Pat Schroeder

AHA 2008 - Jan. 4, 2008

Pat Schroeder
January 04, 2008— Washington, D.C.
Annual meeting of the American Historical Association
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And getting funding for breast cancer was a huge fight. We passed it unanimously in both the House and Senate three times. If you remember, if the House and Senate both pass something, how did it disappear? It always disappeared in the conference. Finally a group of us went to the conference committee and, of course, we were really quite upset. They tried to figure out how to throw us out, and of course, no sergeant at arms wants to come in and throw other members out of a conference committee. We were just curious as to how this was going to pass in the House and Senate and how it disappears in conference. There is no book that tells you that that’s within the rules. So, one of the guys said, "I don’t why you're in here. I’m a big breast fan." Oh, my goodness…. But, nevertheless, we finally did get funding for breast cancer, and we would always put something in there for male research, too, but they would just – it was a fascinating time.

I remember when we were doing, I was doing the Family Medical Leave, of members taking me aside in the cloakroom and saying to me, "If you take men out of this, I’ll back you, but I want to tell you, don’t you leave men in here because the next thing you know my wife is going to want me to babysit." It’s just amazing. People took this so personally, and you really saw the male-female thing.

I think eventually we’re going to have some very interesting…. I hope Robert [Remini] is around to do one…that starts talking about when women came in and what changed because I think it’s been a fascinating body to watch as African-Americans came in what happens. We had the first Native American come in from Denver and, of course, he got into a hassle immediately with the speaker about having to wear a necktie because Native Americans wanted him to wear a bolo. We finally got that cleared up. Those kind of things that all represent the diversity of America and what happens and how this body learns to deal with it.

My favorite that I just have to talk about because I think it says a lot about Congress and what goes on is the suffrage statue. Now, you all know when you go through that lobby that there are statues everywhere. Right? Every state gets two statues. It’s a big thing that the legislature debates which it should be and so forth and so on in Statuary Hall. Okay, so, in 1893 when the Columbian exposition representing Columbus’ discovery of America was on in Chicago, they hired this woman sculptress to do the leading suffragettes: Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. And so after women got the vote in 1920, people thought, "You know, this would be a nice idea. Half of America just got that power. We really ought to have a statue to them." Nobody wanted to pay for it, but they raised their own money. One of the few statues – and maybe the only or at least one of the very few where it was paid for privately – they raised money and showed up with the statue. I hope all of you've seen it. It’s a very interesting statue because what she basically did was put the top bust and has it coming out of this marble, but they aren’t totally finished and then there’s a lump in the back that’s supposed to represent future emerging women leaders. So, they bring it over, and there’s this huge ceremony on Susan B. Anthony’s birthday in the Rotunda. They put it there. Susan B. Anthony did not want to come because she said that place was just full of nothing but liars, drinkers, smokers. She wanted it in the Library of Congress but they said, "No, no, we’re going to do this, Susan. We’re going to honor you. It's your birthday." It was up there about two weeks and a bunch of the leaders of the Senate, I believe it was, were drinking one day and said, "God, those are ugly old women, get them out of here," and they moved them to the basement. They were in the basement for 76 years. We took them [inaudible] everything, trying to get them out of the basement. In 1975 we decided we had to get them out of the basement. I was still there. I was like, seventy-five years of women being able to vote and our foremothers are still in the basement. Get them out of here. Get them back up in the Rotunda where they were supposed to be. Well, this brouhaha went on and on and on. It was just terrible. They came up and they said, "They’re too ugly." We said, "Look, if it’s about ugliness, we’re going to clear the Statue Hall out here. It's really bad." Then it was it too heavy, and the floor will collapse. So they had to go because of this, which also didn’t turn out to be true.

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