'Icon for the Feminist Movement' Dead at 82

Former Rep. Pat Schroeder was a pioneer for women's rights
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2023 1:16 AM CDT
'Icon for the Feminist Movement' Dead at 82
Pat Schroeder speaks to a reporter during an interview at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 30, 1999.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Former US Rep. Pat Schroeder, a pioneer for women’s and family rights in Congress, died Monday night, the AP reports. She was 82. Schroeder's former press secretary, Andrea Camp, said Schroeder suffered a stroke recently and died at a hospital in Celebration, Florida, the city where she had been residing in recent years. Schroeder took on the powerful elite with her rapier wit and antics for 24 years, shaking up stodgy government institutions by forcing them to acknowledge that women had a role in government.

Her unorthodox methods cost her important committee posts, but Schroeder said she wasn’t willing to join what she called "the good old boys’ club" just to score political points. Unafraid of embarrassing her congressional colleagues in public, she became an icon for the feminist movement. Schroeder was elected to Congress in Colorado in 1972 and became one of its most influential Democrats as she won easy reelection 11 times from her safe district in Denver. Despite her seniority, she was never appointed to head a committee.

She was the first woman on the House Armed Services Committee but was forced to share a chair with Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif., the first African American to sit on the committee, when committee chairman F. Edward Hebert, D-La., organized the panel. Schroeder said Hebert thought the committee was no place for a woman or an African American and they were each worth only half a seat. Schroeder helped forge several Democratic majorities in the House before deciding in 1997 it was time to leave.

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One of Schroeder’s biggest victories was the signing of a family-leave bill in 1993, providing job protection for care of a newborn, a sick child, or a parent. “Pat Schroeder blazed the trail. Every woman in this house is walking in her footsteps,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, who took over from Schroeder as Democratic chair of the bipartisan congressional caucus on women’s issues. More on her life and career, including her famous nickname for former President Reagan and her tussles with Newt Gingrich, here.

(More Pat Schroeder stories.)

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