The Honorable Helen Delich Bentley
The name recognition and maritime expertise Helen Bentley accrued as a longtime journalist covering the Baltimore city docks contributed to her successful run for Congress after two previous attempts. In the House, Bentley focused on shipping and trade issues, while also paying close attention to constituent service in her Maryland district.
U.S. Representative from Maryland (January 3, 1985–January 3, 1995)
Helen Delich Bentley came to Congress in 1985 as a well-known figure in her Baltimore-based district. As a longtime journalist for the Baltimore Sun, a producer of a local television show, and an acknowledged expert on maritime affairs, Bentley had an impressive resume that also included government service as Federal Maritime Commissioner. Much of Bentley’s oral history focuses on her career before she won election to the House. (The former Congresswoman passed away before a second planned interview with the Office of the Historian transpired.) She discusses, for example, her first foray into politics as a volunteer for U.S. Representative Jim Scrugham’s successful run for one of Nevada's U.S. Senate seats in 1942. Bentley briefly worked for Senator Scrugham, but left Washington, D.C., for Maryland when offered a job with the Sun. Initially assigned to cover labor, she quickly switched to reporting on the Baltimore docks and maritime issues. Her work led her to cross paths with local and national political figures and influenced her decision to make the jump to public office.
In 1980, Bentley ran for Congress against the incumbent Representative, Clarence “Doc” Long. Bentley recalls her three campaigns against Long—she defeated him on her third try—and her defining issue of protecting the Baltimore Harbor. Throughout her decade in the House, she emphasized constituent service and focused on many local issues. In her interview, Bentley discusses the role of women in politics and the impact of gender discrimination on her public career. Bentley also talks about her women colleagues from Maryland and reflects on her role as a mentor and inspiration to younger women.
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First Political Experience: Part One
First Political Experience: Part Two
"The Port That Built a City"
Running for Congress
Experience, Not Gender
"We Just Had to Out-Bentley Them"
Importance of Constituent Service
"Working Together as a Team"
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