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Pat Schroeder Obituary: Congresswoman, Dies at 82
Former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder passed away on March 13 at a hospital in Celebration, Florida. She was a powerful voice for the women’s movement, the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, and a liberal Democrat is known for her biting wit. She is best known for coining the term “Teflon president” to disparage President Ronald Reagan. She was 82 years old.
Jamie Cornish, her daughter, claimed that a stroke-related complication was to blame. She obtained her pilot’s license at 15, overcame discrimination to become a Harvard-educated lawyer, and was a 32-year-old mother of two when she was first elected to Congress from Colorado in 1972. Mrs. Schroeder was raised in a home where her father felt women could accomplish anything.
“I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both,” she said when one male politician questioned how she could be a wife, mother, and congresswoman. There were just 14 women in the House when she came to Washington, many of whom were widows completing out the terms of their late husbands. The institution was like “an overaged frat house,” she said.
Mrs. Schroeder was a vocal advocate for various causes during her 12 terms in the House of Representatives, including military strategy, women’s rights, and family concerns. After being named to the House Armed Services Committee, she battled hard to be heard and recognized.
Mrs. Schroeder and Ron Dellums, a recently elected African American congressman from California, were only allowed to share one seat in the hearing chamber thanks to the committee’s hardline conservative Democratic chairman, F. Edward Hébert of Louisiana. “The two of you are barely worth half the normal member,” Hébert had reportedly said in her memory.
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Dellums and Mrs. Schroeder “sat cheek to cheek on one chair, trying to retain some decorum,” according to Mrs. Schroeder. Two years later, the committee’s younger members rose and ousted Hébert, but not before Mrs. Schroeder had done everything she could to get under his skin. He paid her back by opposing her appointment to a U.S. delegation going to a conference abroad.
Hébert allegedly replied, “I wouldn’t send you to represent our committee at a dogfight,” according to a Washington Post article by Ms. Schroeder. Ultimately, the State Department relaxed the requirement that all nominations get the chairman’s approval, and Mrs. Schroeder traveled.
Even though she frequently came out on the wrong side of defense discussions, Ms. Schroeder felt that her opposition to the Pentagon’s “outrageous” demands contributed to “a political atmosphere conducive to substantial reform.” She fervently supported arms limitation, mocked the Armed Services Committee as the Pentagon’s “lap dog,” and frequently questioned the military leadership’s spending habits, which infuriated them.
She mockingly referenced a slick Madison Avenue sales job during a 1973 debate about a weapon system by asking, “Is it bigger? Is it quicker? Is it easier to maneuver? Does it provide closer, smoother shaves? She chastised anyone who believed that “killing an opponent 15 times over makes us more secure than if we can kill him merely five times over” on another occasion.
On the home front, Mrs. Schroeder was co-chair of the House Caucus for Women’s Issues from 1979 to 1995. This nonpartisan group of legislators worked to advance legislation, including parental leave policies, reproductive rights, and women’s parity.
She played a significant role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which was created to aid victim services organizations and law enforcement in the fight against rape and other violent crimes against women. She was the primary sponsor of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, which established procedures for conducting national criminal background checks on child-care providers.
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, which offered lower-income women breast and cervical cancer screenings and post-screening diagnostic services to improve early detection, was also strongly supported by Mrs. Schroeder. Yet, because the law did not cover treatment, many uninsured women could not pay for care. A decade later, Congress passed laws allowing Medicaid to provide medical help to qualified uninsured women.
She fought for nine years to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, which offered job protection for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, sick child, or parent and was adopted by Congress in 1993. She also served as the chairwoman of a subcommittee on the Post Office and Civil Service and was a strong defender of federal workers’ rights in matters like whistleblower laws.
In an interview with Ruth B. Mandel for this obituary in 2018, she remarked that Pat Schroeder was “the face and voice of a new kind of congresswoman.” Ruth B. Mandel was the former director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University and founded the institute’s Center for American Women and Politics. There was nothing conventional about Congresswoman Schroeder during her dual concentration and leadership on women’s and family issues, military hardware, and the armed services.
Mrs. Schroeder launched a brief run for the White House in 1987, 20 years before Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Still, she ultimately decided against it and announced her resignation in a sad address. She was condemned as weak by right-wing critics who pointed to the tears, and other feminists accused her of feeding the myth that women are overly sentimental.
She stated in her 1989 book, “Defender of the Great American Family,” “The critics who appeared most ridiculous to me were those who argued they wouldn’t want the person who had a “finger on the button” to be someone who wept. “I replied that I wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t weep to be that person.”
opposition at Harvard Law
On July 30, 1940, Patricia Nell Scott was born in Portland, Oregon. Her mother was an elementary school teacher, while her father worked as an aircraft insurance adjuster. By the time Pat started high school in Des Moines, she had already lived in six locations due to her family’s numerous moves.
She earned a law degree from Harvard in 1964 after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1961. In a class of more than 500 students at Harvard, where she was one of only 15 women, she reported encountering startling resistance to her presence. The dean allegedly asked the female students, “Do you understand you have taken this place from a man?”
One woman who refused to back down and told the dean, “Well, I am only here because I could not get into Yale,” inspired her admiration. She wed James Schroeder, a fellow Harvard Law student, in 1962. Two children, Scott Schroeder of Providence and Jamie Cornish of Bozeman, Montana, and a brother and four grandkids, survive her husband, who is from Celebration.
The Schroeders relocated to Colorado to begin their legal careers after Harvard. Also, Mrs. Schroeder agreed to serve as legal counsel for Colorado Planned Parenthood. Her husband, a Democratic precinct captain, persuaded her to run for Congress in 1972 in a Denver-centered district that was typically Democratic but was then held by rookie Republican Mike McKevitt.
By 8,000 votes, Mrs. Schroeder won the primary election by running on a leftist, anti-Vietnam War platform and relying heavily on grassroots volunteers. Her opponent referred to her as “Little Patsy” during the campaign and sent out a bunch of young ladies in plaid skirts known as “Mike’s girls,” whose mission it was to paint him as a “wonderful man.”
Later, she discovered that the FBI had been spying on her and used underhanded tactics, paying her husband’s barber to act as an informant. When Mrs. Schroeder decided not to run for reelection in 1996, she admitted that she had grown angry by the loss of influence when Republicans took control of the House in 1994 and the escalating divisiveness in Congress.
Mrs. Schroeder relocated to Celebration after leaving Washington, where she had served as the longest-serving woman in the House of Representatives and served for 11 years as the association’s president and CEO. In that position, she pushed for stricter copyright regulations, rejected Google’s intention to publish a small portion of digitized books online, and criticized libraries for using digital content without paying authors and publishers.
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A knack for a snappy remark is one of Mrs. Schroeder’s most notable contributions. Despite her reputation as a grandstanding persona, she often successfully communicated her ideas to the public using clever language. Making eggs for her kids in a Teflon pan, she invented the phrase “Teflon president” in real life. Mrs. Schroeder’s remark was not meant as a compliment, even though it has come to be recognized as an excellent characteristic in a leader who can overcome weaknesses that would doom anyone else.
She claimed Reagan’s political accountability slipped off him like her scrambled eggs. In 1983, she declared on the House floor that Ronald Reagan was trying to advance significantly in political technology by mastering the Teflon-coated presidency. Mrs. Schroeder continued, “He sees to it that nothing attaches to him. “He is not accountable for anything… He is merely the dinner master of ceremonies for someone else.
She later informed the Chicago Tribune that as the saying gained popularity, representatives from the chemical company DuPont, which owns the Teflon trademark, scheduled a meeting with her and threatened to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. They were pretty unhappy, she remarked. “A man from their corporate headquarters stopped by my workplace, hissed, and growled about it. I had a hard time maintaining my composure.
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