tv Oral Histories Women in Congress - Pat Schroeder Interview CSPAN July 31, 2018 5:34pm-7:17pm EDT
on saturday, august 11th, women's rights. sunday, august 12th, we'll look at the media's role. on monday, august 13th, a discussion about the vietnam war at home. and on tuesday, august 14th, we'll close out the series focusing on the cold war. watch "1968, america in turmoil," august 6th through august 14th at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. pat schroeder served in the u.s. house of representatives from 1973 through 1997. as a democrat from colorado, when elected, she was one of only 14 congresswomen. next, she talks about balancing work with raising a family. her assignment to the house armed services committee and he, her assignment to the house armed services committee and her experience as one of the founding members of the congresswoman's caucus. the house of representatives
office of the historian conducted this interview, which is about an hour and 40 minutes. >> my name is kathleen johnson. i'm with matt wisniewski, the house historian, and today we're very happy to be interviewing former congresswoman, pat schroeder, from colorado. and this interview is for the jeannette rankin oral history project that we're working on to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her election and her swearing in to congress. so again, we're very pleased you're here today, congressman schroeder. thank you for coming. >> thank you. i'm delighted to be here. >> when you were young, did you have any female role models? >> probably two. eleanor roosevelt, i was raised thinking she was just an absolutely incredible woman. and amelia earhart. those are two women who really fascinated me as a young child.
>> why was that? >> my father was a pilot and i went on to get my pilot's license when i was 15, so there were pilots in the family. so this young woman out flying around i thought was pretty cool. and i thought eleanor roosevelt was pretty remarkable. rather than being a glamorous queen or whatever, she was very interested in what was going on in the world and how she could contribute to it. and she seemed to have a lot of guts, you know. when i was growing up in the 40s and 50s guts was not a word that you would associate with women. they were not supposed to have that, and she did. she had it, she was out there and i just thought good for her, you know. >> when you were growing up, what were the expectations, societal expectation for you as a young girl as to what you would be when you got older? >> basically when i was growing up there was the idea that you either became a mommy or a
teacher or a nurse. i mean, there really wasn't a lot of options. you were just kind of narrowly channelled. luckily i had a family that was not so narrow in their views and allowed me to do allotted of things that probably a lot of other girls didn't do. but when i got to school, when i got to college, i literally selected my college because my father said the most important thing i would learn in college was how to take care of -- how to pay for my own way. i had to pay for my own tuition and books and everything else. so i picked the ufrniversity of minnesota because they had airplanes, champion aircraft that were for the rotc program. the idea was it was for the young males in the rotc.
i went to them and i said i want to fly. they said, well, you know, this doesn't fit the category. but i absolutely love scandinavians in minnesota because they always say it doesn't say we can't rent them to you. so i was able to get a job in minneapolis at an insurance company, aviation insurance company, adjusting aviation losses and renting airplanes from the university so i can make money to pay my tuition. so i had a very different career path than a lot of young women that i grew up with. i think many of them were horrified and wondered what was going to happen to me. >> what first drew you to politics? what was your path to becoming so interested in politics? >> we had a -- when i was growing up my father was always interested in politics and he talked about it. dinner table conversations were always very vivid about what was going on. i went to high school in des moines, iowa where they didn't
even allow profile bread because it had a female profile on the cover of the bread. and they didn't have alcohol by the drink. you know, it was very, very, very -- oh, and you could only have shorts at a certain length. literally they would measure them and you could get a ticket for not having them the right length. so we had a lot of discussions about that at home obviously growing up. and i had a grandfather -- great-grandfather actually, that was in the nebraska legislature with williams jettis bryant, a first generation irish immigrant. he ran for office and served. he was obviously my father's grandfather and so he talked about him a lot. so it was there. i never thought of it as a career, never thought of it as a career. and when we moved to denver
after i finished law school, i met my husband at harvard law school, we decided to pick a city where we wanted to live. he was from chicago. i was from des moines. so we picked denver. we moved to denver. we got active in all sorts of community things, young democrats being one of them, and he ran for office in 1970 for a state house seat, and he lost by the narrowest margin ever. i think it was like 30 votes for something. it was a very republican area. so after reapportionment, they came down and they literally carved our house out and put us in an entirely different district thinking about him. and he had decided in the interim he really didn't like campaigning that much so he really wasn't thinking about being a candidate. but in 1972 when nixon was
running and it looked like it was going to be a run-away, it was against mcgovern, and colorado was the second most conservative delegation in the country right behind arizona, he was on this committee of young fire brands looking for someone to run for congress against a republican incumbent. and everybody they went to said, what are you, nuts? i really don't want to be a sacrificial lamb. so he's going to these meetings and i'm home with our 2-year-old and our 6-year-old. he comes home one night and says, guess whose name came up. i said i don't know. he said yours. i said mine? i haven't run for a bus. what are you talking about? and at that time i was teaching at one of the colleges and he said you go out and tell your students to get involved. i can't believe you couldn't do this. he said of course you'll never win but it's so important to articulate the issues.
and that's the beginning. that's how i got into it. it was that happenstance, being totally assured i couldn't win and i was just going to have this wonderful discussion with the people of denver about issues. >> did anyone offer you advice when you jumped into the campaign? was there anyone with political experience who had words of wisdom? >> oh my. well, no. they did but it was all, we came to washington to meet with the democratic congressional campaign group. they said, you won the primary? we said yes. they said, well, we really have nothing to say to you. i mean, we can't waste our money. and i had worked for a while at the national labor relations board in denver and so i
thought, you would think the unions would be very excited about me, right? this is colorado which is kind of a right to work state but here i was and they sent me $50, which i kind of returned and said thanks but no thanks. everybody just was like, what is this 31-year-old mother out of colorado think she's doing? it was like the altitude, less oxygen to the brain or something must have happened. the first thing i would get when i would come here to talk to anybody was like, you're a fluke, right? what do you mean i'm a fluke? no, they really didn't think that that was possible. >> looking back on that now across 40-plus years, what are some of the key moments in that '72 campaign that stick out for you?
>> oh my. well, because we had no advice from the powers that be, we were kind of on our own. so for most of the campaign we ran it out of our basement which is kind of unique. we were running against an incumbent who was the most popular politician in colorado. it was during the vietnam war and i had a group of people, we sat around the table and we talked about, well, how are we really going to deal with issues. at that time you could look at everybody's brochure and you really couldn't tell who was republican or democrat. they always had pictures of themselves with little kids, with police officers at a grocery store and usually on the last page democrats were on a
bike and republicans on a horse. but outside of that you couldn't tell a difference. so we put together this absolutely radical stuff. we also had on the ballot, there was the war that was a big issue and we also had on the ballot in colorado the olympics. colorado had won the olympics and many environmentals said this is an absolute disaster for the state. we want to vote on it before it comes here. so everybody's -- the political answer was always, i'm so happy it's on the ballot. everybody will be able to express their viewpoint. and then i always cared about children and poor kids. so we decided to run with three posters and we made black and white commercials that i was in. i made the cheapest commercials you've ever seen because i'm telling you my average campaign contribution was $7.50. so we're talking cheap. the posters were, we had an elderly woman walking down one of the streets in denver with a
cane and it said, cheer up, the olympics are coming. it was a rather strong message. we had another one on the military cemetery in colorado with the grave stones and a bird flying out over the top and a quote from one of nixon's speeches saying, yes, many of our troops have already been withdrawn. and on the backs of these we would have a very serious comment about what we were doing and so forth or what i would do on the back, but that would be the poster that would grip your attention. and the final one was a baby sitting under a crews affix in a migrant worker's farm, which we have a lot of migrant workers in colorado, and it said this radical troublemaker is out to get something from you, hope. they were printed on bright
green, bright pink, bright orange paper, totally not red, white and blue, because we were able to get those free. nothing looked like it was supposed to look. you can't imagine. they were like, these haven't gone out? oh yeah, they're out all over town. no, that can't be. well, it was. so i was totally convinced. i never quit my jobs. i had these part-time jobs teaching school and i was the hearing officer for the state which was like a judge. you went around and period personnel cases. they were wonderful part-time jobs and i thought it's hard to get a good part-time job so i'm not going to mess up my life, so i kept them. and the biggest shock of 1972 was election night when i won and my favorite thing was my
poor husband at 2:00 in the morning saying i'm going down to the election commission because i really can't believe this is right. what have we done to ourselves. and there you go. the rest is history. >> one question we wanted to ask you about was -- >> oh the she wins, we win? >> yes. the genesis for that slogan. >> well, that's very interesting. this is not a happy part of the campaign. i remind you that this is the era of hoover and the fbi and all of that. this was one of the things we thought of when we were thinking about a campaign slogan. she wins, we win. we didn't want anybody to -- i mean, schroder is such a long name that we weren't going to do patricia but we wanted to make sure they knew it was a female. so one of my students took the picture and fixed it up. those were the slogans. while this was going on, we had
our house broken into a couple times. we never saw anything missing. we couldn't figure out who's breaking into our house and why is nothing missing. so we didn't think too much about it. after i got elected, it was a year or two later, the front page of "the denver post" had this article about how this guy named timothy redford had been arrested for breaking into houses and he said you can't arrest me because i've been hired by the fbi to break into the schroders' house. so i asked for my fbi file and it comes back like this, right? and they thought this was a communist slogan, she wins, we win. you got to love that. i mean, what imagination is that. and they had all of these things that he had taken out of the house. he had taken out brochures and buttons and stuff. we would have given him those if
he walked into the campaign. things like i belong to the league of women voters, the vietnam veterans against the war.think, but the she wins, we win really bugged them. >> what was the real meaning behind that? what were you hoping to portray with that slogan? >> really, people thought it would be a whole new era. it would be a very different -- obviously we have been the plaintiffs on the bussing suit, the fair housing board, all of these things. and as i say, the gentleman i was running against had been the district attorney who had closed down the "i am curious yellow," the movie, and he would close down restaurants that served hippies because he thought they were a health hazard.
he was this big, outgoing -- i was calling me little patsy as he looked up at me, which was not one of the best things of the campaign, is usually your campaign opponent. he just couldn't believe that anybody was going to vote for me. he also -- this tells you how things have changed. he had always known women to dress up in these little outfits all alike that were nice girls, and they would be out there. so it was just such a contrast to the we wins, means we're really tired of all of this stuff. we want to go a different way, but we're never really convinced. >> well, you mentioned that you at any time want to put just hats on the buttons, you wanted people to know that a woman was running. so how important was gender? how important an issue was gender in your campaign?
>> that's really a good question. it was very frustrating when i announced for commerce, the newspaper, that denver housewife runs for congress, and they didn't even put my name in. i kept thinking, well, yeah, i'm a housewife, but i'm also a harvard lawyer, i also work at the university and a hearing officer. so it was really a problem from day one from that standpoint. women's rights were starting to come to the fore, they weren't quite there but they were beginning. it was all bubbling. a lot of people were absolutely horrified because i had two children, two little children, and i will never forget when i won so many people said, "oh, i don't know how you're going to do this," and i was the same way. i don't know how i'm going to do it, but i'm going to do it so let's figure this out. i will never forget getting a phone call from bella anderson and i thought, oh, i never melt
her. i thought, oh, finally somebody who is going to say, yes, that's great. she goes, i hear you have some kids. yes, i have a three year old and a six year old. >> i don't think you can to the job. i don't know how you're -- i'm like, oh. so it was -- it wasn't even just being a woman. it was being a young woman and with little kids, and that really threw people for a loop. >> was your age a big factor too in the campaign? >> yeah, yeah. >> because you were very young. >> i was 31 and just a few months older who was the youngest woman who ever ran, yeah. so the idea of i was young, had young children, what was i thinking. and when i came, oh, and then speaker of the house, wonderful carl albert come saying to my
husband, raise your hand, and he kept saying, it's her. he would look at me and he would say, no, raise your hand. he said, no, no, it is her. and we would go to all of these events and they would come and say to me, "you're standing in the wrong place, the member's supposed to be in front." he would say, "it is her." he got so tired of saying, "it's her." >> you've alluded to this a little bit by talking about the average campaign contribution being $7.50. how much of an issue was fundraising for your campaign? were there any -- were there any women's groups that were able to offer support? >> no, not in 1972. we're talking -- basically what we did, i always had this theory and actually when i left congress in '96, my average campaign contribution was
$32.50. so, you know, i have always run against the current on this one, but i always had the feeling if you got money from people in your district, even if it was a dollar, they probably had four or five friends. so if it reverberated into votes. if i had gotten lots of money from the outside, which i didn't from the dccc or from the labor unions or whatever, then you've really got to spend it trying to find people in your district with tv ads or something, and it starts to get really expensive. but we did lots and lots of wine and cheese parties and coffees and that type of thing, and that's how we did it. >> so when you were elected it was a small group of women. you were one of 14 women at the time. because there were so few of you, did you gravitate towards each other once you were in the house? >> well, yes and no.
i remember sitting down next to the then-dean of the women who was a woman named lenore sullivan from missouri, she was the chairman of a committee. i said, i know you're my dean. what should i call you? she said, my name is mrs. john sullivan. and i said, yeah, i know that. what should i call you? she said, you can call me by my name. my name is mrs. don sullivan. so i thought, well, we're not going to is a lot of bonding here. you know, we had at that time it was almost half of the women here had inherited -- not inherited really, but had run for their husband's seats after their husband had died. not all of them, but some of
them like mrs. don sullivan thought they were just a woman, they were carrying forward his agenda, whatever that was. so there was a thing, in bella, in shirley, yes, a nice bonding there, and then there's the others. martha from michigan was terrific, martha griffith, but there was the others that weren't quite there yet. that's why we didn't have a women's caucus. i mean 14 was small enough, as you think about half of them, seven, but at least it took a while to get -- a women's caucus going. >> so you joined four other freshmen women at the beginning of that 93rd congress.
yvonne burke, liz holtzman, marjory hot, barbara jordan. later on two widows succeeded their husbands. >> that's right. >> lindy bogs and curtis collins. >> absolutely. >> what kind of bond did you have with that group? was it a special bond? >> oh, yes. barbara jordan was wonderful. she would come out and campaign and do things. yvonne burke was terrific. they were all terrific. marjory hot marjory holt i think wasn't sure she wanted to be with the group, but she was friendly. but, no, we were a lively bunch. it was a whole new day. >> a couple of those women that we mentioned were african-american women, there were a few. did they have many barriers, even more barriers do you think than you had? what was their experience like from your perspective? >> well, you know, shirley
chisolm, i had been excited about her when she ran for president. and as she said, it was almost worse being a woman than being african-american at that time, although what i think the problem was is at that time the black caucus was all male. and so when she comes into it, they're not so sure and they're not so sure she should be one of the group that runs for president and they're not so sure she should be running for chairman of the caucus, which she did, those types of things. so she had a lot of pushback among her fellow colleagues in the black caucus. yeah, i think it was hard. yvonne burke was such a star. i mean she was so gorgeous and so beautiful, and barbara jordan was unbelievable. i mean she was like the voice of
god, everybody adored her. and too bad that she didn't stay. but they were all wonderful in their own right, and i think there were other people a little jealous of them, you know, because of where they were and the attention they got. there's a lot of jealousy on the hill. i don't know if you have noticed that, but a lot of jealousy and a lot of egos, all sorts of problems that you have to deal with. >> the any of the women that you spoke of before, you know, even someone like a bella absug who was here a little before you or shirley chisolm or martha griffiths, did she serve as a mentor for you when you first came in. >> martha was wonderful, the introducer of the e.r.a. i still think about it. martha quit because her husband was so ill. had she stayed, she would have been chairman of the ways and
means committee rather than danny rasikowsky. yi, yi, yi. sad. shirley left early too because her husband had been injured in an automobile accident, so -- and then barbara jordan left early, too, because i mean she had a very tough time. she came from a very big state, and as she said, when the texas delegation gets together nobody has a clue if the other guys show up or not. it is just a bunch of guys, you know. but if i don't come it is like, "where was she?" almost every woman in the state of texas atoptdopted her as the special representative, and you don't get extra staff or anything, so she was just slammed with work, with people expecting her to come everywhere
in texas and do absolutely everything and answer every letter. i think they just wore her out. yvonne burke i think too, she had a young child while she was there. we had a lot of fun having all sorts of celebrations about that, but she got tired and went home. life was easier than commuting back and forth to california. so it was a shame that we lost all of that because they were really such strong and wonderful women, but it is -- you know, women have these different roles and they're very hard to make work. we're much more -- well, i don't know. i'm sure there are some men that are equally as concerned about all of those roles, but women seem to feel it very strongly. i know a good example, when i was doing family medical leave, i had both men and women able to
take it. and i used to go in the cloak room and all of these men would say, if you would take men out of it i would be for it, but if you leave men in there they're going to ask me to babysit at home and i'm not going to be asked to do these things, right. and two wonderful men really helped me. one was teddy kennedy, who took family leave when his son was hurt, and the other was richard gephardt, who suddenly got it when his son was injured. you know, all of a sudden it was like, boing! now, you didn't have to do that with women, women got it right away, you know. these guys were very good. they picked it up and we went on and we kept men in it. but for a couple of years there it was really very scary and there was really pressure to take it out, and as i say a lot of these women just had a lot of
pressure and away they went. but those are the main mentors. i would say martha griffiths was kind of the real dean of the group. she was very proud of the women coming in, and bella was always, you know, just a kick. she was -- and patsy mink. i mean patsy mink was unbelievable. she was a real star in her own right. i kept thinking, "i can't complain about commuting to denver because she goes to hawaii." >> did they offer you any advice that you remember, anything specific? >> oh, i -- i think they basically just were trying to say, you know, you're going to get asked much tougher questions probably, which used to happen all the time. you're going to constantly have people writing about your
clothes and your hair. folks used to even send me money asking me to go get it dyed or, you know, get a haircut. i don't think any male in congress has ever gotten that. we used to get together in the women's reading room and just laugh about some of the things people would say. you know, people would say things like, "how do you wear your hair when you're dressed up?" really? or i remember one reporter went on the air in denver and we were all laughing about it, saying, "pat schroeder couldn't be here tonight, her plaid dress was at the cleaners." i mean really? and there's always somebody that believes it, you know, and they all had stories like that. we would -- i suppose more than mentoring we would laugh, because you either cry or you laugh, you know. we would laugh and say,
"eventually it will change, we hope." >> did you get advice about getting on to certain committees and how to go about doing that? >> oh, man. oh, man. no. i had already figured out what i wanted to do. i figured out i wanted to be in post office and civil service because we had a lot of civil servants in denver, and judiciary eventually. but what i really wanted is i figured all of the money was going through armed services, and i also knew how to fly a plane and i figured there weren't any women and it was very important to have a woman's viewpoint, too. it is all about protecting women and children and they're sucking up all of the money so there's never any money for education or anything else that i wanted because it was, oh, no, we have to have a strong defense. so i thought, okay, i want to be on that committee. that start a real firestorm because the chairman was not at all wanting to put me on the
committee. in 1973 when i got sworn in, there was an entirely different way of getting on committees. the ways and means committee made the assignments then, and grover mills was then chairman of the ways and means committee. this is life's little quirky things that you never know. now, after i had gotten elected i got this giant cheese from wilbur mills and i thought, i know who he is but i have never seen him, shaken his hand, why this cheese? i didn't think much about it, you know, and then i got a call and he said, "you know, i'm in charge of all of this, what would you like to do." i thought, "okay, this is my chance, i want to be on armed services." he kind of gulps but -- i thought, yeah, i know, probably go in the hopper and who knows what will happen. anyway, lo and behold i'm on the armed services committee.
wow! you know, now i couldn't -- everybody was like, what happened? well, later on we found out what happened because mr. mills was discovered with his argentine fire cracker who was waiting out in the basin, it became this huge scandal. i knew elliott janeway who was a big economist in new york. suddenly i got all of the pieces put together. elliott janeway's wife and wilbur mill's wife were very good friends, and for some reason they were really interested in my campaign. it is like here is this young woman with these kids running out in colorado, isn't this interesting? they kept nagging wilbur, okay. number two, wilbur is so busy with the argentine firecracker
he doesn't have time to campaign much and his wife is out campaigning all the time, and she has a mini stroke, one side of her face froze and he start feeling a little guilty, as well he should. apparently he said, i want you to do for that woman whatever she wants. so apparently i gave him a pretty high bar, but he did it. that's how i got on. i really thought it was my qualifications and my ability to make my case. it wasn't that at all, it was called guilt. guilt and the argentine firecracker. >> so once you're on the committee, what kind of welcome did you receive? >> none. no welcome at all on the committee. the interesting thing is it was the first time ways and means had overruled a veto from a chairman. the chairman of your committee had the right to veto. they would say, we're recommending these members, and if they didn't want them they
could, you know, and that would be the end of it. they were then called the college of cardinals, these chairmen of these committees and one cardinal would never -- well. so wilbur mills with his wife's voice in his ear decides to override the veto. so i show up the first day, and there was also rahm dylans, an african-american from oakland who had been here before, he had been here two years, and they put him on the committee. i do not know whether he had been vetoed or not, i don't know whether they overrode that, that i don't know. it was very clear he was not really excited about having an african-american and a girl on his committee. so we walk in and we're feeling pretty good, you know. and he starts going off about this is absolutely horrible. i mean he is belloing liwing li
bull elephant out in the jungle. this is the worst thing that's ever happened, you know, it is not even worth running for congress anymore, they've taken away all of your power, there's nothing left. and he says, "however, i still have the power to determine how many seats are at the dais, and these two people are only worth half of the reps of my members so they're getting one chair." so ron and i kind of looked at each other. we both had been in the anti-war movement, and the thing was, okay, now what to we do? we decided that we walk in with great dignity and we share a chair. so we sat there cheek-to-cheek. barny frank used to always say it was the only half-assed thing i did when i was in congress, but, you know, i'm not sure that's true. but there we were. it was interesting because none of the rest of the committee even pretended to notice. they were all there basically to
support their own -- you know, their own districts and their own bases and they never want to upset the chairman. and so later on after several meetings, one of the -- one of the staff was very nice and kind of put a folding chair up there. it was crazy. just nuts. it got better. i went to sigh hiee him, thinki ought to at least go see him. he gave me a book he had written and he signed it. it said, "the lord giveth, the lord taketh away, i am the lord, don't forget." his name was herbert, spelled like we would pronounce herbert,
but it was abear. he was a democrat who backed nixon and all of that. so it was really clear we weren't going to get along real well and he showed me his adult. he said he had an adult room and an adultery room. i was like, that's really interesting. so i being the shy, retiring westerner that i am, had buttons made up that said, "help, i have a bear by the tail" and handed them out to my colleagues. "redbook" magazine came and did a cover story of me with the "help, i have a bear by the tail" on the cover. so in '73 there was the war in israel, and the committee is supposed to go over to take a
look at what's going on. it was over thanksgiving. i'll never for give tgive the ae for this. we go out and get on the air force plane we are supposed to get on, and every seat had a copy of the "redbook" magazine and i was totally ostracized. nobody wanted to be near me. it was an interesting time. i thought i needed a food taster. >> you mentioned earlier how important it was for you to have a woman's perspective on armed services. can you elaborate on that a little bit more? >> right, right. well, there were lots of things. number one, when i was a child my father had been called up in world war ii. he taught flying in the
then-army air corps. he never went overseas, but we moved around a lot, and i had always watched what the military does and i noticed that they really didn't care about families at all. families were just kind of drug along behind. really wasn't much difference in the civil war or something. so i really thought with my concern about families and women and children that that was essential to have somebody asking those questions that they really didn't want to answer. so i thought that was part of it. part of it is i wanted to see where the money went. of course, those were the days when we were finding, you know, $6,000 toilet seats and justry tick lus thinjustry -- just ridiculous things. the money was -- so that was very frustrating, too.
and i always thought that we should be savvy about what this is, you know. you know, you can't have that because we have to get another aircraft carrier to protect you, so you won't sleep with a night light at night. i'm thinking, i live in denver, what is this aircraft carrier going to do? we don't have enough water to float a duck, i mean really. and then there were also a lot of issues in denver, one in particular. as a pilot i used to fly out of denver stapleton. it is now closed, but i would look down and there were all of these things sitting there on this thing called rocky mountain arsena arsenal, at the end of the runway. i remember as a civilian asking the military, what is that stuff, you know? it looked like nerve gas to me or something serious, you know. what is all that at the end of the runway? and they said, "well, it is
classified." and i made a couple of inquiries, and then they finally -- some general said to me, "it's kept the russians out of denver." i thought, well, that's interesting. so there wasn't much i could do about that. i mean it also became local because i wanted to get on the committee to find out what in the world this was because i had a nightmare if somebody ever wanted to terrorize denver, you take off a plane and say i'm going to run it into those things unless you do a, b, c, d. so i asked and they no longer had an excuse, they had to tell me. of course, it was, it was nerve gas, it was every awful thing you could think of. all of it had been nicely congregated in the rocky mountain arsenal. so i could then start my long process of trying to get that all cleaned up and see where we went. but, you know, there were a lot of reasons that i was very interested in it, and obviously
they were not too interested in me. i also thought there were a lot of young women who wanted to go into the military and really wanted to participate. i had the air force academy obviously in colorado, and, of course, they were all told no, they couldn't go. i would go up there and i would say to the young men, "why don't you want women?" "well, they can wear their hair longer." "does it interfere with the mission?" "do yno." >> do you want to wear your hair longer?" what's the issue again. do you want to wear earrings? does it interfere with the mission? no. we would go through all of this stuff and it was a very, very long time before we finally could get young women in. they just finally opened all of
the slots i think this year. i mean it has been a long spot. but protecting those young lionesses in the military, the sexual harassment that many went through that did go in, you know, i thought it was very important to have women on the committee. >> and there weren't very many of you during your time. >> no, there weren't. of the other issue that i did forget about is people forget in world war ii they commissioned a lot of women to fly aircraft back and forth. they put them in uniform. they were under military command and they were told they would be treated like other military. well guess what? they weren't. it took us many years even in the congress to get that straightened out. a lot of them were gone by the time we finally got it straightened out, but, yeah, just somehow women were always dispensable. it is like, okay, it was nice of
you, go home now, we're done. so there were an awful lot of issues that i really felt it was important to have another look and some more eyes looking at it on the committee. >> was there any kind of bond with the few women that were there? i know marjory holt was on the committee and beverly byron was there as well. did you work together on any issues? >> not really well, i'm sorry to say. because i was so interested in the nerve gas -- this was a great example with my dear chairman herbert again. there was a nerve gas -- an international conference in geneva on it, and i went to the speaker and i said, "this is terribly important because this is, you know, for colorado was the number one storage at the end of my runway. so he appointed me as his representative to go. i knew my chairman wouldn't, but
then a traditional thing was the speaker didn't have any travel funds. so if he appointed someone, they didn't have the travel funds, so he sent it to herbert. herbert said, no way. i went back to the speaker and said, no problem. i will buy my ticket. i will drive down, so i did it. you know. the speaker sent -- herbert sent marjory holt over as his sole representative with this entire giant aircraft flying in and the whole entourage and here i am with two kids driving down the highway from luxembourg because that's where the icelandic stopped. never mind. i got there, found out what i needed to know and went home, i
didn't care. so it wasn't always warm and friendly, you know. it was just really too bad because we should have been better at that. >> so we've talked about a lot of issues so far, but one thing we definitely wanted to ask was about the atmosphere of the house when you were first elect. how would you describe that, especially as a young woman coming into the house? >> well, let's see. i had several policemen attempt to arrest me for impersonating a congresswoman. i don't know what that meant. but they would say, you young secretaries think you can just drive into this -- into this parking area or whatever or at the airport. and, basically, well, one of my favorite things was an older gentleman from texas taking me
to coffee saying, i don't understand why you're here, this place is about chevis regal, $1,000 bills, beautiful women and lear jets. why did you come? oh, is that what it is about? silly me. so, you know, there was a wide, wide range. there were some people who were very kind obviously and very helpful, but an awful lot of people really thought i must have been a fluke, you know, i would be defeated two years later, so not to pay too much attention to me. so there was the whole range of things, and then other people who were just appalled. shouldn't you be home? you know, what's wrong with you? >> how did you respond to those people and those kinds of comments? >> you know, it is really just not even worth your time. you just kind of smile at them and walk away. i mean you're never going to get anywhere with them. they've got their own idea and
you can always tell a congressman but you can't tell them much i learned very early. so you just smile and say, well, you know, i guess we differ or something and leave. >> were there certain parts of the institution that were more difficult for you to get access to as a woman? >> oh, absolutely. when i came there were no women door keepers, there were no women police officers on capitol hill. there were all sorts of areas that were off limits to women. we were not supposed to go there. we didn't even have a restroom. you know, it was like, what are we all going to have bladder infections? i remember there was one woman in the senate, senator smith from maine, and when she retired the senator quick made a tv room out of her restroom, you know, like there wouldn't be any more women coming.
well, we had that one and she's gone, so yay! let's take over the space. no, there was an awful lot of that. women pages, we didn't have any young girls for pages. we didn't have -- women had not -- it was a male plantation, and i will never forget walking out one time on -- there's a porch right off of the speaker's lobby and i thought, well, i will go out and sit on the porch, you know. it was a nice day. oh, my word. it was like i had violated every law in the book. there were guys out there sunbathing. they had taken their trousers off and i'm sorry, it never occurred -- ah, ah, ah. so, yeah, and, of course, the gym was a place where many things happened and women -- they finally decided to put a
gym in this building here in rayburn for women and it had 20 hair dryers and a ping-pong table and a masseuse or something. it was like, is that your definition of a gym? can i see what the men have for a gym? of course, the swimming pool, nobody could go in the swimming pool. you know, you just couldn't do that. so you were really kind of cut out of a lot of those things. i think even socializing, people were afraid to socialize with us really. i don't know why, but it was -- it was an interesting time. it was a different time. >> i heard you tell a great story once about a dinner you were invited to with kay graham, "washington post." >> oh, yes. >> and jackie onasis. >> this was early on, and the first committee they gave me was like a nothing burger committee.
i mean you're a freshman, what can they give you? they gave me commemorative days and holidays. okay. some nobody paid much attention except we were going into the b bicentennial. so i got busy and we did all sorts of things. we were kicking stuff out, and jackie onasis had edited a book called "remember the ladies" which was from abigail adams's letter to john adams when they were writing the constitution. of course, she didn't, but at least she tried, and it was about colonial women and women's history. it was an excellent book. we thought that this should be the book -- well, anyway, pass that through. it all went through the house because nobody was paying much attention. it was like, oh, well, we don't have to be on the floor for this, it is just voice vote. so i never really -- all of a sudden i get this invitation to
come to katherine graham's house. so i think, well, i must be a really important freshman. i get there and here's katherine at one end of the table and jacqueline onasis at the other end of the table and all of these senators, and the issue was they weren't going to have any part of her book. and i remember sitting there listening to this thinking, what am i doing here? these are probably the two most powerful women i can think of in this city, and these senators are saying no, and they're telling them very nicely things like, now, our vision for women for the bicentennial is beautification projects, you know. we were all like, you know, we can beautify and read, we can do both. you know, we could really -- we think we can work all of this together. we're not against beautification
but we think we can do a little more than that, a lot of us are educated now, we can read, you know. they had no participate of it. so finally their great compromise by the time we got to dessert was it wouldn't be here in america, but they would put the book in the u.s. information libraries overseas. of course, ronald reagan comes in four years later and shuts down all of the libraries. so there you go, never saw the book. it did make me drive home thinking, if that's some controversial, what is the problem, you know, but they just weren't going to move it and they didn't. >> you mentioned the gym and the pool and the areas that it was difficult for women to access. how did you and other women, how did you eventually break down those barriers?
>> well, there got to be more and more women and, you know, we did finally get a women's caucus, and more and more we were able to speak with one voice about those kind of issues. we couldn't on all, but on those kind of issues it became really we should be full members and not kind of like mascots or something. we're not cheerleaders here. and so gradually it came around, but it was very slow. i don't even know now if the gym has really worked out. what they finally did i think was they put a dressing room for the women several floors down below the gym, so it really became a little difficult to use when we were in session because to dress to get up, go back to redress to get back up, to get over -- i mean you've got to be a really fast dresser to do that. so i'm not quite sure where it went. personally, i was so bloody busy with the family and the kids and everything else that, you know,
i must say i didn't probably allocate as much time to that as i was to other issues. but that was for us, i mean there was that -- there was the wonderful suffragette statue that was in the basement that should have been brought upstairs. there were all sorts of little things like that that were really snubs. i don't know any other way to use it, say it. it was like a snub to women. we really don't want to know that you ever did anything, you know. what could you possibly do that was important? the image was kind of, men came here on dangerous sailing ships, but we arrived on cruise ships, you know, getting our nails done and they put us up on pillars and, you know, we just really didn't need to be in all of this. it was pretty astounding. >> in those early years, how did you -- was it an adjustment for you to handle the media attention that you were getting
coming out of your candidacy and being one of a small group of women in congress? what was that like, being in that glare? >> it never really bothered me. it was like if they want to talk to me, i'm happy to talk to them. i realize a lot of them thought, oh, my gosh, what is she going to say next, but my thought it was always it helped me communicate with my constituents. i didn't do newsletters because i thought they were phoney. everybody always -- i had made so much fun of my opponent's newsletters when i was running for office that i didn't dare do it. so, you know, the media came, it was good. it was another time. and the wonderful thing that probably actually saved my skin, because i didn't have any money and i -- you know, i didn't have any real way to communicate that much, but at that time there was the fairness doctrine. ronald reagan got rid of it, but there was the fairness doctrine.
so my staff would watch, and if somebody got on the air and said, "i can't believe what that idiot did today," yada, yada, yada, i could ask for equal time. i could say, well, you know, leapt me explain to you what i did today. what i did today was a, b, c, d, and i think that saved my skin. you can't do that anymore. i mean that's a huge, huge problem. i remember toward the end much my career rush limbaugh would start calling me femi-nazi all the time which i thought was an awful word. you can't get on the air. you can phone but they don't have to let you through. they don't have to take your commercials. they can just keep going. so, you know, that doctrine is totally gone and you can have all one-sided if you want to. i don't think a lot of people understand that, and i have often said i'm not sure i would have survived in this kind of climate. that fairness doctrine saved my skin many a time.
somebody would get on and just go off. say, well, i can tell you why i did it. oh, i remember, some guy went off -- i love this. i had voted to send rockets -- rockets to the eastern bloc countries. this was during the cold war. and i thought, really? what in the world? and we looked it up, and there was a unanimous consent vote for nerf rockets, those kids rockets that was going to a toy fair in czechoslovakia. i went on and i said, here, let me tell you, it was a nerf rocket, it was a toy fair and now everybody in the congress voted for it. what else do you have to say? you can do those things. negative research is not anything new, they were doing it then and we got it 24/7.
but you just put it out there. >> you had said earlier that people asked you how you could come to congress and having little kids and bella absug saying is this even possible, so how did you do it? how were you able to balance both worlds? >> you know, i'm not sure i know. there are whole years i don't think i can reconstruct, and i remember being so tired sometimes that i would sit down and i would see holes in the wall that i knew weren't there. it was just sheer exhaustion. but we did lots of things. i remember telling this to one of my favorite pediatricians in the world, t. barry brazeltine, who was so helpful on children's issues. he said, how do you work this out with your kids? i said, i'm so afraid to tell you, you will just have a stroke. he said, no, no, tell me. i said, well, look, i'm a lawyer, my husband is a lawyer.
my husband is an international lawyer. his big office is in bangkok, you know. we have this crazy life, what can i say? but i said, we're both lawyers, and so we sign contracts with our kids. we have family meetings once a month. we have a traveling gavel. you have to be three to hold the gavel, but everybody takes a turn. we take notes. it is what is upsetting you, what isn't. our kids like to travel, which is good. so we said to them, they were here, they lived in washington, and we said to them, you can -- they did not have a family allowance obviously so we had to pay for them every time they went. so we're in this pickle where we don't have enough money to send you to private school and have you travel back and forth whenever you want to do it or go with us internationally or do whatever you want to do. so you can either get really good grades in public school and
we'll put the private money in a fund and you can travel, use it for travel, or if you don't get really good grades then there really is no option, you know, you're going to go to private school. work like a charm. never had to worry about it. and reporters used to always ask me the question you asked about how can you be a mother, and they would also say, what is your biggest fear as a freshman congresswoman? i would say, that my housekeeper quits. and they said, nobody ever says that. i said, if they were a woman with two children, that's what they would say, because my life stops if the housekeeper quits. you don't understand. my housekeeper, you know, hangs the moon as far as i'm concerned. so it was a very busy, active time. i think the other thing we had to deal with yellow cab, that i
could call any time and they would send a certified person to pick up the children and bring them if we got stranded anywhere. i was kind of yellow cab mother of the year i think. i often would have to call a neighbor and say, can you help? because, you know, this place is totally unpredictable and it was always when you least expected everything goes crazy. and i remember one time thinking early on, what can i do to thank neighbors? i thought, well, women like flowers so i would send flowers, right. and i'll never forget the florist one day saying, do you mind if i ask you a personal question? and i said, no, no, what? why are you always sending flowers to women? and i said, oh, my gosh. because they bail me out. anyway, those -- you just find whatever you can to try and put it all together. and, actually, the kids i think really loved it.
i mean they went back and forth to colorado, they had a great time. they traveled the world. so they were probably healthier than if i was there all the time sculpting on them. i probably would have micromanaged their lives and they would have hated it. >> were your colleagues supportive, especially when your children were young? >> oh, no. i would get on a plane and it was really funny. they would all pretend like they had no idea. i mean we came on with pet rabbits, franklin delano rabbit we had, we had dogs, ponies. oh, we had everything. we were like a traveling circus, you know, and they would usually spill at least two cokes and a glass of him can on -- milk on before i got off. i was always sticky. and crayolas, but they would just be horrified but that's how we were. one of my favorite, you try to
look professional, okay. and if you are in your early 30s, it is hard enough anyway, and it has always been hard for me because i'm way too casual. we get on with franklin delano rabbit who has to go with us. they said, we have a problem. we were in the tourist section and there was already an animal back there and they can only have one animal per section, but they said there's nothing up in first class so we'll put franklin up under this seat. okay. so i see this dear little lady up in the first class, and she's down there, oh, isn't it cute, you know. and this is back in the days when first class they used to roll down the aisle with a little salad bowl, make everybody a salad. and i'm just thinking, no, she really wouldn't, she wouldn't. she gets her salad. she opens the door and franklin blasts for freedom. the kids are out of their seats
screaming, franklin! running up and down. i mean you can't imagine. and i'm sitting there smiling. of course, we're on our way to denver. everybody is from denver. hello, it is your congresswoman here. we can do these stories all night long. but you just finally say, probably never going to look professional. it is just not going to work, not with young children. >> i'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about the beginnings of the women's caucus, which was created in 1977. just the background behind that. >> absolutely. >> and some salient memories that you might have. >> wonderful peggy heckler decided this needed to be done, bless her heart. she had us all over to her house for dinner and, of course, most of us were very enthusiastic. people were a little leery. it was like, well, you don't
want to put too much in in dues and we really want it to be where we're all together and so forth and so on. so that's really how it started out. it got started, and i think we built a lot of confidence. peggy then came back and had gotten permission to take this whole group to russia -- not to russia, to china. it was the year of the woman, the international year of the woman. mao was still alive. we are still talking a long time ago. so we were only the second u.s. delegation going into china. it was really quite an event. they weren't really ready for us. it was so wonderful. nor was the air force. they flew us to guam to refuel, and i would say all of the women there were basically fairly
anti-war and they decided the take us over to show us the b-52s they use for the bombings in vietnam. we're like, this is really not your audience really. i don't think we're going to be too happy about this. we went on in to china, and bella brought her husband and i remember there was this big ruckus in the hall of the people and her husband was over there explaining how the stock market worked. these guys, it was just -- these guys were hysterical. my husband and yvonne's husband were just awful. they went off and they would go on shopping trips and they would try on these silk jackets. the whole place was like, they had no idea what to do with us. i don't know what they thought we were going to be, but we
weren't what they thought we were going to be. we were not docile little kittens. we had these very aggressive, ab absug, mink, schroeder. anyway, that built a lot of camaraderie among the group. and then later on liz hoelltsma took it over. when i took it over, we decided we would let men in who had good voting records and we could then do things if we had a majority vote, you know. but it had to kind of evolve that everybody felt more comfortable with each other, which is kind of strange, isn't it? i mean why do we feel so uncomfortable? i don't know, but some did. >> what are the early issues that the caucus took up was e.r.a. and trying to extend the period for ratification for states. what do you remember about that,
and especially the caucus's role? >> oh, i absolutely do not understand why all of these years we still don't have women in the constitution. we got it through in colorado and we had a lot of fun. we had a group called ladies against women and we had buttons that said, i'd rather be ironing and $0.59 is enough and all of this kind of stuff, and we had little hats and gloves. and whenever a big conservative came we always would come, try to get in the front seat, cheer, want to have our pictures with us, and we carried an ironing board for registration for all of the people that wanted to register. they knew we were putting them on, but we weren't being disruptive so they couldn't throw us out. so i thought we ought to have some fun with this, right. they weren't quite into having fun, but it just -- i never
could understand what the hard sell was. no one has ever put time limits on the constitution except for when it was women. it is women, so you only get so many days. so, you know, we just -- we were all very frustrated. liz holtsman was fantastic, you know. she had really won because the gentleman she defeated had been against the e.r.a., and she was kind of our titular leader in all of it. we were just very exasperated. i hear they still introduce it every year and it still sits there. to me it is the most interesting thing was that after it was over, there was a survey done of all of the newspapers and all of the tv shows and everything, trying to understand what image people got of the equal rights amendment. none of them ever printed what it was. it was just a few words and it
was basically always somebody standing out saying, this is really very important, this is how you solid pify, you know, women's rights, and others saying, oh, my gosh, we'll have uni sex bathrooms, your mother will be drafted, you will be wearing combat boots. it was this really shocker thing. we did have the research, congressional research service do a things on all of the things that would have to be changed in legislation if we passed the equal rights amendment. it was a huge, long list. just a huge, long list. we thought, well, this will help. it didn't help either. we tried all sorts of things, but obviously it has just never been agenda item, and i must say it is very discouraging.
>> it is kind of a two-part question. what role do you think the caucus has played in the institution of congress? also, as a founder, looking back, how would you rate how it's operated over time? what are some of its strengths, some of its weak nesses? >> well, i think there for a while we were doing a great job. we did the women's economic equity act every term. everybody brought their stuff together. it was all about improving the economic status of women. we put it in one big bill, then we broke it out in little bills. we tried to push whatever we could wherever we were, on what committees, you know. one of the ways we were able to do that so well is at that time the congress would allow us to take, as you know, each congressional office has so many slots for staff. we could take a half a staff slot and move it to the caucus,
and somebody else could take a half a one and put it to the caucus. and so we could then hire a staff that work for all of us in the caucus, and their one focus was on these bills and what to do, and that was great. and they had an office here on the hill, so they were very reachable. we were the largest bipartisan caucus in the hill, and we got an awful lot of things through. we got the women's health initiative through. oh, my goodness, remember that? that was back when we found out that they had done the breast cancer research on men only. they had no women in any national institutes of health surveys. they didn't even use female rats. so basically they knew nothing about women's health. we got all sorts of things like that, family leave, lots of women having equal access to
credit, i remember that. we passed that, then found out that the federal reserve interpreted it to mean only shopping. and i remember having arthur burns head of the reserve saying, no, it wasn't only for shopping. it doesn't say only for shopping, it says equal access to credit, period. we got that straightened out and we got lot of things through. there was not a lobby for them so they would have not happened. when engrich became speaker he did not like our caucus and
they changed the rules and caucuses could not be on the hill. i think it is much harder to be effective that way. they are not -- for being off of the hill, and raising money for one more thing when people have to raise money for so much as it is already it is very hard. but it's much harder than when i was here and i think it is really sad. one thing you need to be a board member of congress is good information, solid information and the best way to get that is to have people just dedicated to doing the dig and go reading and finding out and -- digging and reading and finding out and it's hard to do that office by office because you only have so many staff and they are trying to coverall of
the other things you are into so -- cover all of the other things you are into. there was an environmental caucus which is a wonderful way to are a rich amount of depth and really it showed. >> fmla, a huge issue you worked on for many years. can you talk a little about your role in getting the legislation passed? >> absolutely. yes, i introduced the bill. it took nine years. i was very -- you know i really -- the bill that i introduced is different than what got
passed because we had to water it down a lot and it took a lot but to me every country in the world has done this and they have done it with paid leave and we keep pretending like it's your baby or your job, lady. have a nice day. it was very, very controversial. i remember a gentlemen who represented the chamber of commerce who said if this passes we have to shut down during hunting season and i'm like really. southern women must be a lot different than western women because i don't know of anybody having their babies on the
mountains. so it was very hard. in 1987 i started out as a campaign manager for gary heart and he had to leave the presidential race and in a moment of madness i thought all right, i will run for president. it's way too late and everything. but in the interim, some absolutely wonderful people got a hold of me and a wonderful guy named david goldberg and they said we like what you are saying about family issues and we are sorry you got out of the campaign and what can we do. >> i said why don't we have a great american family tour.
i'm frustrated i can't get the issues front and center so let's go into the primary and we will have a great american family tour and we will talk about family leave, daycare, what we should be doing for the american family and why aren't we doing it because everybody has done it long ago. away we went. we did this and we had bigger crowds than any of the candidates and we recommend everybody sign on the back of their check they donated not to be cashed until family leave passed. we were trying to stir people up and we met with editorial boards and all sorts of people. then the nominee, the first george bush, george bush one,
says he was for family leave. they were all, this is great. i'm thinking woe are make -- we are making progress, this is fantastic. we come back and get a pass and it gets to bush's desk and he voteoes it. i'm -- vetoes it and i'm like excuse me. >> i'm for it in concept, that did not mean i was for it in the law. i was frustrated. one of the states we happen to be in where we did our family tour was arkansas and guess who the governor of arkansas was? bill clinton. when he came, bam, we passed that puppy and it was the first thing he signed. so thank goodness. we finally got it through after nine years. i was happy to move it along.
and we did a lot of things. we had a foot in their they were going to study it for two years to make sure businesses did not crumble all over america like we were told they did. they didn't. we had to take out the paid part which breaks my heart. we still do not have the paid part and recently they asked me to come up here and celebrate the 20th anniversary and i'm like i'm not celebrating you did that add anything. we are at the bottom of the heap. we finally do something, so yeah. we moved it and then i wrote a book called champion of the great american family we put out in 1988. it was a lot of energy and efforts to get the one bill done and obama talked about
paid family leave, thank goodness but we still don't have it. we are a long way and to me it makes no sense. i don't understand how every other country has found a way to work this out. and we just can't figure it out. i think we are somewhatter than that. -- smarter than that. >> you were also one of a group of congress women in the early 90s who marched to the senate to urge that aniha hill have the opportunity to -- anita hill have the opportunity to testify about the supreme court nominee clarence thomas. what do you remember about that event and the reception in the senate to that march? >> that was a very gray day. first of all, clarence thomas i
was very aware of. mary, myself and gary each had submities and we had -- subcommittees and we put ours together to talk about equality and all of these things. and we had clarence thomas come to testify and he always laughed at us and told us it was a stupid law and blah, blah, blah. it was so frustrating to think this guy did not believe in what he was supposed to be doing so no wonder he was not doing it. so suddenly he is up and we had not heard much about what was going on and suddenly this wonderful woman says i would like to testify. we looked into her background and she was amazing.
she was a southern baptist all the way through, very straight arrowed, straighter than straight. she had interesting stories to tell about the chairman. she had volunteered to testify and asked to testify. they said no. no thank you. so we got really upset and one morning we did one minute speeches, and a wonderful young woman who did my press i said what can we do and she said go outside and walk to the senate this way. she said do it outside so the media sees you march. go up the stairs and go in there and knock on the door. so we did. well all of the democratic senators were meeting for lunch as they do every week.
i knocked on the door. the majority leader answered the door and said we do not left strangers in here. -- let strangers in here and we said strangers? we thought of ourselves as your colleagues, excuse us and then we said see all of these people in the hall behind us. they are press. this is not going to be pretty. what are you going to do? he said come back at a certain time and i will talk to you. let me find out what is going on. okay. so we are trying to be fair. we say let's come back. we come back. we sit down and we explain to him -- he says i have to tell you i'm sorry about this but i finally got them to say they will have her come testimony, not the other -- testify, not the others but she can come but
the chairman promised senator dan he would make this hearing fast and quick and we get this over. we are like so his promise was more important than nominating this supreme court justice. well, you know your word is your word and the chairman feels strongly that that is how it is going to be. they put her on early when nobody is watching. they put him on screaming and hollering about he had been lived and all of this other stuff he was talking about. they did not put the other women on. we got him for supreme court justice. we were very unhappy from a lot of different stand points. the fact they treated us like
they had never seen us before, trying to invade their space. we used to say it took the senate longer to get cranked up because they have to iron their togas and everything. apparently they did not know who we were and this whole thing of the you don't understand rules of the senate. someone gives you their world and this is how -- word and this is how it must be. well, all be. we can't get into our gym so i guess we did not know that. it was really a bad day. so the good news is we got senator feinstein out of that because women were mad all over the country. it's not a good way to get it. we also get clarence thomas out of that and that's one of my
favorites, anyway. >> in 1992 the press called you and 24 new women elected to the house. what does that feel like for you to have more rimmen in the ranks of the house -- women in the ranks of the house? >> it was very exciting and that was the fall out from the whole hearing we just talked about, the hearings with clarence thomas. people were so mad about anita hill's treatment so a lot of women got elected and we were not ten percent of the house even then. so i remember walking out there, they are swearing them in and one of my colleagues said i hope you are happy, this place is starting to look like a shopping center. i said where do you shop? ten percent of women.
really? looks like the shopping mall to you? there were people shocked buy it. and when i first got elected i was in this really idealistic mode of this is wonderful, how long do you think it will be before almost half of the house is female. so i asked the library of congress what they thought and they said probably 300 years. it has been very incremental. very incremental. >> you mentioned congress men sullivan and you eventually rose to that position. what do you feel like you role was to women? >> we tried very hard to not
attach each other -- attack each other and we tried to mentor new women coming in. when women run it's a very tough thing. we tried to work out what we could put in the big packages that we could get through and how we might do it. just basically seeing how much we can get done. it was a very important time to get done as much as you could get done because you never know what would happen next. >> did you offered a vice to -- offered a vice to the -- advice to the younger women. >> the best thing you can do is say what you think and if it turns out you change your mind
you say i did not have enough information and now i think this. i find people are much more for giving if you just deal with them honestly one thing at a time. if you start playing games and you can't remember which game you played with which group, and i also think that women are expected to do so much more, i really fiend. you are expected -- i really find. you are expected to do everything and be everywhere and that's hard. not burning yourself out, all of those good things and having some other women friends makes a big difference. >> any questions? we have a few general wrap up questions. we talked about when we started how there was a small group of women when you came into the
house and now there is 108 women in congress and 88 in the house and 20 in the senate. looking then and now what role do you see women playing in congress different from when you came in? >> i think they have a lot more power. the debate academically has always been you change an institution when women have a critical mass, you don't change it by having one woman. the question what a critical mass is, everybody has a different number. we are getting closer. when we were 14 there was no one, believe me. you can say i won't deliver my vote but that's all you can do. to get a critical mass and stick together they can make a big difference long term. so the women in the senate have done a good job and i have been
very impressed with them. when the government shut down the women got back together and said this is nonsense and they figured it out. that it is the role model of what we should be doing and what i hope women will do in the future as they keep moving in. >> do you think your service in the house inspired any women to run or possibly inspire future women to run? >> i hope so. i hope so. let me tell you a story. i now live in florida and we have a thing called ruthless. hard to say. we do this because we are trying to encourage women to run and ruth ryan owens the first woman from florida. where ever i got to press i thought about how all these
early women had the feel and she was one of the ones, i can't imagine what it was like. she had a district from miami to jacksonville and she drove her self and got creamed in every paper, who is this husky driving around by her self and she wins. and he shows up and -- she shows up and the guy she defeats will not leave because he said she is no longer an american. she married a british officer wounded in world war one. this is 1926. it took her a year. finally she got her seat. imagine what that woman went through. then imagine when she walked down on the floor the greetings she got from her colleagues who
were standing with the guy she defeated. that must have been lot of fun. whenever i used to think then i think i have it pretty easy compared to what she had. i think you put it all in that perspective and hopefully the real lesson is there is more of you and you really can work together you can make a difference and usually you can always find something you agree with people on. i think that's what the this congress lost of light. it's just much more fun to fire at each other than it is to sit down and talk to each other and that's a shame. >> if you had a couple sentences to give to perspective women candidates running for congress, what would that be? >> i would say to do it.
i think women wait to be discovered. all of the books coming out lately keep saying men will apply for a job if they are at least 50% qualified but women have to be 100% plus. they are cautious or if i have all of that won't somebody find me and ask me to do it. they are not going to ask you, you have to raise your hand and say i will do it. deal with it. i think that's -- it's getting easier because each generation is getting more but i tell women just to to it. it's -- do it. if they do not go out there they will find someone else to run and they will not come knock on your door and say we happened to notice you have all of the wonderful attributes to make a perfect person.
you know. it's not going to happen. >> based on your experience, how would you convince women to run? what would you say to them to get them to do it? >> this is like forever. i was so frustrated when i ran. i was so angry about the vietnam war and i was so angry about all of the different things happening. and i ran because i thought somebody has to stand up and say something. my frustration now is what i hear people saying we are frustrated is we will not bother. if you don't bother it will get worse. you really have to bother. i mean, freedom is also a responsibility. it's a responsibility of every citizen to realize they have to participate and if you don't then you don't have any right to complain. you really have no right to
complain. if you vote and if you get out there and you work for candidates you believe in you can change it. you can over rule so many things. the thick they have not taken -- thing they have not taken away from us is the vote. i'm sure they are thinking about it. but i must say i can't tell you how frustrated i am by the number of people who say big money coming in and this is happening and government doesn't work and all of the people are crooks and i will not have part of it. i'm like really? you will just surrender. find five people you like and they get committed. i don't know where we lost that spirit. i don't know where we lost that we can do this. if we don't do it, it will not
happen. they say freedom doesn't come like a bird on a wing. you have to work for it. we have lot of work to do right now. >> anything else? >> one question maybe a good one to end with is what do you think your lasting legacy will be with your 24 years in the house? >> i think what i said in my book was that do i still have the same husband, did both children turn out to be okay? but hopefully i made some difference for america's families which is what i was concerner concerned a-- conserved about and -- concerned about and had a little fun along the way and i got the nerve to ask out
someone in denver. >> is there anything else you wanted to add? >> we are right up on 4:00. >> thank you so much. >> thank you so much. sunday night one of the questions that i hear people ask all of the time is this the most uncivil time in history. it will take another period and certainly the year's leading to the civil war when a house member became senators in 1856 because he dis agreed what he said. >> there is abelard way musical about the shooting of hamilton shot by the sitting vice- president of the united states. that's dramatic. we had terrible times. that was one in 1858 that had
80 members rolling around on the floor fighting one another. >> one member had a wig. his name was kite. one member pulled his wig off during the fight and someone else yelled and that was enough to stop the fight. >> historians richard baker and donald richy, sunday night at eight eastern on cspan q and a. >> next on american history tv the president of the center for ken certain active women -- conservative women, michelle easten talk about clare booth lieu. the event is 40 minutes. clare booth lieu. i am happy to be here in