The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder
“It was very frustrating, when I announced for Congress, the newspaper said, ‘Denver housewife runs for Congress.’ I mean they didn’t even put my name in. And I kept thinking, ‘Well, yeah, I’m a housewife, but I’m also a Harvard lawyer. I also work at a university. I’m a hiring officer.’ So it was really a problem from day one, from that standpoint. Women’s rights were starting to come to the fore. They weren’t quite there but they were beginning, it was all bubbling. And a lot of people were absolutely horrified because I had two children, two little children. And I will never forget when I won. So many people said, ‘Oh, I don’t know how you’re going to do this.’ And I was kind of the same way. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it either but I guess I’ve got to do it, so let’s figure this out.’”
—The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder, June 3, 2015
U.S. Representative from Colorado (January 3, 1973–January 3, 1997)
As a passionate and outspoken feminist, Patricia (Pat) Scott Schroeder emerged as a national spokesperson for women’s rights during her 24 years in the House. Schroeder’s unlikely path to Congress in 1973—as a young mother of two with little financial backing and no state or national party support—surprised experts and delighted supporters. In an era with few incentives or support networks for working mothers, Schroeder learned to navigate the halls of Congress juggling a young family and politics. In her interview, she addresses balancing motherhood and her career and describes the obstacles women faced when she first arrived at the Capitol, including inadequate bathroom and exercise facilities, restricted areas set aside for men, and the refusal of some male Members to treat their female colleagues as equals. Schroeder recalls the formation and evolution of the Congresswomen’s Caucus and considered how the organization helped Congresswomen bolster their position despite their small numbers.
Not interested in blending in or waiting for change to occur, Schroeder adopted a more aggressive approach as a woman in Congress. She describes how she championed many issues affecting women during her time in the House—pay equity, job protection for family and medical leave, and women’s health—and recalls her participation in the memorable protest march by women Representatives to the Senate on behalf of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Colorado Representative also explains how, after winning her first election as a vocal antiwar activist, she earned a seat on the Armed Services Committee and used her position to help women in the military. Having first arrived in the House when women Representatives were rare, Schroeder later mentored many Congresswomen during her political career.
SCHROEDER, Patricia Scott, a Representative from Colorado; born Patricia Nell Scott in Portland, Multnomah County, Oreg., July 30, 1940; graduated from Roosevelt High School, Des Moines, Iowa, 1958; B.A., University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., 1961; J.D., Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass., 1964; lawyer, private practice; lawyer, National Labor Relations Board, 1964–1966; teacher, 1969-1972; elected as a Democrat to the Ninety–third and to the eleven succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1973–January 3, 1997); chair, Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families (One Hundred Second and One Hundred Third Congresses); was not a candidate for reelection to the One Hundred Fifth Congress in 1996.
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Role of Gender in the Campaign
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes the way the media, the public, and her new colleagues reacted to her candidacy as a married woman with young children.
"She Wins, We Win," and the FBI
Congresswoman Schroeder wanted to accomplish several things with her campaign slogan, including communicating her stance on humanitarian rights and clearly stating her gender. Unexpectedly, it also prompted FBI surveillance of her 1972 campaign.
Unorthodox Campaign Materials
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes her campaign flyers for the 1972 congressional campaign.
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes the confusion that occurred when she arrived in the House as a new Member.
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder relays her surprise at the generational divide between women Members.
Women and the Bicentennial
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes the ways gender roles shaped the Bicentennial programs.
Being a Member of Congress with Young Children
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes the difficulty of maintaining professionalism while traveling with her young children.
Getting an Unlikely Spot on the Armed Services Committee
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder recalls her surprising route to a seat on the Armed Services Committee.
Sharing a Chair with Representative Ron Dellums of California
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder describes the power of the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Anita Hill and a Capitol Protest
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder discusses using the media to her advantage during the 1991 controversy involving Anita Hill and the nomination of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice.
"Year of the Woman" and Incremental Gains
The Honorable Patricia Scott Schroeder discusses the slow rise in the number of women in Congress.
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