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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 85 results

Edition for Educators—Madam Chairman

This month’s Edition for Educators celebrates Women’s History Month by turning the focus to the many women who have chaired committees in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, a record seven women chair House committees in the 116th Congress (2019–2021), and many more chair subcommittees responsible for significant sections of legislation and oversight.
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The “So Very Peculiar” Case of Sarah Seelye

Sarah Seelye's Application for Back Pay
Sarah Seelye lived a seemingly ordinary life in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1882. But as her health started to falter at age 43, she realized past adventures were catching up to her. Getting help meant revealing a decades-old secret to Congress: she illegally served in the Union army disguised as a man.
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“How Does She Do This?”: Mothers in Congress

To commemorate the centennial of the election of the first woman to Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the Office of the Historian conducted interviews with former women Members and staff. The interviews covered a range of topics, including a growing phenomenon—the election of women with young children. By 1998, more than 20 percent of women Members came to Congress with children under the age of 18.
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“Every Right and Every Privilege”: Oscar De Priest and Segregation in the House Restaurant

Oscar De Priest Discharge Petition
Oscar De Priest entered the 71st Congress as the only African American in the House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, De Priest confronted racial discrimination, including in the Capitol itself as a Member of Congress.
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Engraving the Phoenix

1907 Print of African-American Members
On a sheet the size of a small poster, 22 politicians’ portraits crowd the image, titled “Colored Men Who Have Served in the Congress of the United States.” The worn print recalls the decades following the Civil War, when African Americans came to Congress to represent their fellow Southerners in the national legislature. And more than a memory, it testifies to the persistence of hope during Jim Crow–era political violence and disenfranchisement.
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Edition for Educators — House Members With Military Service

This Edition for Educators focuses on some of the House Members who served in the United States military before turning their careers to serving in Congress.
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“Who Do You Represent?”

In March 1971 the 13 African-American Members of the U.S. House of Representatives founded the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), declaring their intention to reshape policy, legislation, and the nature of representation on Capitol Hill. For the first time, black Members worked together to draft an agenda for African-American communities across the nation.
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Mildred Reeves and the Quiet Revolution

Sometime around 1916 or 1917, the exact date isn’t clear, a woman in her early 20s from Washington, DC, named Mildred Reeves took a job in the office of Congressman Nicholas Longworth, an up-and-coming Republican legislator from Ohio. Within just two years or so, Reeves had gone from a minor role handling the mail to becoming one of Longworth’s chief aides, responsible for running his office—a position equivalent to today’s chief of staff.
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In the Bag

Detail of Ruth Bryan Owen's Bag
“Representative Ruth Bryan Owen has designed a handbag for business women,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reported. In 1931, the Congresswoman’s pocketbook made the news. Her choice of accessory became a subtle statement about gender expectations in Congress.
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Cloaked in Secrecy

Republican Cloakroom Telephone Message Note
The House Cloakrooms are simple, comfortable waystations where Members can wait between votes, escape for a snack, or conduct business with other Members.
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Congress and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Petition for Woman Suffrage
Women’s suffrage did not take a year, or 10 years, or even 50 years to accomplish. These documents show one aspect of the movement: the institutional perspective of Congress and how citizens and advocacy groups interacted with Congress regarding the right of suffrage for women, as well as the amendment’s passage by Congress.
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“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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