Honoring the Legacy of Former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder

On Monday, the United States lost a trailblazing leader and champion for women’s rights and family rights. Former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado passed away at the age of 82 due to complications of a stroke.[0] As Colorado Public Radio’s Caitlyn Kim reports, she is remembered for her wit, work ethic, and willingness to speak her mind.[1]

Schroeder was born in Portland, Oregon in 1940 to an aviation insurance salesman and a public school teacher.[0] She became a pilot in order to pay for college tuition, and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.[2] In 1972, she ran for Congress without support from the Democratic Party and won, becoming the first woman to be elected to Congress from Colorado at age 32. She would go on to serve for 24 years, and was succeeded by current U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, also a Democrat.[3]

Schroeder was a force to be reckoned with in Congress.[2] She regularly used her wit to stand up to those who questioned her place in Congress and was known for her quick barbs.[2] The phrase “Teflon President” was created by her to describe former President Ronald Reagan, a title that lingers for any politician who can evade criticism.[2] When asked how she could be both a congresswoman and a mother, she famously replied, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.”[4] She was also credited with leading the fight for women’s rights in the workplace, helping to pass the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.[5]

Schroeder briefly ran for president in 1987 after Gary Hart withdrew from the race following a sex scandal.[2] At Denver's Civic Center Park, she declared her candidacy and stated that she was running to shift people's perceptions of what women could accomplish in politics.[2]

Upon retirement from politics, Schroeder penned the book “24 Years of House Work … and the Place Is Still a Mess.”[6] She detailed her struggles, primarily against the Democratic leadership in the House, since she was one of the few women serving in the Chamber at that time.[6]

Schroeder was a mentor to many women in politics.[1] Her daughter, Jamie Cornish, said that when DeGette first ran for Congress, Schroeder sent her a lovely letter with a donation.[7]

0. “Former US Rep. Patricia Schroeder dies at 82” CNN, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/14/politics/patricia-schroeder-colorado-congresswoman-dies/index.html

1. “Remembering Pat Schroeder, who spent 12 terms in Congress fighting for women's rights” WKAR, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.wkar.org/2023-03-14/remembering-pat-schroeder-who-spent-12-terms-in-congress-fighting-for-womens-rights

2. “Former Rep. Pat Schroeder dies at 82 – The Durango Herald” The Durango Herald, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/former-rep-pat-schroeder-dies-at-82/

3. “Pat Schroeder, Women's Rights Trailblazer, Mourned By DeGette, Colorado Leaders” Patch, 14 Mar. 2023, https://patch.com/colorado/denver/pat-schroeder-womens-rights-trailblazer-mourned-degette-colorado-leaders

4. “Remembering Pat Schroeder: She Wrote the Book on Women in Politics” Westword, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.westword.com/news/pat-schroeder-congress-colorado-5058554

5. “Pat Schroeder, Fighter for Workers and Women in Congress, Dies at 82” Common Dreams, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.commondreams.org/news/pat-schroeder-obituary

6. “Pat Schroeder dies in Celebration after stroke” Florida Politics, 14 Mar. 2023, https://floridapolitics.com/archives/595202-pat-schroeder-dies-in-celebration-after-stroke

7. “McCollum Statement on the Passing of Congresswoman Pat Schroeder” Betty McCollum, 14 Mar. 2023, https://mccollum.house.gov/media/press-releases/mccollum-statement-passing-congresswoman-pat-schroeder