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Trailblazing former US House Representative Pat Schroeder has died at age 82

Former Representative Pat Schroeder, a pioneer of women’s rights, has died

Former Representative Pat Schroeder, a pioneer of women’s rights, has died


WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder, a pioneer of women’s and family rights in Congress, died Monday night. He was 82 years old. Schroeder’s former press secretary, Andrea Camp, said Schroeder recently suffered a stroke and died at a hospital in Celebration, Florida, where he had lived in recent years.

For 24 years, Schröder tackled the powerful elite with her wit and malice, shaking up stodgy government institutions by forcing them to admit that women had a role in government.

His unorthodox approach cost him key committee positions, but Schröder said he was unwilling to join the “good old boys’ club” to score political points. Unafraid to publicly embarrass her congressional colleagues, she became an icon of the feminist movement.

Obit Schroeder

U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., sits on the porch outside his Capitol Hill headquarters July 18, 1994 in Denver.

Joe Mahoney/AP

Schroeder was elected to Congress in Colorado in 1972 and became one of its most influential Democrats, easily winning re-election 11 times from his safe district in Denver. Despite his seniority, he was never appointed to head the committee.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened by the death of my friend and mentor” and praised Schroeder for “his intelligence, his passion, his love of country,” which he said “will not be missed” only by those who knew him. Not by them, but by our whole state and whole nation.”

Schröder helped build several Democratic majorities before deciding to leave in 1997. Her parting shot in 1998 was a book titled “24 Years of Housework … and the Place is Still a Mess. My Life in Politics”, chronicling her frustration with male dominance and the slow pace of change in federal institutions.

In 1987, Schroeder tested the waters for the presidency with a fundraising drive after fellow Coloradan Gary Hart withdrew from the race. He announced three months later that he would not run and said that his “tears meant compassion, not weakness.” His heart wasn’t in it, he said, and he thought the fundraiser was humiliating.

She was the first woman on the House Armed Services Committee, but committee chairman F. Edward Hebert, D-La.Panel Schroeder, said Hebert thought there was no room for a woman or African-American on the committee and that they were each worth only half a seat.

Republicans were incensed after Schroeder and others filed an ethics complaint against House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s televised college lecture series, charging the free cable time as an illegal gift under House rules. Gingrich became the first speaker to be impeached by Congress. Gingrich later said he regretted not taking Schroder and his colleagues more seriously.

Earlier, she advised Gingrich that women should not serve in the war because they could get infections from being in the trenches for 30 days. According to her official House biography, she once told Pentagon officials that if they were women, they would always be pregnant because they never said “no.”

When asked by a congressman how she could be a mother of two young children and a member of Congress at the same time, she replied, “I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.”

It was Schröder who branded President Ronald Reagan a “Teflon” president for his ability to avoid blame for major policy decisions, and the name stuck.

One of Schroeder’s biggest victories was signing a family leave bill in 1993, which provided job protection for caring for a newborn, a sick child or a parent.

“Pat Schroeder has blazed the trail. Every woman in this House is following in her footsteps,” said Rep. Nita Lowe, DN.Y., who took over from Schroeder as Democratic chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues.

Schroeder said legislators have spent too much attention on contributors and special interests. When House Republicans gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1994 to celebrate their first 100 days in office, he and several aides climbed the dome of the building and hung a 15-foot red banner, “SOLD.”

A pilot, Schroeder earned his way through Harvard Law School with his own flying service. Schroeder became a professor at Princeton University after leaving Congress, but said politics was in his blood and would continue to work for the candidates he supported.

For a time, he taught a graduate level course titled “Politics of Poverty”. He also headed the American Publishers Association.

After moving to Florida, Schroeder continued to work in politics, going door-to-door, speaking to groups and advising candidates. He has been politically active on issues and candidates across the country and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Among other activities he served on the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Schroeder was born on July 30, 1940 in Portland, Oregon. He was a pilot who paid for college tuition through his own flying service. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1964 before earning a law degree. From 1964 to 1966 he was a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

She is survived by her husband, James W. Survived by Schroeder, whom she married in 1962. Also surviving are their two children, Scott and Jamie, and his brother Mike Scott, as well as four grandchildren.

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