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Historical Highlights

The First Woman Representative to Preside Over the House Chamber

June 20, 1921
The First Woman Representative to Preside Over the House Chamber Image courtesy of Library of Congress Two years after suffragist Jeannette Rankin of Montana left office, Alice Robertson of Oklahoma entered the House of Representatives. Despite being a woman, she was not a proponent of womens rights.
On this date, Alice Robertson of Oklahoma became the first woman to preside over a session of the U.S. House of Representatives. Members had just concluded deliberations for appropriating $15,000 to send a United States delegation to observe the centennial celebration of Peru’s independence. Speaker Pro Tempore  Joseph Walsh of Massachusetts called Robertson to the chair to preside over the roll call vote on the measure. Former Speaker  Joe Cannon of Illinois, seated in the front row, joined House Members who delivered a thunderous ovation as Robertson mounted the rostrum. She rapped the gavel twice to bring the House to order as the roll call began. Known for her wit and outspoken positions against women’s rights organizations, Robertson was largely silent during the half hour when she wielded the gavel. After the roll was taken, she declared in an authoritative voice, “On this vote the yeas were 209 and the nays 42. Two-thirds having voted in the affirmative, the resolution is passed.” A smiling Representative Robertson then left the rostrum amid a final round of applause.

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