- Pat Schroeder, who used to be a member of Congress and was a leader for women’s and family rights, died Monday night. She turned 82. Andrea Camp, who used to be Schroeder’s press secretary, said that Schroeder recently had a stroke and died at a hospital in Celebration, Florida, where she had been living for the past few years.
Schroeder used her sharp wit and tricks to take on the powerful elite for 24 years. She shook up old-fashioned government institutions by forcing them to admit that women had a place in government. Schroeder said she wasn’t willing to join what she called “`the good old boys club” just to win political points because of her unconventional ways. She didn’t care if she embarrassed her fellow lawmakers in public, so she became a symbol for the feminist movement.
Schroeder was first elected to Congress in Colorado in 1972. From her safe district in Denver, she was re-elected 11 times, making her one of the state’s most powerful Democrats. Even though she was the most experienced, she was never put in charge of a committee.
Before deciding to leave in 1997, Schroeder helped build several Democratic majorities. In 1998, she wrote a book called “24 Years of Housework… and the Place is Still a Mess” as a way to say goodbye. My Life in Politics,” in which she talked about how frustrated she was with the way men dominated politics and how slowly things changed in government institutions.
In 1987, Schroeder thought about running for president. When fellow Coloradan Gary Hart dropped out of the race, he started a campaign to raise money. Three months later, she said she wouldn’t run for office. She said that her tears showed compassion, not weakness. She said that her heart wasn’t in it and that she thought fundraising was low.
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She was the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, but committee chairman F. Edward Hebert, D-La., made her share a chair with U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif., the first African American to do so. Schroeder said that Hebert thought neither a woman nor an African American belonged on the committee and that each was only worth half a seat.
When Schroeder and others filed an ethics complaint about House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s televised college lecture series, Republicans were furious. They said that the free cable time Gingrich got was an illegal gift, which is against House rules. Gingrich was the first person who spoke in Congress to get in trouble. Gingrich said later that he was sorry he didn’t take Schroeder and her team more seriously.
She had already criticized Gingrich for saying that women shouldn’t serve in combat because being in a ditch for 30 days could make them sick. According to her official House biography, she once told Pentagon officials that if they were women and never said “no,” they would always be pregnant.
One congressman asked her how she could be a mother of two small children and a member of Congress at the same time. She said, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.” Schroeder was the one who called President Ronald Reagan “Teflon” because he could never be blamed for big policy decisions. The name stuck.
One of Schroeder’s biggest wins was signing a family-leave bill into law in 1993. This made sure that people could keep their jobs while caring for a new baby, a sick child, or a parent. “Pat Schroeder blazed the trail. Every woman in this house is walking in her footsteps,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who took over from Schroeder as Democratic chair of the bipartisan congressional caucus on women’s issues.
Schroeder said that lawmakers cared too much about donors and special interests. In 1994, when House Republicans got together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to celebrate their first 100 days in power, she and a few of her staff members climbed up to the building’s dome and hung a 15-foot red banner that said “Sold.”
Schroeder was a pilot, and she paid for Harvard Law School by running her own flying service. After she left Congress, Schroeder became a professor at Princeton University, but she said that politics was in her blood and that she would keep working for candidates she liked.
“The Politics of Poverty” was the name of a graduate-level class she taught for a while. She was also the head of the American Association of Publishers.
After moving to Florida, Schroeder kept working in politics. He went door to door, spoke to groups, and helped candidates. She worked for issues and candidates all over the country, and in 2016, she campaigned for Hillary Clinton. She was on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, which was just one of her many jobs.
He was born on July 30, 1940, in Portland, Oregon. She was a pilot who ran her own flying service to pay for college. Before getting her law degree in 1964, she got her degree from the University of Minnesota. She worked as a field lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board from 1964 to 1966.
Her husband, James W. Schroeder, who she married in 1962, is the only person who will remember her. Their two children, Scott and Jamie, as well as her brother, Mike Scott, and four grandchildren also live on.
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