Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz
“And I got pregnant. And everybody said, ‘Oh, that’s great, going to leave, go home, have a baby, we’ll find somebody to replace you.’ And I went, ‘No, no, wait, wait, wait, wait! No, no, we need both salaries. I need to work, so what is the leave policy?’ They didn’t have one. Okay, so I kind of waited for them, and they dragged their feet a little, and finally I was approached, and they said, ‘Well, what we’ve decided is, we’re going to give you three months off with pay, and then you can come back to work, and your job will be here.’ And that was just the [Science] Committee. I have no idea what other committees did, or Members’ offices, but that’s what they decided to do.”
— Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz, June 22, 2015
When Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz accepted a positon as a secretary for the House Science and Astronautics Committee (later House Science Committee) in 1969, women often worked in typing pools for a professional staff predominantly composed of men. Over time, Schwartz used her determination and willingness to accept new projects and take advantage of growing opportunities for women staff on Capitol Hill. In her interview, Schwartz discusses the evolving role of women staff and Members in Congress, including her increased responsibilities on both the Science and Judiciary committees during her nearly four-decade House career. She also recollects the hiring process for committees, her early mentors, and the influence of the Cold War on the Science Committee in the 1970s and 1980s.
When Schwartz became pregnant a few years after joining the Science Committee, she surprised her colleagues when she opted to return to work after giving birth. Her decision prompted the committee to grant her maternity leave, and over time, Schwartz recalls, the committee formalized a policy as more mothers with young children returned to the workforce. In her oral history, Schwartz describes a mostly welcoming work environment for women, however, early in her career she fought against a practice that kept her salary lower than many of her women colleagues because her husband was employed. Schwartz’s interview touches upon the different experiences of women working for Congress during the 1970s and 1980s—drawing a particular contrast between women working for committees and those in Members’ offices. It also provides a rare look at how the institution responded to issues affecting women staff.
In 2007, the Office of the Historian conducted two interviews with Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz about her House career.
Patricia (Tish) Speed Schwartz was born in 1946, in Abington, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. The middle child of William Goodwin Speed, an electrical engineer and World War II veteran, and Jane Hoskinson, a homemaker and office manager, Tish attended nearby Catholic schools, St. Luke’s and Bishop McDevitt High School. Urged by her father to leave the confines of Philadelphia to explore the wider world and apply for a job as a flight attendant, Tish accepted the challenge and worked for Northwest Airlines for two-and-a-half years.
Tish left behind the uncertainty of a career in which female employees who married or were considered too old to work as flight attendants were dismissed by airlines. She moved to Northern Virginia where she found employment as a security officer for a software firm. In 1969, she visited Pennsylvania Representative Edward Beister’s U.S. Capitol office looking for a new job. “I thought if I’m going to live in the Washington, D.C., area, then this is what’s happening and this is where everything is,” Tish later recollected. Although the office did not have any openings, the administrative assistant, Mary Ellen Ducander, encouraged her husband Charles Ducander, a Science Committee staffer, to interview Tish for a secretarial job. Tish accepted a position with the committee, paving the way for her nearly four-decade career on the Hill.
In 1970, Tish married Stephen Schwartz. The couple welcomed a son, William Norman Schwartz, in 1975. While employed by the House, Tish Schwartz attended Northern Virginia Community School for two years, and earned a secretarial certificate from the Washington School for Secretaries.
Initially hired as a secretary for the Science Committee, Schwartz quickly branched out working as a publications clerk, transcript coordinator, and hearings clerk for several Science subcommittees. In 1976 she joined the newly created minority staff for the Science Committee. Here, she performed an array of administrative tasks in her role as administrative assistant on the Science Committee for Republican Members, Larry Winn of Kansas, Manuel Luján of New Mexico, and Robert Walker of Pennsylvania.
When Republicans took control of the House in 1995 for the first time in four decades, Schwartz was appointed Chief Clerk Administrator for the Science Committee. In her new position, she oversaw the hiring and training of the new majority staff, contributed to the development of policies for committee websites, and spearheaded the modernization and technological renovation of the Science Committee’s hearing room.
Schwartz left the Science Committee in 2000, to work as the Chief Clerk Administrator for the House Committee on the Judiciary. During her six years with Judiciary she implemented many of the administrative policies and procedures that she established on the Science Committee. She also took the lead in the archiving the records of the impeachment proceedings against President William J. “Bill” Clinton.
On January 2, 2007, Tish Schwartz retired after 37 years of service in the House.
Patricia Schwartz recalls the responsibilities of the clerical pool for the House Science Committee in the early 1970s.
Salary of a Married Woman
Patricia Schwartz describes the way marital status created inequalities in pay.
Coming Back to Work
Patricia Schwartz discusses the challenges working women faced in the office in the 1970s.
Men in Clerical Positions: Part One
Patricia Schwartz discusses entry level positions for men and women on the Hill.
Men in Clerical Positions: Part Two
Patricia Schwartz remembers men and women competing for clerical positions on the Hill.
Patricia Schwartz describes taking initiative on the job and bringing a women's perspective to the legislative process.
Women Working Together
Patricia Schwartz discusses how relationships between women in the workplace have changed over time.
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