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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 28 results

Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Congress

Jeannette Rankin
One hundred years ago, Jeannette Rankin of Montana made history as the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress. This year, we celebrate 100 years of Women in Congress.
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“Female Cranks” and “Gallery Girls”

There once was a room in the Capitol that no longer exists—the Ladies’ Reception Room. Well-dressed young women, stouthearted activists, and despairing widows filled its sofas and chairs in the 19th century. Long before women entered the House Chamber as Representatives, this space was a battleground in the clash over women’s “proper” role in politics.
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Wash, Rinse, and Equal Treatment

In December 1967 Representative Martha Griffiths stepped in to save a teetering but beloved decades-old institution known as the House Beauty Shop. What began as a makeover became a movement for equality on Capitol Hill.
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From Candidate to Congresswoman

Early on November 7, 1916, households with telephones in Montana received a call. “Good morning! Have you voted for Jeannette Rankin?”
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A Boston Teaparty Party

On December 16, 1773, colonists dumped British tea into Boston Harbor, a political protest and iconic event in American history. One hundred and one years later, the nation commemorated the event by doing just the opposite: serving tea at parties across the nation.
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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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The Original “Year of the Woman”

The woman suffrage campaign appeared to begin 1916 in rough shape. Beyond internal drama among suffragists, however, widely scattered action was taking place at the grassroots. Over the course of 1916 numerous women candidates were seeking election to Congress, and several had entered major-party primaries that now dominated candidate selection throughout the country. Jeannette Rankin was far from alone.
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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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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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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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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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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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