The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
“I think a risk-taking, feisty woman is seen as disruptive and scary sometimes—certainly for the politically powerful. And I think women are seen that way because we do bring a different perspective and a different style. So do different men, but I felt that certainly when I came here to Congress. I felt it when I went to the state senate. The group of men huddled around a corner, and then you walk into it. You could just see the body language changes, you know? I think it was a good thing, by the way, but it does defy what they’re used to. It is a change. It isn’t always embraced.”
—The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, April 12, 2017

Abstract & Transcript

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.

Biography

SCHWARTZ, Allyson Y., a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Queens, Queens County, N.Y., October 3, 1948; graduated from the Calhoun School, New York, N.Y., 1966; B.A., Simmons College, Boston, Mass., 1970; M.S.W., Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1972; health care executive; member of the Pennsylvania state senate, 1991–2004; unsuccessful candidate to nomination for the United States Senate in 2000; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Ninth and to the four succeeding Congresses (January 3, 2005–January 3, 2015); was not a candidate for reelection to the One Fourteenth Congress, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2014.

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Video

Changing Expectations

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz speaks about how her generation navigated changing gender roles resulting from the women's rights movement.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Moment to Seize

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz discusses her early experience in women's health care.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Unique Background

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz explains how her unique background in social services and health care made it difficult for others to classify her political qualifications.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Gender and Fundraising

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz shares her thoughts on the role gender plays in raising money for Congress.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Pennsylvania Delegation

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz describes the resistance she faced from an all-male delegation.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Welcoming Presence

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz recalls how women Members helped each other in Congress and how the U.S. House included Members from diverse backgrounds and districts.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Offering Advice

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz recalls how she sought to help new Members find their way in Congress.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Lots of Determination

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz speaks about her determination and direct approach as a Representative.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

A Different Style

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz explains how women often brought a different style to the legislative arena.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Significance of the First Woman Speaker

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz discusses the importance of a woman serving as Speaker of the House.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Qualified to Lead

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz reveals how women candidates needed to convince people they could succeed in politics despite their gender.

The Honorable Allyson Y. Schwartz, U.S. Representative of Pennsylvania
Interview recorded April 12, 2017 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Congresswoman Schwartz
<i>Congresswoman Schwartz</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_schwartza_portrait.xml
Representative Allyson Schwartz served five terms in the U.S. House. She served on the Ways and Means in the 111th (2009-2011) and 113th (2013-2015) Congresses.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Allyson Y. Schwartz Bandana
<i>Allyson Y. Schwartz Bandana</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_schwartza_bandana.xml
Congresswoman Schwartz was known for wearing scarves in the Pennsylvania state senate. In her campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2000, she printed her name on a “Schwartz blue” bandana for her supporters.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Allyson Y. Schwartz Lapel Pin
<i>Allyson Y. Schwartz Lapel Pin</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_schwartza_button.xml
Congresswoman Schwartz used this button in her first U.S. House campaign.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Allyson Y. Schwartz Voting Board Nameplate 
<i>Allyson Y. Schwartz Voting Board Nameplate </i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_schwartza_nameplate.xml
In her interview, Representative Schwartz remembers feeling “awestruck” looking up at her name on the House Chamber’s voting board. “I think there is, certainly for me, a real sense of that history and that engagement.”
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object