Linda Steele came to Washington, D.C., in January 1961 as a secretary for Representative Stanley Tupper of Maine. In 1970, she began more than two decades of service in the office of Representative (and future Republican Leader) Robert Michel of Illinois, rising to the position of deputy chief of staff in Michel’s leadership office.
In 1961, Linda Steele arrived in Washington, D.C., to take a secretarial position in the office of Congressman Stanley Tupper of Maine. After two decades of constituent casework and office management experience on Capitol Hill, she was named deputy chief of staff for House Republican Leader Robert Michel of Illinois, a position she held until her retirement in 1993.
In her oral history, Steele reflects on her long career in the House, providing a window into the world of working women in congressional staff positions. She recalls her rewarding work in constituent service and her method of addressing questions and concerns from district residents. She describes the cooperative spirit among Member offices, and the lively office culture that brought together congressional staff outside the workplace in recreational sports, clubs, and social gatherings. As the primary staff member for the Republican Committee on Committees during the 1980s and early 1990s, Steele also provides insight into the committee selection process. Throughout, she highlights the ways changing ideas about gender roles in American society shaped and reshaped the workplace during her three decades on the Hill.
Linda Steele was born in Camden, Maine, in 1941. Her mother worked as a hairdresser and a housewife, and her father was an attorney active in local politics. During a campaign visit to her family’s home in 1960, Tupper offered Steele a job in his Capitol Hill office should he win election to the U.S. House. After Tupper’s victory, Steele joined his small staff in Washington in early 1961.
To quickly adapt to life and work on the Hill, Steele and her co-workers received advice and instructions from their colleagues in the Maine delegation in the House. She learned to use new office technology and to skillfully navigate the web of offices and agencies that constitute the federal government. She also joined the Congressional Staff Club and became an active part of the community of congressional workers in the 1960s, participating in recreational sports, clubs, and social gatherings with her colleagues.
After a brief interlude working for a nonprofit in downtown Washington in the late 1960s, Steele used her social connections with congressional staff to interview for a job with Representative Michel in 1970. For the next decade, she worked primarily on constituent casework and became adept at helping district residents solve problems and understand the workings of the federal government.
When Michel became Republican Leader in 1981, he named Steele as his deputy chief of staff. From the leadership office in the Capitol, Steele administered the office budget, managed employee work schedules, and served as the primary staff member for the Republican Committee on Committees, the precursor to the Republican Steering Committee, which assigns Members to House committees. In 1993, she retired after more than three decades working for the House of Representatives.
Coming to D.C.
Maine Offices Working Together
Representative Stan Tupper of Maine
Making a Newsletter
Common Bond Between Staff Members
House Dress Code
The Importance of Seniority
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