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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 39 results

“Why Not Have it Constitutionally?”: Race, Gender, and the Nineteenth Amendment

On May 21, 1919, Representative James Mann of Illinois, the bespectacled, gray-bearded, 62-year-old former Republican Leader, made an announcement from the House Floor, cementing a change in American history that had been building for decades. “I call up House joint resolution No. 1, proposing an amendment to the Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women,” he said, “and ask that the resolution be reported.”
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House-Brewed Home Brew

John Philip Hill and Guests at the Franklin Farms Party
Representative John Philip Hill tried very hard to get arrested by the Commissioner of Prohibition.
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The Search for Common Ground

In the span of five months during the winter and spring of 1962 two major entrenched powers faced off in an obstinate battle of wills. This wasn’t a traditional war, but more of a smoldering, protracted conflict between long-time rivals with competing interests. Territory was contested. Stakes escalated. Worldviews were challenged. Catastrophe beckoned. And all the while, the ability of the federal government to function hung in the balance.
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“I Ask Nothing Because I am a Negro”: A Letter to the Committee on Military Affairs

By age 26, Henry Ossian Flipper’s place in history was already assured. In 1877, he was the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his race was a fact his fellow students never let him forget. He was the first African-American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
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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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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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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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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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Leave No Forwarding Address: When Congress Almost Abandoned D.C.

Admiral George Cockburn
It was a low moment. When the 13th Congress (1813–1815) trickled into Washington, D.C., in September 1814 for a third session, they found a terrorized community, most public buildings destroyed, and a humiliated army on retreat. Once the grandest building in North America, the unfinished Capitol resembled a charcoal briquette. And though the invading British forces had departed more than three weeks previously, the damage they inflicted—both physical and emotional—very nearly convinced the shocked legislators to abandon Washington for good.
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