The Career of Representative Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island
March 25, 1947
Collection of the U.S. House of RepresentativesClaudine Schneider of Rhode Island served five terms in the House from 1981 to 1991 and developed a reputation as a strong environmental advocate.
On this date, Representative Claudine Schneider, the first woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island, was born in Clairton, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Vermont’s Windham College, she briefly worked in environmental education in Washington, DC, before moving to the Ocean State in 1970. Schneider continued her environmental work as a research scientist and founded the Rhode Island Committee on Energy where, in 1974, she successfully campaigned to prevent the construction of a nuclear power plant near Charlestown, Rhode Island. For two years in the late 1970s Schneider produced and hosted a public affairs television show and in 1978 ran for a seat in the U.S. House. Although she intended to run as a Democrat, she found more backing from the state’s Republican Party. Running as a Republican, Schneider lost in the general election taking 47 percent of the vote. After bumper stickers began cropping up around her district with the message “Next Time, Claudine,” Schneider ran again in 1980 and won. In the House, Schneider operated as a moderate and pursued a successful agenda rooted in environmental protection. Her signature achievement was the closure of a nuclear power plant along the Clinch River in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She convinced fiscal conservatives to support her bill because of the prohibitive cost of the plant. “We won it on the economic argument. This was a total, complete victory,” Schneider recalled. . She also used her pre-House experience in television to launch “Congressbridge,” a series of televised discussions in the waning days of the Cold War between legislators from the Soviet Union and Members of Congress. In 1990, she opted to leave the House and run for the Senate, ultimately losing to incumbent Democratic Senator Claiborne Pell.