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Why Americans need to know Pat Schroeder’s name

We'd all be wise to remember Pat Schroeder, the women's rights pioneer who represented Colorado in Congress and helped tackle Washington's rampant sexism.


Pat Schroeder, a pioneer for women’s rights, and the first woman from Colorado to be elected to Congress, has died at the age of 82. 

The feminist force helped pass the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guarantees people up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member.

There were only 14 women in the House when Schroeder arrived in Washington. The Washington Post noted that several of those members were widows, filling out the terms of their deceased husbands. 

Schroeder described the institution as “an overaged frat house.”

Her wit didn’t end there. When facing questions about how one could function as both a mother and a lawmaker, she said: “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both!”

The congresswoman is widely known for her 1987 announcement that she would not run for president. Such hopes for women candidates, as we well know, persist today. 

As do hopes for bodily autonomy. In 1977, Schroeder spoke on the Capitol steps at a rally against a ban on the use of federal funds for abortion. She helped to blaze that trail. And we are still fighting the same battles.

So it is during this Women’s History Month, and in the days beyond, that we honor Pat Schroeder and her enduring legacy.

This is an excerpt from Tuesday’s episode of the “The ReidOut.” It has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

“The ReidOut” producer Kai Ma helped put this segment together! Here are some of her thoughts after diving into Schroeder’s history:

As Joy mentioned, Schroeder had presidential ambitions, yet her platform for America was overshadowed by the sexist flak she received for crying when announcing that she would not seek the Democratic nomination for president. A week after the 1987 incident, she was widely derided as “too emotional” to be leader of the free world. Politics have shifted a smidge as the tears of John Boehner and others began to flow into Congress, and as we saw on Jan. 6, a male president’s emotions may serve as a far more dangerous concern.