The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz
Allyson Y. Schwartz built strong local ties in Philadelphia as a social worker, health care executive, and state senator. The only woman in the Pennsylvania delegation for most of her five terms in the House, she used her extensive political and community experience, in addition to a spot on the influential Ways and Means Committee, to pursue health care reform.
U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (January 3, 2005-January 3, 2015)
Allyson Y. Schwartz came of age during a time when traditional gender roles faced growing scrutiny and challenge. In her interview she recalls how the changing expectations for women in society shaped her individual and professional choices. Schwartz’s path to politics began as a community organizer and women’s rights advocate. In her role as a social worker and director of a non-profit women’s health care center, she learned the ins and outs of local, state, and federal government. This knowledge, and the alliances she forged, sparked an interest in pursuing a political career. Schwartz describes her foray into the Pennsylvania state senate—one made more difficult and unlikely because so few women had preceded her. During her time in state politics she focused on many public health initiatives, including a children’s health insurance program. In 2004, Schwartz set her sights on a congressional seat. Even with her impressive political résumé, she explains that she had to convince many voters that her gender did not serve as an obstacle for success in the House.
Once in Congress, Schwartz earned a reputation as a seasoned legislator determined to push an ambitious agenda. During her second term, she claimed a spot on the Ways and Means Committee. Schwartz recalls how this key assignment allowed her to focus on an issue of personal importance—health care. In her oral history, she reflects on how her background as a female social worker with experience in the human services and public health field, did not fit the typical mold for a politician. Schwartz also delves into the sharp contrast between the warm welcome she received in the House from veteran women Members and the less enthusiastic reception of the all-male Pennsylvania delegation. A prolific fundraiser, the five-term Representative worked closely with the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), helping to recruit and raise money for promising candidates for Congress. Schwartz also explains how she donned a mentoring role by taking time from her schedule to meet with newly-elected Members to offer advice and answer questions. She concludes her interview by discussing her reasons for leaving the House to run for Pennsylvania governor.
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