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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 49–60 of 124 results

A Womanly Woman with Womanly Ambitions

On June 1, 1917, Jeannette Rankin penned a letter to her Montana constituents articulating her frustration with some recent media coverage. “No doubt you have read in the papers about my ‘red hair’ and ‘sending the fathers to war’ and other inventions of the eastern press. I wish you were here to see Congress working and to know the true facts,” she wrote. After all, she didn’t have red hair and she voted against American intervention in World War I.
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Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.
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The First Congresswoman’s First Day: April 2, 1917

It was only natural that Jeannette Rankin of Montana repeatedly made history on April 2, 1917, the day she was sworn in as the first woman to serve in Congress.
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Masquerading as Miss Rankin

When Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri adjourned the 64th Congress sine die at noon on March 4, 1917, the House dissolved into customary revelry. Members and visitors joined in throaty renditions of “Dixie” and “The Old Oaken Bucket,” belting out lyrics until the chorus grew hoarse. When the crowd lurched into “How Dry I Am,” the “Wets” in the chamber, those Members who wanted to keep alcohol legal and who were on the verge of failing to block Prohibition, sang with particular gusto.
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Congresswoman Huck Goes to Prison

Winnifred Huck at Her Desk
“I was locked in the Cleveland police station,” wrote Winnifred Huck. “My eyes were getting used to the darkness, and I thought that soon I could see as well as the rats whose green eyes shown from the corners of the room.” In 1925, the former Illinois Congresswoman decided to satisfy her curiosity about prisons, rehabilitation, and working-class life across the United States—by becoming an inmate.
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Members Only

On the afternoon of February 6, 1967, Representatives Catherine May, Patsy Mink, and Charlotte Reid derailed Herb Botts’ day. Botts managed the men’s gym in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building, but he never expected the three Congresswomen to show up for his 4:45 p.m. calisthenics class. Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink pointed to her stuffed handbag and politely announced, “We’ve come to join the class.” Flustered, Botts exclaimed, “It’s just for Members of Congress.”
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The “Mayor of Washington” and the Unexpected Portrait

The story of Representative Mary Norton’s portrait commemorating her stint as “Mayor of Washington” reflects Norton’s guiding ethos throughout her career. Commissioned by a group of notables from the District, and painted by local artist Elaine Hartley, the Norton portrait was executed in a spirit of community in appreciation, and in support of a fellow professional woman.
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Women on a Warship

In early 1949 Connecticut Representative Chase Going Woodhouse received a curious invitation at her Washington office. The Secretary of Defense had invited Members of Congress to spend the night on the aircraft carrier USS Midway to observe the navy’s training exercises as the legislators considered the future of military aviation. The problem was that Woodhouse was one of 10 women serving in the 81st Congress (1949–1951) and navy regulations prohibited women from spending the night on a warship.
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Knock-Out McCarthy: A Political Love Story

The McCarthy-O’Loughlin Wedding
Kansas voters elected their first Congresswoman, Miss Kathryn O’Loughlin, in 1932. But in 1933, Mrs. O’Loughlin McCarthy took office. Romance started on the campaign trail and followed her all the way to Washington.
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Jet and Ebony and Yvonne Burke

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was a rising star in national politics when she arrived in the House in 1973. Mainstream media, however, rarely covered any African-American or female legislator in depth. One exception was the Black media empire founded by Jack Johnson, with the influential Ebony and Jet magazines at its center.
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Henry Clay’s On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with the House

Henry Clay of Kentucky had one of the most superlative political careers in American history. A lawyer by training, Clay served in almost every level of government possible in the 19th century: the Kentucky state house of representatives, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the executive branch as Secretary of State. On top of that, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and ran for President three times over three decades on three different party tickets.
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Advice to New Members

Luther Patrick Makes a Face
On March 6, 1941, Alabama Representative Luther Patrick gave advice to new Members from the House Floor. His 32-point list detailed the dos and don’ts of congressional behavior. If only he took his own advice.
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