Patricia Schroeder

MAKERS profile: Former Congresswoman - March 4, 2013

Patricia Schroeder
March 04, 2013
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PAT SCHROEDER: The question was asked, “How can you be a mother and a congresswoman?” I said, I have a brain, I have a uterus, and they both work. The ideal for women in my generation was very conflicted. When I was at the University of Minnesota, there were an awful lot who thought you should get your MRS degree, and then you were going to be taken care of. You were just going to be carried away on this wonderful barge, and life was good from then on.

I learned to fly. I got my pilot’s license when I was 15, and it never really occurred to me that all of this was strange until I got to Harvard Law School.

The first day that I walked into class at Harvard, the young men on either side of me got up and said, we are changing our seats. We have never sat next to a girl in our entire education. We're not going to now.

When I announced, one of the papers said, Denver housewife announces for congress. No one would have anything to do with me, except the local people in Denver, and that's all I needed.

Next thing I know we’ve won this thing, and I had no idea how. My average campaign contribution was seven dollars and fifty cents.

ANCHOR: When the 93rd congress begins its work in January, it will have more women members than ever before, 14. Some of the new congresswomen have arrived in Washington with their husbands, and that is causing some confusion.

PAT SCHROEDER: When I got to Washington, everybody wanted to swear in Jim. They’d tell him to raise his right hand, and he’d say, it’s her.

JAMES SCHROEDER: I’m just trying to get her on the committee because she wants to get on.

PAT SCHROEDER: I often felt that I was triggering some gut reaction in men, that I didn't know what it was.

I would get on planes or something and there’d be somebody with their finger in my face, you know, what are you up to now? Why don’t you talk to your husband? Why don’t you behave yourself?

You know, men run and no one questions what they want. Women run and they think, what do they want? And you say, human priority. You know, that's all I want.

I decided I had to take up women and family issues because no one else did it.

One of the bills that I cared very much about was the family medical leave bill, and I had men in it.

I'd go to the cloakroom, and my dear friends would wrap themselves around my neck saying, I'm not going back that until you take men out of it because if you do that my wife's gonna want me to babysit. And there were the progressives.

They just couldn't fantasize having a woman working outside the home. It took nine years to get that damn thing through and then it was so watered down, but we did keep men in it, thank goodness.

We really have to not condemn people for having a family.

My generation- we did a lot, but we didn't do everything. We opened the doors for women, but we didn't figure out how to keep them from having two full-time jobs now. The message was never we were super women, but that kind of became the norm. If you can do all that, that's wonderful. You go on- you go girl. But don’t ask us to put in infrastructure to try and solve it until the next generation has understood that they’re going to have to fight pretty hard to hold it.

Freedom isn't something that you give to people as a wrapped-up package. It’s something each generation has to continue to monitor and work on all across the board. Still I felt it was a wonderful privilege to have been born in a generation where I could do this. Had I been born in a prior generation, I would probably be dead or in a mental institution.