|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Colorado's 1st district
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1997
|Preceded by||Mike McKevitt|
|Succeeded by||Diana DeGette|
Patricia Nell Scott
July 30, 1940
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Education||University of Minnesota (BA)|
Harvard University (JD)
Patricia Nell Scott Schroeder (born July 30, 1940) is an American politician who represented Colorado in the United States House of Representatives from 1973 to 1997. A member of the Democratic Party, Schroeder was the first female U.S. Representative elected in Colorado.
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. 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. Schroeder is a member of Chi Omega sorority. She graduated with a B.A. in 1961 and later earned a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1964. It was at Harvard where she met her husband, James W. Schroeder, a law school classmate. They married on August 18, 1962, and moved to Denver, Colorado, where Jim joined a law firm. They had two children, Scott William (born 1966) and Jamie Christine (born 1970). Schroeder worked for the National Labor Relations Board from 1964 to 1966. She later worked for Planned Parenthood and taught in Denver's public schools.
In 1970, Schroeder's husband Jim ran for the Colorado state legislature but lost by only 42 votes. In the same election, 20-year Democratic incumbent Byron Rogers of Colorado's first district, based in Denver, lost a primary challenge to more liberal Craig Barnes, leading to Republican Mike McKevitt winning. For the 1972 election, Jim had asked a man who had declined to run for Congress if his wife would run, to which the man had asked him back: "What about yours?" Though Jim dismissed it at first, the Schroeders realized that Pat would make a good candidate - she had good credentials with labor groups through her work at NLRB, also with education groups through her work at public schools, and was opposed to the Vietnam War.
Considered a long-shot candidate, Schroeder received no support from the Democratic National Committee and women's groups. Nevertheless, with overconfident McKevitt staying in Washington until the last week of the campaign, Schroeder's message of war, environment, and childcare led to her winning by just over 8,000 votes amid Richard Nixon's massive landslide that year. 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. However, the district reverted to form, and she was elected 11 more times. She only faced one remotely close contest after the initial run, when she was held to 53 percent of the vote–the only time she would drop below 58 percent.
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", demonstrating to her "how paranoid J. Edgar Hoover and his agency were".
While in Congress, she became the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She was also a Congress member of the original Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families 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, 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. Schroeder was also involved in reform of Congress itself, working to weaken the long-standing control of committees by their chairs, sparring with Speaker Carl Albert over congressional "hideaways," and questioning why Congress members who lived in their offices should not be taxed for the benefit.
Schroeder styled herself as a "fiscally conservative liberal". In 1981, she voted against Reagan's tax cuts, as she thought the country could not afford it, also against the 1986 tax-reform bill, favoring more progressive rates. In 1986 she had a 95% rating from Americans For Democratic Action, and was also ranked by the National Taxpayers Union as more fiscally conservative than Jack Kemp. In 1989, Schroeder voted against George H. W. Bush's administration more than any House member (79 percent), and often did not vote with fellow Democrats on "party unity" votes.
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. 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.
In 1989, she wrote a book entitled Champion of the Great American Family: A Personal and Political Book that discussed her own personal story and legislative efforts to enact policy on family issues such as parental leave, child care, family economics, and family planning.
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", and titled her 1998 memoir, 24 years of House Work...and the Place Is Still a Mess.
Schroeder was named president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in 1997 and served in that post for 11 years. 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." 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 narrated 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 in 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.
Following her tenure at AAP, Schroeder and her husband relocated to Celebration, Florida, a master-planned community built by the Walt Disney Company. 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. Grayson lost his re-election campaign. She subsequently endorsed him again ahead of the 2012 congressional elections, during which he returned to Congress. She currently sits on the board of The League of Women Voters of Florida. She is also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which advocates for democratic reformation of the United Nations.
In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Schroeder's name and picture.
Schroeder was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.
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.
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.
Schroeder was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1995.
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.
She was honored by the National Research Center for Women & Families in 2006 for her lifetime of achievements with a Foremother Award.
She was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board in 2010.
Schroeder was portrayed by Jan Radcliff in the 2016 HBO film Confirmation.
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. Publishers 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'." Author Rebecca Traister has recalled that Schroeder responded to concerns about balancing political life with motherhood by saying "I have a brain and a uterus, and they both work."
During the debate about 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." In a 1995 exchange, in which after Rep. Duke Cunningham told then-Representative Bernie Sanders to "sit down, you socialist," during a debate in which Sanders and Schroeder both objected to homophobic comments Cunningham made during the debate, Schroeder asked, "Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman—do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?"