HomeLearning CenterPatricia Schroeder, Congresswoman Who Wielded Barbed Wit, Dies at 82

Patricia Schroeder, Congresswoman Who Wielded Barbed Wit, Dies at 82

Patricia Schroeder

Former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, a megaphone for the women’s movement, the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee and a liberal Democrat known for her barbed wit, notably coining the term “Teflon president” to lambaste President Ronald Reagan, died March 13 at a hospital in Celebration, Fla. She was 82.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said her daughter, Jamie Cornish.

Mrs. Schroeder, who grew up in a household where her father assumed women could do anything, earned a pilot’s license at 15, weathered sexism to become a Harvard-trained lawyer and was a 32-year-old mother of two when she was first elected to Congress from Colorado in 1972. “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both,” she quipped when one male lawmaker questioned how she could be a wife, mother and congresswoman.

When she arrived in Washington, there were only 14 women in the House, several of whom were widows filling out the terms of their deceased husbands. She described the institution as “an overaged frat house.”

During her 12 terms in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Schroeder was outspoken on issues that ranged from women’s rights and family matters to military policy. She was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and then fought vigorously to be heard and respected.

F. Edward Hébert of Louisiana, the committee’s hard-line conservative Democratic chairman, allowed just one seat in the hearing room to be shared by Mrs. Schroeder and Ron Dellums, a newly elected African American congressman from California. She recalled Hébert saying, “The two of you are only worth half the normal member.”

The Washington Post

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