Historical Highlights

The Five Dunn Sisters Work for the House

April 08, 1924
The Five Dunn Sisters Work for the House Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Photographed for a Washington Post feature, the five Dunn sisters (Goldie, Jean, Billie, Marge, and Vera) posed on the terrace of what is now the Cannon House Office Building.
On this date, the five Dunn sisters ate lunch on the terrace of the House Office Building and sat for a series of photographs. The sisters occupy a unique place in House history as all five—Goldie, Vera, Billie, Marguerite (Marge), and Jean—worked as secretaries for various House Members. Hailing from Dodge, Nebraska, Jean, Goldie, and likely Marge started working for the House in 1923. The following year, their sisters joined them on Capitol Hill: Goldie worked for Representative Robert Simmons of Nebraska; Vera for Representative James Frear of Wisconsin; Billie for Representative Melvin McLaughlin of Nebraska; Marge for Representative Frank Mondell of Wyoming; and Jean for Representative John Clarke of New York. Their unique position garnered them national celebrity. The Atlanta Constitution declared the Dunn sisters, “Five Good Reasons” why one would want to run for office, describing them all as “charming, bobbed-hair and efficient.” The Chicago Daily Tribune ran a large photo of the five sisters, the caption concluding with the question, “Beauty and brains? Quite so.” The sisters were also mentioned in a tongue-in-cheek article examining court cases in which women fought for the right to cut their hair, regardless of their husbands’s wishes. A photograph of the Dunn sisters accompanied the piece, captioned with the words, “Down in Washington there are the five Dunn sisters who specialize in secretarial jobs to Congressmen, bobbed hair and good looks. What husband could be so heartless as to ban a bob for one of them?” They also achieved a certain amount of recognition within Washington circles, earning mentions in the society column of the Washington Post for their attendance at prominent events. Even after leaving their secretarial jobs, the Dunn sisters’s comings and goings remained newsworthy. In 1926, U.S. Marshal Snyder appointed Vera Dunn a deputy marshal, or “marshalette,” for the District of Columbia. Later, she and her sister, Billie, also made headlines after appearing in musicals, plays, and theater-houses in New York City throughout the late 1920s and 1930s.

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