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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 13–24 of 28 results

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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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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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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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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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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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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