Patricia Schroeder

This article is about the politician. For the wrestler, see Leilani Kai.
Pat Schroeder
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1973  January 3, 1997
Preceded by Mike McKevitt
Succeeded by Diana DeGette
Personal details
Born Patricia Nell Scott
(1940-07-30) July 30, 1940
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Harvard University

Patricia Nell Scott "Pat" Schroeder (born July 30, 1940) is an American former politician who represented Colorado in the United States House of Representatives from 1973–1997. A member of the Democratic Party, Schroeder was the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado.

Early years

Schroeder was born in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Bernice (Lemoin), 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. After graduating from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1958, she left Des Moines and attended the University of Minnesota, where she majored in history. She graduated with a B.A. in 1961 and later earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1964. Moving to Denver, Colorado, she worked for the National Labor Relations Board from 1964 to 1966. She later worked for Planned Parenthood and taught in Denver's public schools. Patricia Schroeder is a member of Chi Omega sorority.

U.S. Representative

In 1972, Schroeder won election for Congress in Colorado's first district, based in Denver, over freshman Republican incumbent Mike McKevitt. At age 32, Schroeder is the third-youngest woman ever elected to that body. 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. Schroeder won by just over 8,000 votes amid Richard Nixon's massive landslide that year. However, the district reverted to form, and she would never face another contest nearly that close. She was reelected 11 more times against only nominal Republican opposition.

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".[2]

While in Congress, she became the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee.[3] She was also a Congress member of the original Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families[4] that was established in 1983. Known in her early tenure for balancing her congressional work with motherhood, even bringing diapers to the floor of Congress,[3] she was known for advocacy on work-family issues, a prime mover behind the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the 1985 Military Family Act.[3] Schroeder was also involved in reform of Congress itself, working to weaken the long-standing control of committees by their chairs,[3] sparring with Speaker Carl Albert over congressional "hideaways,"[5] and questioning why Congress members who lived in their offices should not be taxed for the benefit.[6]

She chaired the 1988 presidential campaign of Gary Hart in 1987 until his withdrawal, at which point she briefly entered the race, before announcing her own withdrawal in an emotional press conference on September 28, 1987.[7] Twenty years later, she said, she was still receiving hate mail—mostly from women—because of her tears. "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.[8]

She did not seek a thirteenth term in 1996, and was succeeded by state house minority whip Diana DeGette, a fellow Democrat. In her farewell press conference, she joked about "spending 24 years in a federal institution",[5] and titled her 1998 memoir, 24 years of House Work...and the Place Is Still a Mess.

Publishing industry service

Schroeder was named president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in 1997 and served in that post for 11 years.[9] She has been a vocal proponent of stronger copyright law, supporting the government in Eldred v. Ashcroft and opposing Google's plan to digitize books and post limited content online. She has publicly 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."[10] At the same time, she has tried to make the publishing industry more socially responsible, cooperating with organizations for the blind and others with reading difficulties to help make materials more accessible to them, particularly by encouraging publishers to release books so that nonprofit groups can transfer them to electronic formats. She has also sat on the panel of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own Award, a $25,000 award designed to recognize the protection of free speech as it applies to the written word.

In July 2012, Schroeder stepped out of retirement to narrate a children's book app, "The House that Went on Strike", a rhyming, interactive and musical tale that teaches kids (and their parents) respect for the household. Schroeder was chosen to narrate because of her stature as a celebrated House mom, and the metaphorical title of her memoir. Schroeder wrote about her experience narrating the story, and offered her perspective about kids book apps in a July 24, 2012 column on The Huffington Post. Additionally, Schroeder and the book were featured in a profile on Wired. Schroeder's work on the app was praised in a favorable review on Smart Apps for Kids, one of the leading app review sites for kids.

Private citizenship in Florida

Following her tenure at AAP, Schroeder and her husband relocated to Celebration, Florida, a master-planned community built by the Walt Disney Company.[9] Schroeder is a resident of the 8th congressional district, and in the 2010 general election came out in strong support of Democrat Alan Grayson for re-election to Congress, citing in particular the candidates' differences on women's issues.[11] Grayson lost his re-election campaign. She subsequently endorsed him again ahead of the 2012 congressional elections, during which he was returned to Congress. She currently sits on the board of The League of Women Voters of Florida.

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.[12]

Schroeder was lampooned on Saturday Night Live in 1988 in a skit where Nora Dunn, acting as Schroeder, repeatedly burst into tears while moderating a Democratic primary debate.[13]

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.[14][15]

Schroeder was named to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.[16]

She 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.[17]

She was honored by the National Research Center for Women and Families in 2006 for her lifetime of achievements with a Foremother Award.[18]

Schroeder was portrayed by Jan Radcliff in the 2016 HBO film Confirmation.[19]

Memorable quotes

Schroeder coined the famous phrase "Teflon President" to describe Ronald Reagan. She was frying eggs in a Teflon pan one morning when the idea came to her.[20] Publisher's Weekly reported that in her memoir she mentioned Richard Nixon, who wore makeup all the time, by saying "I had an incredible urge to wash his face". She relayed that actor John Wayne had once offered her a cigarette lighter engraved with the inscription "Fuck communism--John Wayne". The office of the clerk of the House of Representatives shares that "from her seat on the Armed Services Committee, she once told Pentagon officials that if they were women, they would always be pregnant because they never said 'no'." During the debate whether to pass the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Schroeder said in opposition, "You can't amend the Constitution with a statute. Everybody knows that. This is just stirring the political waters and seeing what hate you can unleash."[21] In a 1995 exchange, in which former Representative Duke Cunningham told Bernie Sanders to "sit down, you socialist," after he objected to Cunningham's homophobic comment, Schroeder asked "Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman - do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?" [22]


  1. Schroeder, Pat."Chapter 1 Kamikaze Run", (1998) Andrews McNeel Publishing. Excerpted Online by The New York Times, Books. Retrieved 1-15-2011
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Women in Congress / Patricia S. Schroeder, Representative from Colorado". Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  3. Children, youth, and families: Beginning the assessment. Hearing before the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families; House of Representatives, Ninety-Eighth Congress, First Session, United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC, 28 April 1984, Original document retrieved 19 January 2014 from ERIC at Institution of Education Sciences.
  4. 1 2 Lowy, Joan A. (2003). Pat Schroeder: a woman of the House. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-3098-7. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  5. Groer, Anne (1995-02-03). "Lawmaker: Are Live-in Offices Taxable Benefit?". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  6. Warren Weaver, Jr. for the New York Times. 29 September 1987 Schroeder, Assailing 'the System,' Decides Not to Run for President
  7. Has the political risk of emotion, tears faded? USA Today (December 19, 2007).
  8. 1 2 Lennard, Natasha (2010-10-05). "For Patricia Schroeder, Life's Disney-land". Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  9. "The Former Congresswoman Is Battling For America's Publishers", Washington Post, February 7, 2001
  10. "YouTube - Former Rep. Pat Schroeder Supports Alan Grayson". 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  11. Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  12. "SNL Transcripts: Carl Weathers: 01/30/88: Democratic Debate '88". Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  13. "Doing the Limbaugh | The American Spectator". Archived from the original on 2013-06-11. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  14. "Pat Schroeder: Still Crying After All These Years - The Rush Limbaugh Show". 2007-04-16. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  15. "Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder to Speak at UNLV | News Center | University of Nevada, Las Vegas". Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  16. "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  17. "2006 Foremothers Awards Luncheon". National Research Center for Women & Families. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  19. Rosenbaum, David. "Working Mother". (May 17, 1998) New York Times, books [review]. Retrieved 1-15-2-2011
  20. Dunlap, David W. (May 9, 1996). "Congressional Bills Withhold Sanction of Same-Sex Unions". New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  21. Felber,Katie et al. "Watch Bernie Sanders Shut Down a Homophobic House Member in This Video From 1995". (January 19, 2016) Good Magazine Retrieved 1-20-2011
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mike McKevitt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Colorado's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Diana DeGette
Preceded by
Elizabeth Holtzman
Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus
Succeeded by
Connie Morella
Preceded by
George Miller
Chair of the House Children Committee
Position abolished
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