Skip to Main Content

American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Women Members

Of the women who have served in Congress, the Manuscript Division holds the papers of four: Illinois representative Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms; Connecticut representative Clare Boothe Luce; Hawaii representative Patsy T. Mink; and California representative Nancy Pelosi. In addition, several other women members of Congress are represented in division collections.

Mrs. Ruth Hanna [McCormick] Simms making one of the seconding speeches for the nomination of Gov. Alf[red] Landon for the Presidency - GOP convention. June 1936. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The papers of Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms (1880-1944), part of the larger Hanna-McCormick Family collection (47,300 items; 1792-1985; bulk 1902-44), focus on her political activities, including her role as chair of the Women's National Executive Committee of the Republican Party, her service in the House of Representatives (1929-31), her unsuccessful Senate campaign in 1930, and her work as presidential campaign manager for Thomas E. Dewey in 1944. Her general correspondence files include a number of letters by Harriet Taylor Upton and others concerning efforts to mobilize women politically, a topic also addressed in many of Simms's speeches. Scrapbooks of newspaper clippings relate to her 1903 wedding to Medill McCormick, the women's suffrage campaign in 1914-15, her farm and personal affairs in 1925-27, and her involvement in congressional and presidential politics in the late 1920s and again in 1940. Less documentation exists on her ownership of a dairy farm designed to produce sanitary milk for invalids and children, her operation of two newspapers and a radio station, and her creation of a girls' school in New Mexico.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Clare Boothe Luce at a Congressional hearing. Between 1943? and 1947?. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

An author and playwright, Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987) served in Congress from 1943 to 1947 as a Republican representative from Connecticut. Six years later, she was appointed U.S. ambassador to Italy (1953-57), and in the 1970s and 1980s, she served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Her voluminous papers (460,000 items; 1862-1988; bulk 1930-87) document both her political career and her literary endeavors as an editor at Vanity Fair (1930-34), author of such Broadway hits as The Women (1936) and Kiss the Boys Good-bye (1938), adviser to her husband Henry Robinson Luce on publishing matters at Time Inc., World War II correspondent for Life magazine, and syndicated newspaper columnist (1948-86). The collection also reflects her personal life, her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1946 and subsequent religious activities, and her advocacy of working women and greater public roles for women.

As a member of the House Military Affairs Committee, Luce received letters from women in the military, and her congressional and subject files reflect her interest in wartime economic and labor issues, including universal military service for men and women and the concerns of military nurses. Other files relate to child care programs, maternity and infant health care issues, women diplomats, and women in politics. Much to her dismay, Luce found herself heading a crusade against the shortage of women's stockings in postwar America. She also became embroiled in the controversy that arose when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to admit African Americans to Constitution Hall. Many of Luce's speeches while in Congress related to women, such as “The Role of American Women in Wartime” (1942) and “Equality of Women and Men” (1947).

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Patsy T. Mink, half-length portrait, facing right. 1972. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Patsy T. Mink (1927-2002) was a vigorous and tireless advocate of women's rights, an early and vocal opponent to the Vietnam War, and a leader on issues involving education, the environment, welfare, and civil rights. She was the first woman of color and the first Asian American to serve in Congress when she was elected in 1964. She represented the people of Hawaii during two periods, the first from 1965 to 1977 and again from 1990 until her death in 2002. In between, she served in the Jimmy Carter administration as an assistant secretary of state for oceans and international, environmental, and scientific affairs (1977-78), was president of Americans for Democratic Action (1978-81), taught briefly at the University of Hawaii (1979-81), served on the Honolulu City Council (1983-87), and was an attorney in private practice (1987-90).

Among her most significant achievements in Congress was her prime sponsorship of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded educational institutions. Title IX opened the door to women's academic and athletic achievements, and Mink's contributions were recognized when Congress unanimously voted to rename Title IX the “Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.” Vitally important in ensuring Title IX's success was the Women's Educational Equity Act, a companion law that Mink helped push through Congress. In the period between her congressional service, Mink was a major strategist and lobbyist for passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which helped to restore the original intent of Title IX after the Supreme Court significantly limited the amendment's application. After returning to Congress, Mink actively worked to safeguard Title IX against increasing attacks.

A huge collection (935,000 items; bulk 1965-2002) of Mink's personal and congressional papers was donated to the Manuscript Division in 2003 by her family. Included are files from Mink's Washington, D.C., congressional office, Honolulu district office, and family residence covering her early law career, both her tenures in Congress, her work at the State Department, and her publication of the newsletter Public Reporter, a sunshine accountability sheet on Hawaii state legislators. The collection contains personal and professional correspondence, daily schedules, central legislative files, bills, issue mail, clippings, press releases, speeches, scrapbooks, and other papers covering a wide array of topics and concerns, especially Mink's interests in women's rights, child care, education, environmental issues, welfare, civil rights, freedom of information, Native Hawaiian issues, and local Hawaiian institutions and industries.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado, August 25-28, 2008.
Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado. August 25-28, 2008. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

First elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1987, Nancy Pelosi (1940- ) has been reelected from her home district in San Francisco, California, in every contest since. She served as House Minority (Democratic) Whip in 2002-2003, became the first woman speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 2007, served as House Minority (Democratic) leader from 2011-2019, and again became speaker in 2019. The daughter of former congressional representative and Baltimore mayor Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., Pelosi rose to become one of the most active and influential figures in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Due to her influence over Democratic House Caucus policies on a wide variety of issues from education to the environment to national security, as well as her pivotal role in the passage of the controversial Affordable Care Act, her papers will be an indispensable source for future research. Her papers (260,000 items and 11,588 digital files; 1930-2012; bulk 1987-2010) consist of correspondence, memoranda, speeches, congressional hearings, briefing books, position statements, draft legislation, legislative activity reports, topical files, appropriation files, grants and project files, congressional delegation travel files, scheduling and event files, staff files, Democratic convention and platform files, caucus material, newsletters, and other papers documenting Pelosi's service as U.S. Representative from California and as Minority Whip, Minority Leader, and Speaker. This collection is not yet open for research use, but a finding aid is available.

In addition, the papers of John A. Lawrence (18,500 items and 3,202 digital files; 1974-2018; bulk 2008-2013) relate primarily to Lawrence's years as chief of staff for U.S. Congresswoman, House Minority Leader, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, but also document his previous work as chief of staff for U.S. Congressman George Miller III and Lawrence's post-governmental career as an author and lecturer. This collection is not yet open for research use, but a finding aid is available.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.

Alfred T. Palmer, photographer. Three women (including Senator Margaret Chase Smith) and two Boy Scouts with a truck of tin-ware collected for war use. Placed in front of the Capitol building, Washington, D.C.. Circa July 1941. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Although the division does not hold the corpus of their personal papers, several other women members of Congress are represented in division collections, although none by a substantial number of documents.

  • Material on Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973) of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, appears in the papers of Mary Church Terrell and the records of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, National Consumers' League, the Bancroft Library Oral History collection, and the Suffragists Oral History Project External collection.
  • Information about Maine representative and senator Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995) may be found in the papers of Florence Ellinwood Allen; William Rea Furlong; Katie Louchheim; Edgar Ansel and Lilian T. Mowrer; and Charl Ormond Williams.
  • Letters of California representative Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-1980) are in the collections of Reinhold Niebuhr, Kermit Roosevelt, and Paul F. and Claire Ginsburg Sifton.
  • A file on Ohio representative Frances Payne Bingham Bolton (1885-1977) is in the Records of the Society of Woman Geographers.
  • Ruth Bryan Owen Rohde (1885-1954) correspondence may be found in the papers of Bess Furman and Laurence A. Steinhardt.
  • New York congresswoman Bella Abzug (1920-1998) is represented in the Records of ERAmerica.
  • The Former Members of Congress, Inc., oral history interviews collection contains the narratives of twelve women including Catherine May Bedell (b.1914), Reva Zilpha Beck Bosone (1895-1983), Marguerite Stitt Church (1892-1990), Emily Taft Douglas (b. 1899), Mary Elizabeth P. Farrington (1898-1984), Edith Green (1910-1987), Martha W. Griffiths (b. 1912), Julia Butler Hansen (1907-1988), Edna Flannery Kelly (b. 1906), Patsy T. Mink (1927-2002), Maurine Brown Neuberger (b. 1907), and Katherine Price Collier St. George (1894-1983).

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.