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Pat Schroeder

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Pat Schroeder
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byMike McKevitt
Succeeded byDiana DeGette
Personal details
Patricia Nell Scott

(1940-07-30)July 30, 1940
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
DiedMarch 13, 2023(2023-03-13) (aged 82)
Celebration, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
James Schroeder
(m. 1962)

Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder (July 30, 1940 – March 13, 2023) was an American politician who represented Colorado's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1973 to 1997. A member of the Democratic Party, Schroeder was the first female U.S. Representative elected from Colorado and ran for president in 1988.

Early years


Patricia Nell Scott was born on July 30, 1940, in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Bernice (Scott), a first-grade teacher, and Lee Combs Scott, a pilot who owned an aviation insurance company.[1] She moved to Des Moines, Iowa, with her family as a child, and earned her airman certificate when she was fifteen.[2] After graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1958, she left Des Moines and attended the University of Minnesota, where she majored in history.[2] Schroeder was a member of Chi Omega sorority. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1961 and earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1964.[3]

On August 18, 1962, she married Jim Schroeder, a Harvard Law School classmate, and moved to Denver, Colorado, where Jim joined a law firm. They had two children, Scott William (born 1966) and Jamie Christine (born 1970).[4][5] Schroeder worked for the National Labor Relations Board from 1964 to 1966. She worked for Planned Parenthood as a legal counsel, and taught in Denver's public schools.[6]

U.S. Representative




In 1970, Schroeder's husband Jim ran for a seat in the Colorado General Assembly and lost by only 42 votes. In the same election, 20-year Democratic incumbent Byron Rogers of Colorado's 1st congressional district, based in Denver, lost a primary challenge to more liberal Craig Barnes, and Republican Mike McKevitt won the general election. Ahead of the 1972 election, Jim had asked a man who had declined to run for Congress if his wife would run, to which the man had asked him back: "What about yours?" While intended as an unserious comment, it convinced Schroeder to consider a political career, and she decided to run for the seat on a platform of opposition to the Vietnam War.[4][7][8]

Considered a long-shot candidate, Schroeder received no support from the Democratic National Committee and women's groups. Nevertheless, with overconfident McKevitt staying in Washington until the last week of the campaign, Schroeder's message of war, environment, and childcare led to her winning by just over 8,000 votes amid Richard Nixon's massive landslide that year.[4] At age 32, Schroeder was the second youngest woman ever elected to Congress.[9] McKevitt, previously the Denver District Attorney, had been the first Republican to represent the district, regarded as the most Democratic in the Rockies, since Dean M. Gillespie in 1947. However, the district reverted to form, and she was elected 11 more times. She only faced one remotely close contest after her initial run, when she was held to 53 percent of the vote—the only time she would drop below 58 percent.

In 1984, Schroeder was mentioned as a possible running mate for former Vice President Walter Mondale,[10] but the nomination went to Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, who had half Schroeder's tenure in the House.

Years later, Schroeder submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for her FBI file and discovered that she and her staff had been under surveillance during her first congressional campaign. She learned that the FBI had recruited her husband's barber as an informant, and paid a man named Timothy Redfern to break into her home and steal "such all-important secret documents as my dues statement from the League of Women Voters and one of my campaign buttons", demonstrating to her "how paranoid J. Edgar Hoover and his agency were."[11]



While in Congress, she became the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee,[12] where she advocated for arms control and reduced military spending.[2] She was also a member of the original Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families that was established in 1983.[13] Schroeder was known during her early tenure in Congress for balancing her congressional work with motherhood, even bringing diapers to the floor of Congress.[12] Her advocacy on work-family issues led Schroeder to become a prime mover behind the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the 1985 Military Family Act.[12] Schroeder was also involved in reform of Congress itself, working to weaken the long-standing control of committees by their chairs,[12] sparring with Speaker Carl Albert over congressional "hideaways",[14] and questioning why Congress members who lived in their offices should not be taxed for the benefit.[15]

Schroeder styled herself as a "fiscally conservative liberal". In 1981, she voted against Reagan's tax cuts, as she thought the country could not afford it; she was against the 1986 tax-reform bill, favoring more progressive rates. In 1986 she had a 95% rating from Americans For Democratic Action and was also ranked by the National Taxpayers Union as more fiscally conservative than Jack Kemp. In 1989, Schroeder voted against George H. W. Bush's administration more than any House member (79 percent), and often did not vote with fellow Democrats on "party unity" votes.[4][5][16]

The Washington Post remarked that Schroeder was "known for her barbed wit", and many of her comments and quips were singled out for media attention during her career.[6] She recalls that "John Wayne gave me a silver cigarette lighter during the Vietnam War that said 'Fuck Communism' on it. I didn't know how to do that. I still don't."[17] She coined the phrase "Teflon President" to describe Ronald Reagan and his popularity even amid scandal; the idea came to her when she was frying eggs in a Teflon pan.[18] Author Rebecca Traister has recalled that Schroeder responded to concerns about balancing political life with motherhood by saying "I have a brain and a uterus, and they both work."[19] In a 1995 exchange, after Rep. Duke Cunningham told Rep. Bernie Sanders to "sit down, you socialist", during a debate in which Sanders and Schroeder both objected to homophobic comments Cunningham made, Schroeder asked, "Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman—do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?"[20]

A button from Schroeder's 1988 presidential campaign

She chaired the 1988 presidential campaign of Gary Hart in 1987 until his withdrawal, at which point she strongly considered entering the race, before announcing she would not in a tearful press conference on September 29, 1987.[21] Schroeder's emotional demeanor sparked backlash from across the political spectrum, with conservatives dismissing her behavior, and feminist commentators feeling it made women politicians look less serious.[2] In 2007, twenty years later, Schroeder said that she still received hate mail about the press conference, mostly from women, and said that it exposed a double standard for men and women in politics. She remarked, "Guys have been tearing up all along and people think it's marvelous", she said, citing episodes dating back to Ronald Reagan; but for female candidates, it remains off-limits.[22]

In 1989, she wrote a book titled Champion of the Great American Family: A Personal and Political Book that discussed her own personal story and legislative efforts to enact policy on family issues such as parental leave, child care, family economics, and family planning.[23]

Schroeder did not seek re-election in 1996, citing dissatisfaction with the House's Republican majority.[6] She was succeeded by Colorado state house minority whip Diana DeGette, a fellow Democrat. In her farewell press conference, she joked about "spending 24 years in a federal institution",[14] and titled her 1998 memoir, 24 years of House Work...and the Place Is Still a Mess.[3]

Publishing industry career

Schroeder in 2015

Schroeder was named president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in 1997 and served in that post for 11 years.[24] She advocated for stronger copyright laws, supporting the government in Eldred v. Ashcroft, and opposing Google's plan to digitize books and post limited content online.[2] She also criticized libraries for distributing electronic content without compensation to publishers, writers, and others in the publishing industry, telling The Washington Post, "They aren't rich ... they have mortgages."[25] She was a member of the National Leadership Advisory Group for Braille Literacy, encouraging publishers to make books more accessible to blind people and people with other reading difficulties.[26] She also sat on the panel of judges for the PEN / Newman's Own Award.[27]

Schroeder narrated a children's story, "The House that Went on Strike", which was released as a smartphone app in 2012.[28] She wrote about her experience narrating the story and offered her perspective about kids book apps in a July 24, 2012, column in The Huffington Post.[29] Additionally, Schroeder and the book were featured in a profile on Wired.[30]

Later life


Following her tenure at AAP, Schroeder and her husband relocated to Celebration, Florida, a master-planned community built by the Walt Disney Company. She was an acquaintance of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who helped facilitate the move.[24] In 2010, the city was within the state's 8th congressional district, and Schroeder endorsed Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson for re-election to Congress, citing his stance on women's issues.[31] Grayson lost his re-election campaign. She subsequently endorsed him again ahead of the 2012 congressional elections. Grayson won that re-election campaign.

Schroeder sat on the board of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She was also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organization which advocates for democratic reformation of the United Nations.[32]

On March 13, 2023, Schroeder died from complications of a stroke at a hospital in Celebration, Florida, at age 82.[6] She asked that a brick be made from her cremated remains to hold doors open for other women.[33]

Cultural references, influence, and awards


In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Schroeder's name and picture.[34]

Schroeder was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.[35] She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.[36]

In 1988, Schroeder was parodied in a Saturday Night Live skit in which she was portrayed by Nora Dunn as the moderator of a Republican Primary debate. At the start of the skit the character makes a humorous reference to Schroeder's tearful withdrawal as a Democratic candidate for president in 1987. Along with Dunn in the skit were Dana Carvey (portraying George Bush), Dan Aykroyd (Bob Dole), Phil Hartman (Jack Kemp), Al Franken (Pat Robertson) and Kevin Nealon (Pete du Pont).[37][38]

During the 1995 budget debates, after Democrats claimed that Social Security payments would leave seniors with no choice but to eat dog food, Rush Limbaugh said in jest that he was going to get his mother a can opener. Schroeder denounced Limbaugh's remark on the floor of the House.[39][40]

Schroeder contributed the piece "Running for Our Lives: Electoral Politics" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[41]

She was honored by the National Research Center for Women & Families in 2006 for her lifetime of achievements with a Foremother Award.[42]

She was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board in 2010.

In April 2015, the visitor center at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was named in honor of Schroeder for her relentless work in Congress investigating the Rocky Mountain Arsenal's nerve gas stores and fighting for their clean-up.[43][44]

Schroeder was portrayed by Jan Radcliff in the 2016 HBO film Confirmation.[45][46]


  • Schroeder, Pat. 24 Years of Housework...and the Place Is Still a Mess: My Life in Politics. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998.
  • Schroeder, Pat. (with Andrea Camp and Robyn Lipner) Champion of the Great American Family: A Personal and Political Book. New York: Random House, 1989.

See also



  1. ^ Harris, Laurie Lanzen, ed. (1998). Biography Today: Profiles of People of Interest to Young Readers : 1997 Annual Cumulation, Volume 5, Issue 1. Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics. p. 269. ISBN 9780780802766.
  2. ^ a b c d e Seelye, Katharine Q. (March 14, 2023). "Patricia Schroeder, Feminist Trailblazer in Congress, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved March 14, 2023.
  3. ^ a b Daniel, Douglass K. (March 13, 2023). "Former Rep. Pat Schroeder, pioneer for women's rights, dies". Associated Press. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d "Schroeder, Patricia (1940–)". Encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ a b Ferraro, Susan (July 1, 1990). "The prime of Pat Schroeder". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c d Hasson, Judi (March 13, 2023). "Patricia Schroeder, congresswoman who wielded barbed wit, dies at 82". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  7. ^ "SCHROEDER, Patricia Scott". United States House of Representatives History, Art & Archives.
  8. ^ Greene, Michele (September 7, 1987). "Pat Schroeder's Ambition to Be First Lady in the Oval Office Nears the Moment of Truth". People.
  9. ^ "SCHROEDER, Patricia Scott". House, Art & Archives – United States House of Representatives. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  10. ^ Kate Northcott, "Woman on presidential ticket seen as asset this year", Minneapolis Tribune, June 17, 1984, p. 6A.
  11. ^ Schroeder, Pat (1998). "Chapter 1 Kamikaze Run". 24 Years of House Work ... and the Place Is Still a Mess. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 9780836287349. Retrieved January 15, 2011 – via The New York Times. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  12. ^ a b c d "Women in Congress / Patricia S. Schroeder, Representative from Colorado". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on November 3, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  13. ^ Cooper, Kenneth (April 1, 1993). "Four House Select Committees Expire As Symbols Of Reform". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Lowy, Joan A. (2003). Pat Schroeder: a woman of the House. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-3098-7. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  15. ^ Groer, Anne (February 3, 1995). "Lawmaker: Are Live-in Offices Taxable Benefit?". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  16. ^ Bonk, Kathy (November 15, 1987). "THE CAMPAIGN THAT NEVER WAS : A Pat Schroeder Strategist Tells the Inside Story of the Colorado Congresswoman's Try for the Presidency". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ "Notable Quotables". The Harvard Crimson. September 7, 1986.
  18. ^ Rosenbaum, David (May 17, 1998). "Working Mother". The New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  19. ^ "What does it take to be a 'likable' woman in politics?". The Cut. January 29, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Felber, Katie; Reilich, Gabriel (January 19, 2016). "Watch Bernie Sanders Shut Down a Homophobic House Member in This Video From 1995". Good. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  21. ^ Weaver, Warren Jr. (September 29, 1987). "Schroeder, Assailing 'the System,' Decides Not to Run for President". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Benac, Nancy (December 19, 2007). "Has the political risk of emotion, tears faded?". USA Today. Associated Press.
  23. ^ Schroeder, Pat (1989). Champion of the great American family: a personal and political book. Camp, Andrea; Lipner, Robyn. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-56574-6. OCLC 18463220.
  24. ^ a b Lennard, Natasha (October 5, 2010). "For Patricia Schroeder, Life's Disney-land". Politico. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  25. ^ "The Former Congresswoman Is Battling For America's Publishers". The Washington Post. February 7, 2001. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008.
  26. ^ "Pat Schroeder to Serve on National Leadership Advisory Group for Braille Literacy". National Federation of the Blind. September 22, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  27. ^ "Montgomery County librarian honored for returning banned books to shelves". Plainview Daily Herald. April 1, 2003. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  28. ^ "The House that Went on Strike"
  29. ^ The Huffington Post.
  30. ^ "Pat Schroeder Interview and The House That Went On Strike". Wired – via www.wired.com.
  31. ^ "YouTube – Former Rep. Pat Schroeder Supports Alan Grayson". YouTube. October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  32. ^ "Statements". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  33. ^ "Patricia Schroeder Obituary (1940 - 2023) - Celebration, FL - Denver Post". Legacy.com. Retrieved May 9, 2023.
  34. ^ Wulf, Steve (March 23, 2015). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  35. ^ "Patricia Schroeder". Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.
  36. ^ "Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder to Speak at UNLV | News Center | University of Nevada, Las Vegas". Unlv.edu. September 2, 1997. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  37. ^ Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Republican Debate '88 Cold Open – NBC.com, May 26, 2015, retrieved March 16, 2023
  38. ^ "User Clip: Patricia Schroeder Cries While Announcing She Will Not Seek the Democratic Nomination | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  39. ^ "Doing the Limbaugh". The American Spectator. January 26, 2009. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  40. ^ "Pat Schroeder: Still Crying After All These Years". The Rush Limbaugh Show. April 16, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  41. ^ Morgan, Robin, ed. (2003). Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium. Washington Square Press. pp. 28–42. ISBN 9781416595762. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  42. ^ "Previous Foremothers and Health Policy Heroes". National Research Center for Women & Families. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  43. ^ "Visitor Center At Rocky Mountain Arsenal Renamed To Honor Pat Schroeder - CBS Colorado". www.cbsnews.com. April 8, 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  44. ^ Krieger, Dave (May 15, 2015). "A conversation with Pat Schroeder". Boulder Daily Camera. Retrieved September 29, 2023. So when I got elected in '72, I got on the Armed Services Committee... got a top-secret classification... said I wanted to know what it was. "Oh, well it's nerve gas."... sitting in canisters at the end of the runway... I invited myself to the World Conference on Nerve Gas... So I kept raising hell. I found a Rachel Carson piece from the '60s... farmers around the arsenal having trouble with their cattle and she thought it was because of stuff at the arsenal...
  45. ^ Welch, Rosanne; Lamphier, Peg A. (November 7, 2022). American Women'ís History on Film. Abc-Clio. ISBN 9781440866616.
  46. ^ "Confirmation (TV Movie 2016)". IMDb.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Children Committee
Position abolished