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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

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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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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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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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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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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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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No Woman Is an Island

The photograph on the East Front of the Capitol on March 20, 1918, straddled the seasons, winter in Washington yielding to a fresh spring.
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Speaking Up

This wasn’t how Jeannette Rankin envisioned her first speech in the House. Surely, Rankin—who had spent her entire adult life fighting for equal rights before becoming the first woman elected to Congress—would use her inaugural address to champion the issue of women’s suffrage when the moment arose. But recent events in her Montana district forced her to speak up sooner than she had planned.
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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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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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"The Most Gallant Lady from Massachusetts"

Edith Nourse Rogers’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman portrait was unveiled on July 27, 1950. Rogers was exceptional in many ways, she was only the second woman—after her colleague Mary Norton of New Jersey—to have a chairman portrait hung in the House.
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