“I think that initially I was just so excited about being able to go and do this that it wasn’t until all of the press stuff started to happen that I realized people were really interested, and when I got to Washington, people were sending me news clips from the newspapers all across the country. And that’s when it hit me how the media makes it so public that everybody was aware of it, and it was a buzz because it was a first. And people did pay attention to it. And it was also, in the time, and this was 35 years ago, where women were making firsts. The whole opportunity for women was different. So, yes, I became more aware of it as it happened, as it unrolled, than before I did it.”
— Felda Looper, May 21, 2007
In the midst of the women’s rights movement, Felda Looper became the first female Page in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her noteworthy achievement came after a vigorous and lengthy letter-writing campaign in which she pleaded with future Speaker of the House Carl Albert for an opportunity to serve as a House Page. During her short tenure as a House employee, Looper recalled receiving a warm welcome from House Leaders, Members, and Pages. Her interview revealed many details about the Page program of the period, such as the daily assignments and typical living arrangements for Pages, as well as their access to lawmakers and the Capitol complex. Moreover, Looper’s descriptions of the politically-charged atmosphere in Washington, D.C.—fueled by the Watergate scandal and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)—provide a firsthand look at the behind-the-scenes role Pages played in the congressional institution. More than a symbol of the women’s rights movement, Looper successfully changed the face of the Page program by making it possible for countless young women to serve as House Pages.
Felda Looper was born on January 9, 1955, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Omer (Joe) Looper, an osteopathic physician, and Maxine Moody Looper. On a family trip to Washington, D.C., in 1966, which included a visit to the Capitol, Looper questioned her Oklahoma Representative, and the Democratic Whip Carl Albert, about the longstanding tradition of only hiring young men as congressional Pages. Not satisfied with Albert’s response to investigate the matter, Looper wrote numerous letters to his office reminding him of her interest in serving as a Page and of the inherent gender discrimination in barring young women from holding the position. Shortly before graduating from Heavener High School in Heavener, Oklahoma, in 1973, Looper’s determination paid off when she received an offer to serve as a Page from Albert, who by then had risen to serve as Speaker of the House.
Appointed on May 14, 1973, Looper began her Page tenure a week later on May 21, 1973. Her historic appointment received widespread media coverage. During Looper’s first day on the job she answered questions from reporters, posed for pictures, met her fellow Pages, and toured the Capitol. As a Page, she performed the same tasks as her male counterparts, primarily running errands for the Members of Congress. Although employed for a brief period, Looper had the opportunity to witness historic debates, speeches, and hearings during the summer of 1973, which focused on women’s rights and the Watergate scandal.
At the conclusion of her Page service, Looper attended the University of Oklahoma. She graduated in 1977 with a degree in political science. Two years later, she earned an M.A. in Special Studies (Industrial Psychology-Motivation and Achievement) from George Washington University. She later lived in Paris, France, where she worked for the International Counseling Service. Looper went on to open her own retail business in Washington, D.C., before working as a Web site developer, marketing director, and consultant. Currently a resident of Washington, D.C., Looper is employed as an independent consultant.
Access to the Capitol during the 1970s
The open environment in the Capitol Building in the 1970s.
Campaign to Become First Female Page
Felda Looper reflects on her first meeting with then Majority Whip Carl Albert of Oklahoma.
Memories of Fellow Pages and the Democratic Cloakroom
Descriptions of Felda Looper's fellow Pages and the Page school environment.
Cognizant of Making History
Reflections on the historical significance of being the first female House Page.
First Day as Page
Recollections of media attention and memories of Speaker of the House Carl Albert of Oklahoma.