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.
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke made headlines during her political career, most notably for being the first Member to give birth while serving in Congress. With a seat on the Appropriations Committee and as the first woman to chair the Congressional Black Caucus, Burke built her reputation as a political star during her three terms in the House.
Much like her mother-in-law Katharine Byron, Beverly Barton Butcher Byron’s House career began unexpectedly when she succeeded her husband in Congress after he died in office. During her 10 years representing a Maryland district, Byron forged her own path in the House as the first woman to chair an Armed Services subcommittee and as a steadfast supporter of the military and American defense.
As the first African-American woman elected to Congress from North Carolina, Eva M. Clayton used her position on the Agriculture Committee to represent the small farmers of her rural district. Greatly influenced by the civil rights movement, Clayton’s political career reflected her interest in advocating for women and African Americans in her district and beyond.
Elizabeth Furse brought years of experience as a community activist, including demonstrations against the apartheid government in South Africa, to her three terms in the U.S. House. As a Representative, she called for reduced military spending and drew attention to issues affecting women, migrant workers, and Native Americans.
Dubbed the “Lion Killer” for her improbable upset of a veteran Member, Elizabeth Holtzman earned a reputation as a determined legislator. A cofounder of the Congresswomen’s Caucus, Holtzman drew national attention for her service on the Judiciary Committee during President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment inquiry and questioning President Gerald R. Ford about his decision to pardon his predecessor.
Known for her policy expertise and workhorse approach, Nancy Lee Johnson eventually became dean of the Connecticut delegation during her nearly quarter century in the House. She also stood out as the first Republican woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee and as one of a handful of women to chair a full committee—Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics).
A politically-active small businesswoman before running for elected office, Sue W. Kelly joined a large freshman Republican class in 1995. The New York Representative rose through the ranks to chair subcommittees on the Budget and Financial Services committees. She also co-chaired the Congresswomen’s Caucus where she advocated for legislation to improve women’s health.
The daughter and wife of influential Connecticut politicians, Barbara Bailey Kennelly wrote her own political narrative beginning at the state level. To advance her political goals, Kennelly earned a hard-fought assignment on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and won a spot in the Democratic Leadership as the Democratic Caucus vice chair, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the party at the time.
During her two terms in the House in the 1970s, Martha Elizabeth Keys made history as only the second woman to serve on the influential Ways and Means Committee. A member of the large Democratic freshman class elected in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Keys stood out among her colleagues professionally, with her prestigious committee assignment, as well as personally, with her marriage to House colleague Andy Jacobs of Indiana.
With her special election victory in 1989, Jill Lynette Long Thompson became only the fourth Indiana woman to serve Congress. During her three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Long Thompson focused on her district's farming interests as the chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
Susan Molinari rose through the ranks of the Republican Party after succeeding her father, Representative Guy Molinari, in Congress. She made headlines during her five terms when she became vice chair of the Republican Conference, married a fellow Representative, and gave birth to her first daughter. She used her committee assignments and congressional delegations to be a surrogate representative for women worldwide.
As a Republican in a swing district, Connie A. Morella worked closely with Members on both sides of the aisle to serve her diverse constituency. Morella walked a fine political line between meeting the demands of her district and following the direction of Republican leadership, all while drawing national attention to women’s health and domestic violence.
The first woman mayor of Charlotte and the first Republican Congresswoman from North Carolina, Sue Myrick won election to Congress during the “Republican Revolution” of 1994. Myrick played an influential role in her party as a freshman class liaison to the leadership, a member of the Rules Committee, and chair of the Republican Study Committee.
Building from her experience as a Cleveland city councilwoman, Mary Rose Oakar used her position in Congress as a platform to bring attention to issues of significance to her Ohio district. During her 16 years in the House, she built strong ties with her colleagues as a member of the Democratic Whip organization and as one of a handful of women Members to win election to her party’s leadership team.
The daughter of U.S. Senator Olin DeWitt Talmadge Johnston of South Carolina, Elizabeth J. Patterson followed in her father’s political footsteps. After serving on the Spartanburg County council and in the South Carolina state senate, Patterson won a seat in the U.S. House becoming the fifth woman elected to Congress from South Carolina and the first to do so without succeeding a late husband.
A lawyer and judge before her election to Congress, Deborah D. Pryce skillfully climbed the Republican leadership ladder during her eight terms in the U.S. House. The Ohio Representative served as Republican class president and then deputy whip before eventually holding three elected positions in the Republican Conference where she made history as the first woman to chair the conference.
After fleeing the communist regime of Cuba with her family, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen kept close ties to her homeland while also establishing herself in the United States as a teacher and principal before serving in the Florida state house and senate. During her 15 terms in the House of Representatives she focused on international relations and made history as the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress and the first woman to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee.
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.
Patricia Scott Schroeder began her 24-year career in Congress as a mother with two young children and evolved into a national leader determined to use her elected position as an advocate for women and families. A tireless supporter of women’s rights, she went from winning a spot on the Armed Services Committee—despite the chairman’s objections—to leading the Congresswomen’s Caucus.
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.
Nicola S. (Niki) Tsongas won election to the U.S. House more than three decades after her husband launched his congressional career. As the first woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress in 25 years, Tsongas came to the Capitol with a unique, built-in knowledge of the institution and used her seat on the Armed Services Committee to help women in the military.
During her two decades in the House, Lynn C. Woolsey brought attention to the plight of impoverished women and children by sharing her own experiences as a mother on welfare. Woolsey reflected the anti-war sentiments of her northern California constituents taking a leading role in both the Progressive and the Out of Iraq caucuses and calling for an end to funding American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.