Historical Highlights

Representative Maude “Elizabeth” Kee of West Virginia

February 15, 1975
Representative Maude “Elizabeth” Kee of West Virginia Image courtesy of National Archives Records Administration Succeeding her late husband, John Kee of West Virginia, in 1951, Elizabeth Kee went on to chair the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Veterans’ Hospitals.
On this date, Representative Maude “Elizabeth” Kee, the first woman to represent West Virginia in Congress and part of a long political dynasty, died in Bluefield, West Virginia. Born Maude Etta Simpkins in Radford, Virginia, on June 7, 1895, she attended the National Business College and took her first job as a secretary for the Roanoke Times. Her marriage to James A. Frazier ended in divorce, though she eventually re-married to Frazier’s attorney. The couple settled in Bluefield, in southeastern West Virginia, where her new husband, John Kee, first won election to the U.S. House in the 73rd Congress (1933–1935). Elizabeth Kee served as his executive secretary, including his service after 1949 as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. She once described her job as “being all things to all constituents,” a combination of “clergyman, lawyer, psychiatrist and family friend.” When John Kee died suddenly in 1951, local Democratic leaders chose Elizabeth to succeed him. She eventually served seven terms, chaired the Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Hospitals, and became a leading advocate for the coal-mining industry, a major employer in her district. During the 1950s, she criticized massive foreign aid packages, particularly when economic conditions in her own district were deteriorating. Foreign aid was important, Kee admitted, “But not more important than bread and milk for coal miners’ children, good jobs for their fathers, new industries and increased business activity for economically depressed American towns and cities.” When she announced her retirement from the House in 1964, her son, James, won her seat, accounting for one of the few father-mother-son combinations in congressional history and making her the first Congresswoman to be succeeded directly by one of her children. From 1933 until 1973, a Kee family Member represented the district.

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