Becoming the Women's Reading Room

Edith Green Notepad/tiles/non-collection/2/2005_167_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
A 10-term Member from Oregon, Edith Green pressed for a larger retiring space for Congresswomen in 1958.
The Capitol, designed long before women could actively participate in lawmaking, was ill-prepared for the changes in Congress during the 20th century. Speaker Nicholas Longworth designated a room on the first floor of the Capitol as a lavatory and lounge for the three women in the House in 1927.

From Lavatory to a Reading Room

By the end of the 1950s, the number of women in Congress quintupled, bringing to light the lack of women’s restroom facilities anywhere near the House Chamber. In 1958, women in Congress, led by Edith Green of Oregon, began to press for a more appropriate room of their own. Seventeen women shared a single lavatory in 1962. With Green’s leadership, the Congresswomen’s petition for control of room H-235, the eventual Boggs room, was successful, giving them additional space and a new powder room. Representative Frances Bolton showed a particular interest in outfitting the space, taking the lead in acquiring furniture and choosing upholsteries.

Although not as close to the Chamber as the co-ed Members’ Retiring Room or the men’s lavatory adjacent to the Speaker’s Lobby, the Congressional Ladies Retiring Room, as it was first officially called, was a great improvement in convenience. In 1991, room H-235 was renamed the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room to honor Lindy Boggs’s 50-year association with Congress. It was the first room in the Capitol named for a woman. Today, it serves as a gathering place for Congresswomen, as well as a place for rest and refreshment, with its walls lined with photographs of each Congresswoman who served in the House.

The Honorable Constance A. Morella shares memories of the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Room:

The Honorable Constance A. Morella, U.S. Representative of Maryland Interview recorded June 16, 2015 Transcript (PDF)

View similar videos from the Oral History project, A Century of Women in Congress.

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