The Honorable Claudine Schneider
With little prior political experience, Claudine Schneider won a seat in the House on her second try with an effective grassroots campaign. The first and only woman elected from Rhode Island, Schneider’s independent approach to politics led her to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on issues including the environment, women’s rights, and ways to minimize tensions during the Cold War.
U.S. Representative from Rhode Island (January 3, 1981–January 3, 1991)
During her decade in the U.S. House of Representatives, Claudine Schneider viewed herself as a problem solver, not a politician. Schneider surprised many experts when she overcame several perceived obstacles of the era—her young age and gender—as well as a lack of political experience to win one of Rhode Island’s two House seats. In her oral history, Schneider discusses her path to running for Congress in 1978 and 1980. Her grassroots campaigns included visits to local bowling alleys, hospitals, and grocery stores, contributing to her eventual defeat of the incumbent Edward Beard.
As a Congresswoman, Schneider had a reputation as coalition builder. A member of the “Gypsy Moths” (a group of moderate Republicans who represented New England and Midwestern districts) with allies on both sides of the aisle, she often found herself courted by the Republican Leadership and President Ronald Reagan. In her interview, Schneider explains her approach to politics which included a global perspective, independent thinking, and an emphasis on environmentalism. She also speaks of the evolving role of the Congresswomen’s Caucus, which she credited with bringing attention to lesser-known, but significant issues affecting women. Schneider observes how it took her election to the House to realize the gender discrimination embedded in many laws. The Rhode Island Congresswoman reflects on some of the subtle differences she perceived between her male and female colleagues, such as the motivation to run for Congress and the attention paid to Members in committee or during floor proceedings based on gender. Rooted in her own political experience, Schneider highlights the importance of women running for Congress and being active within the institution.
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Claudine for Congress
"Next Time, Claudine"
Gender, Age, and Congress
"A Wait-and-See Attitude"
Unsuccessful Committee Bid
Motivation to Run for Congress
"Congress Needs a Conscience"
The "Gypsy Moths"
"Wait a Minute, I am a Feminist"
Jeannette Rankin's Statue
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