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tv   U.S. Capitol Page History and Research  CSPAN  August 22, 2016 8:56pm-9:57pm EDT

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>> okay. all right. >> well, tammy, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> an extraordinarily interesting presentation, and thank you for telling us so much about the investigation records and it's quite clear that they're a warning project for your book and you're top of a wonderful start, and we're grad to hear about the next phase, and we look forward to having you back someday. >> thank you so much. thank you all for coming. i really appreciate it. [ applause ] >> more congressional history coming up shortly here on c-span 3. next, a look at the history of
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the u.s. capital page project. that's followed by historian and author david mccullough, receiving the u.s. capital historical society freedom award. and, later, a look at the congressional papers collection. ♪ >> 1 00 years ago president woodrow wilson signed the bill creating the national park service. thursday we look back on the past century of these caretakers of america's natural and historic treasures. beginning at 10:00 eastern and throughout the day we take you to national park service sites across the country as recorded by c-span. at 7:00 p.m. eastern we're live from the national park services most visited historic home, arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial at arlington national cemetery. join us with your phone calls as we talk with robert stanton,
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former national park service director, and brandon byes, the former site manager that will oversee the upcoming year-long restoration of the mansion, slave quarters, and grounds. thursday, the 100th anniversary of the national park service live from arlington house at 7:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span 3. u.s. house of representatives historian and house curator for r. elliott join associate historian of the senate catherine scott in a presentation about the u.s. capital page program. using a variety of images they discuss their latest research into the program, recent acquisition of artifacts, and historic milestones such as the first african-american page and the first women pages. the u.s. capitol page alumni association hosted this hour-long event as part of a reunion of pages.
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welcome back. our second panel to moderate and introduce this next panel of house and senate historians, the house historian himself, matt. we at the alumni situation developed a great relationship with the house and senate history offices and i'm often reminded of this. what you heard in the previous panel that sometimes the historians are looking for eyewitnesss to events that happened 50 or 60 years ago, and we all know that if it happened in these haultz here, the only people who are still alive were the pages who were 16 years old at the time. we've come here a few times. a couple of projects. we hope to do so and continue to do so in the future. these weekends constantly amaze
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me that as cookie mentioned running into meeting judge tracy here who was a page for eight years. eight years starting in 1942. had the pleasure of driving over in his car with his capitol police man for years afterwards. still has his badge, and we got through all the security. anyone needs a ride back, he is here. so with great pleasure, i can introduce matt. matt, thank you very much. >> thank you all. good afternoon. i'm matt wiznewski, historian of the let's head outside. i'm joined by my colleagues, the curator to the house, and a little further down the line kate scott, the senate historian. we're very pleased to be here with you as you kick off the page reunion weekend. today each of us would like to spend a little bit of time telling you about some of our
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recent research and collections acquisitions related to congressional pages and also leave a little bit of time at the end for questions you might have. the history offices on both sides of the capitol have a very strong interest in the history of congressional pages. on the house side, as jerry alluded to, we've documented the history and development of the program in part by conduct iing- >> glen rupp who served as a page from 1932 to 136 who told us many stories, including one about training a young staffer named lyndon b. johnson, about how to operate the doors at the house chamber.
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they were in the chamber on that fateful day, december 8th, 1941, and, of course, would eventually go to become the longest serving member of congress at more than 59 years. there's a nice synergy that's developed between doing these oral histories. many people have donated artifacts to the house collection, and you'll hear more about that from my inquisitive and persuasive colleague in a few minutes. the curators have assembled dozens of images and artifacts and objects that document the rich page history. everything from civil war era era letters home from pages to a 1907 page uniform to a 1940s era
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capitol page school varsity letter. and everything in between. in 2013 my office produced a roughly 40-page history of the house page program. copies of which are available on-line. you can download the booklet. here it is in paper form. or you can read it on-line. and in addition to highlighting the origins and development of the program, we use those oral histories that we had done with some well placed participants in the program over the years, including general joe bartlett, clerk of the house don anderson, and bill goodwin, who was a page in 1954 when the puerto rican nationalist attacked the chamber, march of 1954. in highlighting stories of pages who were pioneers, or, first, we are fortunate to draw from interviews that we had conducted with felda looper, the first
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female page to serve in the house, appointed by speaker carl albert in 1973 and also frank mitchell of springfield, illinois and many of us believed to have been the first african-american page to serve in the house. mitchell's appointment was highly symbolic and an object of media attention. it occurred on the 1 00th anniversary of lincoln's assassination on april 14th, 1965, and just weeks after the galvanizing march on selma. in our oral history with frankie marvelled at the fact that he watched the debate on the landmark voting rights act from the doorway of the republican cloak room. while researching, we came across some tantalizing clues in the few secondary sources on pages and their history that perhaps there had been earlier such pioneers, and these were
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obscure references and footnotes to some late 19th and early 20th century newspaper articles that suggested that african-americans may have served as pages in the latter half of the 19th century. perhaps even during the reconstruction era. though upon closer nmgs, the ages of the individuals covered in these. it may have been that they were adult messengers or employees of the door keeper's office. still, we knew it was possible that the page ranks may have been integrated after the civil w war. the stories describe reconstruction that was imposed upon the south as the second american revolution in which political and citizenship rights were conferred upon to free slaves. at least the men. in changing the reconstructed southern states, this process also changed the face of the membership of the house itself.
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for the first time african-americans, some of them former slaves, were elected to serve in congress. in all 20 served in the house between 1870 and 1901. two others in the senate. before jim crow laws and customs effectively removed african-americans from political participation in washington for more than a generation. inle recently, however, we knew very little about how reconstruction changed the house at the staff level, but that changed as more powerful research tools came on-line. namely, digitized copies of historical newspapers and the congressional record and its predecessors. in fact, these tools in an evolving appreciation for reconstruction's impact on our institution have brought into focus a whole new set of african-american pioneers. among them are george t. downing, a popular proprietor of the house restaurant, and william h. smith, who served as the house librarian which was a
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prominent appointed position. it was through these historical newspapers, official house disbursement records and census records, that we discovered that, in fact, the very first african-american page was appointed on april 1st, 1871. he was a 14-year-old named alfred q. powell from manchester, virginia. this was during the first session of the 42nd congress, and representative charles howell parter of have eer porte poul. he was a carpet bagger from new york state who had served in the union army, and he had settled in virginia affect war and became involved in state politics and when virginia re-admitted to the union, he ran for and won a seat that represented greater richmond. with porter's background, po powell's appointment seemed a
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purposeful and powerfully sym l symbolic act. on powell's first day a new york tribune correspondent watching from the galleries wrote, "that except for some practical jokes which have been put upon powell by some of the older pages, he got started very creditively." powell made $77.50 in his first month as a page. this was the going rate for his roughly 20 other page colleagues who worked on the house floor at congress. beyond that, we know only scant details about his circumstances. second, census records list his father as a wheel right and his mother as a homemaker, but it appears that powell wasn't simply just plucked out of ob security for this groundbreaking appointment. he hailed from a prominent virginia free african-american family. powell's maternal grandmother -- excuse me.
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maternal great uncle was one of the most influential black american politicians of the 19th century. john mercer langeston who would go on to represent virginia in the house in the 51st congress in 1889, 1891, and there's a nice symmetry that links those stories of frank mitchell and alfred powell. just like mitchell who arrived in 1965 during debate about voting rights, powell arrived in the republican controlled house. radical republican controlled house. amid a contentious debate on the eve of the passage of the act of 1871, which was also known as the ku klux klan act that empowered the president to use federal troops to break up the klan and impose harsh penalties for those that -- notable african-american members such as
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robert elliott and joseph reigny both of south carolina. rainy was actually the first african-american to serve in the house. they delivered speeches on the floor attesting to violations against the 14th amendment rights of their constitch -- constituen constituents. though separated by nearly a century, witnessed the house grapple with monumental civil rights issues. to change gears and to conclude, i want to tell you about one other research question that na nagged us, and it's one we're still trying to determine conclusively, and that's pinpointing the exact start date of the practice of paging in the house. we know that the use of legislative messengers evolved over the better part of a half century from a continental congress when adults served as messengers until the late 1820s
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when according to official house records, it's clear that a page corps employing young boys and teenagers took shape, but when exactly? following the panic of 1837, which was one of the major economic recessions of the 19th century, the house committee on accounts, which was responsible for the institution's expenditures, and was looking to trim costs, delved into the practice of paging. the committee soon discovered that the house had never set a formal number, budget, or guidelines to administer the program. interviewing "old and experienced officers of the house" the committee reported that the house first employed boy pages sometime -- sometime -- after it convened in the district of columbia in november 1800. by the late 1820s, at least three page boys served on the house floor. a decade later that number had grown to 18.
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apparently as members sought to provide income to local orphan boys or to their destitute families. a brief reference was made suggesting that some of the earliest pages dating back to the early 1800s may, in fact, have been the two young sons and nephew of the long-time house door keeper thomas clackston. still while useful guides, these sources don't provide contemporary firsthand accounts, but by happy coincidence while researching something completely unrelated, the history of members wearing hats on the floor, which is a subject for another day -- just ask. i'm happy to talk about that. farrah knows that. we stumbled upon the earliest firsthand account of a house page of which i'm aware. thomas hill hubbard, who represented a district that
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encompassed utica and cooperstown in upstate new york, served in the house from in the 15th and the 17th congresss. hubbard wasn't -- his career was not that long. not that distinguished. fortunately for historians, he wrote his wife phoebe many letters. we don't have many descriptions of sessions in that space.
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there are rare occasions that it can be serendipitous. hubbard said the members with their hats on or off as they pleased. decorum still required when one rises to speak, he must respectfully take off his hat and address the speaker. question confirmed. then in the very next line, "we have a charming little boy. about 12 years old who waits on the house and when a member rises to submit a resolution, the little fellow leaps around lightly and with the swiftness of an era stands by his side. the boy whom hubbard identified only by the name oswald stood by any member who addressed the house and "if anything is submitted in writing, he takes it and conveys it to the clerk who sits under the speaker's
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chair and takes his leave and watches until another member rises when the same ceremony takes place again. >> dune was the son of then house sergeant at arms thomas dunn. this aligns with our other accounts that suggest the young sons or nephews of house officers may have been the earliest pages. like many house pages over the years, dunn spent a long career in the house succeeding his father in 1824 as the sergeant
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at arms and serving in that capacity until 1832. so we are getting closer to taking the history of house pages back to the turn of the 19th century, and as i indicated at the opening finding and preserving these stories remains an abiding interest for our office, and with that i'll turn it over to farrah elliott. thank you. >> hello. i'm farrah elliott. i'm the curator of the house, and it's great to get to follow matt who gave you a real sense of what 19th century page life was like and what some of the real defining elements of being a page 150 or almost 200 years ago are. what i want to do today is walk
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you through the experience of a single family's pair of pages that they had -- that they sent to the house in the 1860s. the details of it really comport with what matt has been talking about today.
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it's also based on letters for the most part. it's -- for those of you who are the pre-otts generation, the letters will seem a little familiar. the content of them.
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their daily lives were a mix of their complicated ties back home and the communications that any kid might experience. ordinary work in the chamber and these extraordinary moments of witnessing history. the letters that we use to find out more about elliott and birdie and what page life was like then, they're really kind of -- it was a scatter shot approach to preserving them on the part of elliott and birdie and their family members. some are from their mothers. some are to their mother. some are from relatives and family friends. you know, there are no letters from elliott back home. i feel like elliott may have, like, just skated away pretty quickly. you know, i think he was a golden boy. he did everything right. you know, that can be kind of irritating. i have a whole fan fiction about birdie and elliott and how
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birdie resented elliott. this is -- this envelope is typical of the ones that we have. it's a free frank envelope signed by nathaniel banks of massachusetts member of congress and who had served as speaker of the house earlier in his career. dang, this thing is good. so the pillsbury family at the time that elliott first comes, they weren't unfamiliar with washington or with political life. this is the earliest document in the collection. it's from 1857. two years before elliott first comes as here as a page. it's from a guy who is generally known as you think uncle albert, birdie's namesake, who worked in washington. i haven't figured out yet what uncle albert did, but i will. he wrote to the family, and, god, uncle albert, he wrote with
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pompous advice, and he even manages to make this long description of how boys played marbles in the streets of washington into a moral lesson. let me read some of it to you. the most common sport of the boys of washington when out of school is marble playing. our streets and sidewalks with so kwooid wide they ford plenty of room for youngsters to indulge in the game. can you imagine reading this if you were 9 years old? without annoying the carriages. many of them acquired great dexterity in snapping their marbles in a direct line and with a short aim. i have often been amused and astonished to see a boy hit a single marble at a distance of 20 feet. i do not wish you to understand me to mean that i think the boys of away washington are any smarter than those of mass mis. i'm certain they are not, but they acquire great perfection by long and continuous practice as everyone does in attending to a single object for a considerable time." i don't like uncle albert. at the time that uncle albert
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wrote that letter, elliott was 10, and birdie was 8, and around that time birdie sat for a photograph with his mother, elizabeth pills did sabury. he was a school boy at the time, and he used this book. also in our collection now. at school. he lived in the ship building port. chelsea, massachusetts built wooden ships for the most part. it was just outside boston. now, the next year his father, john, insurance agent, died, and at that time and in that place the death of the breadwinner for this family threw them into complete disarray. elizabeth pillsbury dropped from the thriving middle class into taking in borders and she had to rely on the kindness of strangers and friends to help provide for her. one thing she did was contact old friends. those friends did assist them by finding respectable work. she still had as spieratipirati
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her boys. she was looking for work for elliott. now, this is in 1859 letter, right, soon after -- a month or two after her husband dies, and an old friend, william shuler, writes this letter in response to a visit from her or a letter and a visit from her for mrs. pillsbury, or as he calls her, betty blue eyes. she had informed him of her husband's death, and asked for help and shuler was the general of massachusetts, sew promised to do lies in me to obtain for your son the position you ask for him. that probably means she was asking specifically for a house page post because he says he hopes to be in washington himself as clerk of the next house. that didn't happen. and there are several places in the gift of the clerk which boys fill, and he should have one of them, and the best one too. then he asks her if it he can take her for a drive.
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however that worked out for betty blue eyes, it worked out really well for elliott. this is a little later in his life when he is just naval academy. he enters the naval academy at 16. he is probably about 20 here. he was 13 when he traveled to washington, and you can see sort of what it looked like right around 18 -- well, that's an 1863 look. it didn't look that much different. it was a really tough journey, and he had to make it on his own. you had to go through cities and cross rivers and you had to switch methods of travel, and bernie describes what the trip froo boston to d.c. was like a couple of years later. trains would go to new york, and you had to take a stagecoach across the city to get to the different depot to catch the train to baltimore, and then when you got to baltimore, the train cars get drawn across the city by mule. then you're in a train again getting down to d.c. now, presumably once elliott and birdie got down there, uncle elliott helped them find housing. they both accommodated with
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something called the commodore and later gets upgraded to admiral. by the time he was 14, then birdie leaves the commodore, then admiral, to live in a rented room himself. i think he wanted to move away from the leafy enclaves of living at somebody's house and live on his own. he lives across from forge theater in 1865. even as elliott -- even as elliott is trying to explore the city and learn his new job, and this is what it looked like at the time, work is happening on the capitol all the time, and letters from home start to arrive. they aren't going to be unfamiliar to anyone who is a page alumnus. one of the letters is a letter from his mother. she says i'm sorry you were not a little more particular in your writing. the spelling was good, but the letter is brief and written badly.
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then she says she wishes she could be with all her children while she still lives. these separations are as bad as death. you can see why elliott maybe goes. other letters show how people back home expected the boy to operate as employees and recipients of patronage jobs, which they were. these jobs were something that were in the power to someone to grant them to help a des tut family, but there was an expectation that you then will be of service to those folks back home who have helped you. in 1861, henry tenny writes asking elliott for help with getting 100 copies of a report from the war department, and there are multiple letters like that.
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there was an assumption that you are a fully pledged player. there were not that many tourists coming to town, so they weren't, like, can you give me a tour? that's nice for them. now we're back to birdie because elliott in 1862 is old enough to have a different pat rojage job. at the time, there are about a dozen pages in the house, and they stationed themselves on the steps of the rostram. when they clapd their hands, they would do the bidding. after a buzzer system is introduced in the house chamber, birdie thinks that that's just terrible, and you really don't get to know the members as well if they're buzzing instead of
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clapping. here's the earliest better home. birdie writes home to mom a lot more. this is just after his 12th birthday. you can see for some sort of context what life was like there. the war has begun. the assistant door keepers told him he better not come up to the capitol to the night sessions as there were enough bigger boys than those of my size. it's a rough and tumble time in washington. soldiers are everywhere. they're streaming in and out of the makeshift hospitals. nighttime in the city was no time for a kid to be out according to the door keeper, apparently. in he is hopeful that the reelection of two local members will improve his chances, and right after that he then turns to other more urgent matters. he says, you know, i stand a pretty good chance of being page next session, don't you think? then he wants -- then he tells
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his mother what he is having for lunch. he talks about food a lot. i mean, one of my faith thinvor things about this whole endeavor about deciphering all these different handwriting -- their penmanship is not that good, as mrs. pillsbury pointed out. so many of their experiences were like that of my adolescent. he is obsessed with food. he talks about what he has for dinner. he talks about breakfast. he talks about how many he likes his lunchbox. i guess she must have sent him. birdie is a page winner, though, too. at one point he confesses that he and his fellows don't like congressman washburn because in his role as watchdog of the treasury, he doesn't think the pages should be getting any pay for extra sessions. there's an extra session of congress. they should not get paid. his adventures are one of my
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favorites. the first part is the experience with senator mcdougall. he is a house page. senator mcdougall is someone he runs across because this afternoon senator mcdougall was so drunk and riding horseback and he tumbled off. albert helped get the senator into a hack. the senator said to him you are a good boy. i'll remember you. albert knows that the senator was not insulted to be riding in a hack, as he didn't know what he was saying, for, he was so drunk. then after all that he turns, as you might when you are writing your mother, to a lesht lengthy description of how he is brushing his teeth. he did a lot of other experiences as every page can of their interactions with members and what they meant to them and those things that stick in their heads, like senator mcdougall. he talks about former speaker nathaniel banks as being very gracious to all the pages.
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someone would explain that congressman banks preferred the british pronunciation. they were also said to be kind about the fact that birdie spilled ink all over them and all over the chamber carpet and they were very kind about it even though the rumor got around that the two men were accused of doing the deed themselves during a heated argument. now, birdie's experience sometimes moved from that ridiculous to the sublime as it could happen to anyone on -- in the house in a page capacity. in this case from the wobbly senator and the ink to the end of slavery. in this letter on the right to his mother albert describes the chamber at the passage of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery. he says the vote was taken upon the amendment to the constitution this afternoon. two-thirds having voted for it.
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it passed. he describes the reaction of the gallery and wrote that people were throwing up their hats in the air, waving their hand k handkerchiefs. i need a new pair of blue pants. we find out later he got blue pants later. he had a copy and it was signed by all of the members. although he mentions that in his letter, it is not -- it has not survived in the house collection. he talks about other important moments during his experience. george bankcroft give a eulogy to lincoln after his death. living across from forge theater. he collected a lot. not just memories, but keep sakes. he had an autographed book. some of them you can see he pasted in. he filled it with signatures, and sometimes he would get extra signatures on slips of paper and get autographs home to his
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sister as well. johnson patted the boy on the head and gave him his photo and signed it on the back for him. it was very nice. birdie's most substantial momento was a chair. he took the chair. it has a lid that flips up, which is very handy. we're want sure exactly where this was in the house, but we're pretty sure it was in the house. after he left -- after both of boys left, elliott rose through the ranks of the navy. ultimately, he became an explorer and an admiral and later, head of the national geographic society. birdie did not stay in public service. he went back home and moved home, took care of his mother. he is a good boy. he worked for a local lumber dealer and ultimately became their bookkeeper. it was 30 years before he ever darkened the door of the house
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again. in this cache of school books and odd photos and things like that, this popped out from much later. we were able to identify it through sort of letters, through some newspaper articles that this was his first visit to d.c. since his page days three decades earlier. the person he was most anxious to see is a library messenger. william h. smith. as you know, if you were taking careful notes when matt spoke, later was appointed the house librarian, making him one of the highest appointed african-american individuals in government. they got together and took a
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snap on the east lawn of the capitol. it was saved with his page material. he was doing it for us, wasn't he? i hope that you all -- that none of you all have waited 30 years to return to the capitol. i also hope even more on behalf of the house collection that if you have artifacts too and amazing things like this from a different generation of pages, that you won't wait as long as the pillsbury boys did to approach us about seeing if she, too, could be part of the nation's collections. thanks so much. [ applause ] >> hello. i'm kate scott. i'm a historian in the senate historical office, and i'm delight to be here with all of you today. today's story is -- well, it's a story that we've been refrping
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f -- researching for three or four years. i started in the office in 2010, and we've recently sort of wrapped this story up in a bow, and that's what i'm going to present to you today. it's a story about senate trailblazers. it starts with a question. should girls be allowed to serve as senate pages? that surprisingly simple question sparked a protracted and contentious senate debate in 197 1971. they brought about the downfall of a lingering senate tradition. oh, it is sensitive. you're right. okay. bear with me. there we go. nearly a century and a half earlier we believe in the early 1830s, senator dan well kwebs r
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st -- daniel webster appointed a man by the name of graphton hanson. he was 9 years old. he was the grandson of the senate sarge end at arms. isaac basset. these two young boys began a tradition much like the house, much like matt and farrah describes service. >> in the 19th century. >> the senate job kept them off the streets and out of trouble.
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their senate paycheck helped to support their families. participants arrived from all over the country to participate in this unique civics lesson. every single senate page appointment -- every single senate page, rather, had been a boy. no senate rule explicitly forbid the appointment of girl pages. the practice of appointing male pages persisted well into the 20th century. in the 1960s some senators began to question this boys only tradition. that force then sergeant at arms joseph duke to defend the practice in a letter. while i know of no specific policy or rule, which says that there shall not be girl pages, wrote duke in the 19d 61 lettero
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senators. i doubt such an innovation would be wise. the work performed by pages, duke explained, requires much walking and even running at times. in his opinion such activity would preclude the employment of teenage girls. is finally in 1970 -- there we go -- finally in 1970 three senators took a bold step. charles percy raised the question. could he appoint ra female page? the caucus responded there was no prohibition. the caucus would put on payroll whom ever the senator selected. senator percy issued a call for applicants. hundreds of young women applied, including 16-year-old ellen
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mcconnell who is seated right up here in the front row. she got the job. when she reported for duty, the new senate sergeant at arms, robert dunfy, refused to swear her in. he insisted that the senate rules committee must issue a formal decree noting a change in senate tradition. rules committee chairman b. everett jordan of north carolina seemed disinclined to consider the issue. i don't detect any significant enthusiasm in the senate for admitting girl fpages, he explained. without being prudish, it somehow seems to lack dignity and grace to picture young women sitting around on the steps of the senate chamber waiting to be dispatched.
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dunfey's refusal to break with senate tradition put ellen mcconnell in a bind. assured by senator percy's office that there would be only a short delay, her family helped move her out here to washington where she settled in a nearby boarding house for professional women. senator percy found a temporary solution. he placed ellen on his office payroll where she could collect her page stipend and work for the personal office while the senate worked out a more permanent solution. new york senator jacob javitz also selected a female page for appointment. her name was paulette ducell. a high school student. she lived with her parents actually in alexandria, northern
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virginia. her parents were also native new yorkers. since joining the senate in 1957, senator javitz had already made two historic page appointments. javitz had appointed lawrence robert bradford, an african-american, to serve as his page. now, contemporary accounts in 1965 identified bradford as the first black congressional page. i think there's some -- we need to dig into that further. our office has identified at least one other black page who was appointed in 1869 by senator charles sumner of massachusetts. in 1966 javitz made another noteworthy page appointment selecting john lopez of brooklyn to be the first puerto rican page appointment in the senate. by 1970 javitz had decided that
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the time had come to make a third historic appointment. he selected paulette ducell. like mcconnell, she was eager to be sworn in and begin her service. unlike mcconnell, she lived nearby, and, therefore, she was able to continue to attend school. senator fred harris had selected a female page. the child of a politically active oklahoma family, price had dreamed of serving as a congressional page since first reading her eighth grade civics book. since first reading about the page program in her eighth grade civics book, the more she learned about it, the more she wanted to be a part of the program. in middle school she began to mail letters of inquiry to her delegation asking for an appointment, and she was
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disappointed when she always received the same standard reply. we don't take girl pages. price thought girls could do anything boys can do. this is her word to me. she was determined to challenge that boys only senate tradition. she drafted a petition calling for congress to appoint girl pages and went around her neighborhood securing signatures for support. after collecting hundreds of signatures she thought that was a lot. she then took that petition on a flight to washington. brought that petition on a flight to washington with her. she was out here with the young democrats. she and her friends presented combs with hundreds of signatures to members of the oklahoma congressional delegation. at first perhaps unsurprisingly, nothing happened. years later -- a few years later while she was a junior in high school price received a call from senator fred harris's legislative assistant. senator harris is thinking about
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appointing a girl page, he said. would you be interested? she said she would. she and her parents then shortly thereafter flew to washington for a swearing in ceremony that never took place. she then returned to oklahoma and continued in her studies waiting for the senate rules committee to move forward or not. the senate rules committee kept the issue bottled up for a few months, as long as it could, really. pressure from percy javitz and harris forced the committee to consider the issue. the rules committee opened hearings on the topic in march of 1971 with percy and javitz testifying on behalf of the young women that they wished to sponsor. >> do wipt to tell that the american community is -- allowing girls to serve as pages
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was a question of fundamental human fairness, arg you adsenator javitz. senator harris submitted a level of support. i feel that in accepting girl pages to serve in the u.s. senate, he explained, we would be taking an important symbolic step. the senate should end discriminaskrim oth discriminate other hiring practices. the committee explored other issues, such as how would the senate assure the safety of the girls when they left the capitol grounds. where would the girls live? how would they get to and from the capitol each day safely? what kind of clothing would they wear? for the pages awaiting appointment, this debate seemed ridiculous. in an open letter to members of the senate, an impatient and impertinent paul et ceteraette
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wrote the most tragic note is that merely because i'm a girl you would deny me the privilege to learn at close range about a most important branch of government. the bill's proponents noted that when the capitol was experiencing a lot of crime, page safety ought to be a consideration for girls as well as boys. senator howard canon of nevada preceded over the hearings. he opposed the appointment of female pages. canon wondered if this tradition was breached,ing what next? would we have women in his words, taking care of the capitol grounds and taking care of the plumbing and things of that sort? tradition is something that means a great deal to those of us who are privileged to serve in the u.s. senate, percy replied, but there comes a time when it is apparent that we should break with certain senate tradition. nearly two months later the rules committee finally approved
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a resolution allowing for the appointment of female pages. on may 13th, 1971 senator javitz introduced that resolution in the -- on the floor of the senate chamber. our resolution, our original resolution, would simply have permitted females to be pages, he explained. the rules committee, however, had revised the original proposal. the new resolution required senators who wished to appoint girl pages to submit a letter to the sergeant at arms assuming full responsibility for the safety, well-being, and strict supervision of the female page. a responsibility which had never been required for boy page appointments. javitz concede thad though the new proposal was not perfect, he would vote in favor of it. with the house and senate poised
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to reinstitute the page system, javitz explained the interim character of this arrangement enables us in good conscience to let the revised resolution go through. >> he put his feelings for the objectionable -- the objectionable features of the proposed resolution aside so that julie price in his words, a truly outstanding american girl can be sworn in as a senate page. opponents voiced their concerns, but the bill's proponents prevailed. in 1971 the senate agreed to end the boys only tradition. aprooug res 112 by voice vote. we have no record of how they voted that day. all right. so on to the swearing in. oh, darn. well, it's -- let's see. can i go back? probably not.
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yes, thank you. the next day, may 14th, 1971, ellen mcconnell and paulette followed by julie price on the 17th blazed the trail to be sworn in as the first female pages. there will be shuddering in the cloak rooms, predicted hugh scott of pennsylvania, and he was half right. the republican cloak room welcomed the young women. but it would be another six months before the democrats allowed their female pages to enter their cloak room. and i can go into that at a later time. but i want to end really quick with a little personal story here. a story about why the senate historical office knows this story today. and it actually starts with a phone call. i started in -- i began in the historical office in 2010, and we had at that time a little story, short story, maybe 150
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words on our website about the swearing in of the first female pages. it included a photo that you see up here on the right, the swearing in of paulette and ellen. so i received a phone call in the fall of 2012. and it was julie price calling, senator harris's page. she said, you know, i read that paragraph on the website, and she said very politely but firmly, it's wrong, or at least it's only partially right, because you've left out my piece of the story. i was sworn in three days later because it was a weekend and i had to fly from oklahoma to washington, d.c. i just didn't happen to be in the city. but my piece of the story, well, it counts. and i think it should be included on the senate website. and i said, well, we think so, too. we would love to update the story. but to get the full story, we would sure love to talk with you. would you consider doing an oral history with us? she said graciously that she would. she came down from pennsylvania, and one interview led to
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another. so i interviewed julie, and then i interviewed ellen, and then i interviewed paulette. and those three accounts we have packaged together, and you can find those three oral histories on the senate website with dozens of other oral histories that we have taken with senators and long-time senate staff. the reason i bring this up is because those oral histories really helped us figure out what was going on here behind the scenes. the story is much cooler than their just being finally sworn in or even the rules committee hearings, but how these young women petitioned, in some ways, the members to really start this process. and then hung in through the moments of frustration to finally be sworn in, really months after this whole thing started. and i encourage you to go read those stories, if you haven't already, because they -- those three interviews in particular talk about breaking the page program's gender barrier. they discussed the long waiting period following their
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appointment until their official swearing in. the media attention that they received, some of it unwanted. i noted in particular that the media attention, once they're sworn in and they're visible on the senate floor, there's a lot of talk about what the page girls are wearing. a lot of talk about, you know, is this too much work for them? they asked, the reporters asked them, are your feet tired? do you need to sit down? i guess i shouldn't be surprised by the sexist language, but it's there. they talk about the way that the boy pages and the senators received them. a couple of them note that there were a few members, some southern members, who were not too pleased that the girl pages were there, but most of them were gracious and welcomed them despite the fact that they didn't agree with the admission of female pages. they discussed the members and staff they got to know, like many of you, as well as some of the political and policy debates of the era, including a great
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debate in the senate over the equal rights amendment. senator sam irvin, one of the women remembers senator sam irvin, i think it was the story by paulette, senator sam irvin pointing to the girl pages on the steps and saying, do you want one of these frail things going to war? you shouldn't be considering the equal rights amendment. they reflect on how their senate experiences, how their experiences as senate pages shaped their professional lives. and more importantly, their interviews, as do all the interviews that we try and collect in the historical office, they try to tell us something about the institution in the particular era that we're gathering information about. so in this case, it's the senate as an institution in the 1970s. and the way that some of its male members resisted change, even the change of bringing in some female pages. so i encourage you just as a final note to, if you haven't already, to take a look at the senate website.
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look through our list of oral history interviews. you'll find that we've got dozens of things there that might be of interest to you, and probably many things there that mention the time period that you served in the u.s. senate or in the u.s. house, and might want to reflect again upon some of the things that were going on during that time. so i thank you for your time. [ applause ] >> we're right up against time for the documentary. but i'm sure jerry will give us one or two minutes for questions if anyone has questions about the presentations or anything about the office's work. we answered everything. great. thank you very much. >> well, thank you, all three of you.
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let's have a proper round of applause for matt and fara and kate. [ applause ] just a couple of comments. and kate, first, i want to thank you for that presentation. ellen is here. you called her out earlier. i will tell you a story, reason i became a page is because that picture of the three women sitting down there in 1971, my mother saw that in the "los angeles times" and cut it out and put it on my desk and said this is something you may be interested in. and, of course, applied and lo and behold, a couple of months later i'm going to school with all three of them. i consider all three of them my best friends. ellen is -- all three were the first pages. ellen was the woman who fought the fight. so all you female pages there, this is the person you thank, right here, right now, thank you, ellen. [ applause ]


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