’s efforts to overhaul the government: a discreet business leader with progressive credentials from the key state of Ohio. A natural choice, that is, except for one detail: Brown was not a Member of Congress.
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Hawaii Four-9

Samuel King with a 49-Star U.S. Flag
Samuel Wilder King stands tall, looking directly into the camera. The Hawaiian Delegate’s eyes twinkle with pride. His open hand gestures to one star on the U.S. flag behind him—the 49th star. This unofficial flag, made by Hawaiian women in 1935, showed the territory’s aspiration to become a state, including it as a star. In the 20th century, flags became symbols of Hawaii’s status in the offices of its Territorial Delegates.
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“Go All The Way”

In January 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives began a long-term plan to win back the confidence of the American people.
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Jeannette Rankin’s Struggle for Democracy in Industry

On July 8, 1917, Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, addressed a crowd of more than 3,000 at Braves Field in Boston, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw from the Charles River. On stage, Rankin resembled “a college girl, of medium height, slight of build, with large dark eyes and an expressive face,” the Boston Globe reported, adding that the “woman Congressman” has a “sort of girlish laughing appeal in her voice.” But the newspaper was quick to make clear that “there is the weight of thought and logic in her words,” and proceeded to provide a window into the priorities occupying the Congresswoman in the summer of 1917.
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Edition for Educators—Civil Rights Legislation

This edition for educators focuses on important legislation featured in the minorities in Congress series (Women in Congress, Black Americans in Congress, and Hispanic Americans in Congress).
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Unprohibited

On February 20, 1933, Speaker Garner struggled to maintain order on the House Floor as Thomas Blanton, a “dry,” made a final stand in support of Prohibition. Garner impatiently tapped the inkstand on the rostrum as Representatives booed and shouted “Vote, vote!” After the House voted to repeal Prohibition, the galleries and halls overflowed with the applause of spectators. Yet dismantling the legislative trails of the 18th Amendment took nearly a year. Like a bar crawl, the end of Prohibition was full of awkward moments, fights, and beer.
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Rising up in the House—Part II:
The House Debates the “Irish Question”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to denounce German aggression. Dramatically abandoning his commitment to neutrality, he urged Congress to declare war on Imperial Germany to “make the world safe for democracy.” Wilson emphasized that the United States must undertake a principled intervention in the war in order to protect the right of self-determination for small nations. When Congress passed a war declaration on April 6, Members seized the moment to revive the issue of Irish independence, which had failed to gain traction in the House a year earlier when Missouri Representative Leonidas C. Dyer insisted that Congress support the Easter Rising.
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Categories: Legislation, War

Rising up in the House—Part I:
Rep. Dyer and the Irish Rebellion of 1916

On April 24, 1916, Irish republicans took up arms against the British government in what became known as the Easter Rising. They seized the General Post Office in Dublin and distributed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which affirmed the right of the Irish people to form an independent government and claimed the support of Ireland’s “exiled children in America.” The Irish insurgency, and the British response to it, both captivated and appalled the U.S. public—including Congress.
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Categories: Legislation, War

Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage “Like Going to Normandy with Dwight Eisenhower”

Annual Selma Pilgrimmage
Rarely do we visit a historic site with someone who helped to make history there. But this weekend, more than 60 Members of Congress will travel to Alabama with Selma veteran and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage will commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches which spurred passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The pilgrimage is an important congressional tradition and one the Office of the Historian chronicles through its civil rights oral history project.
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Before Bloody Sunday

Congressional Delegation to Visit Alabama
A month before Selma became synonymous with the struggle for voting rights, a group of Congressmen traveled to the city and returned to Washington to sound the alarm. “We—as Members of Congress—must face the fact that existing legislation just is not working,” Joseph Resnick of New York said upon his return. “The situation in Selma must jar us from our complacency concerning voting rights.”
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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House

Representative Charles F. Reavis of Nebraska
In our age of voluminous email traffic and cluttered inboxes, it’s easy to overlook certain correspondence and even misplace particular documents. Things get lost in the shuffle, we say. It happens. But as the White House demonstrated in 1920, it’s been happening for longer than we might imagine, and well before the advent of email.
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