March is Women’s History Month — what better time to celebrate women who have shaped Massachusetts politics?
From the first women elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives to the first female senator to represent the state in Washington, D.C., Bay State women have been shaping the course of politics for many years.
The State Library of Massachusetts and the History, Art & Archives website of the U.S. House of Representatives share information about 5 pioneers who paved the way for women in politics in the state and the nation.
Edith Nourse Rogers
Before serving Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives for a record-breaking 35 years, Edith Nourse Rogers volunteered as a nurse with the Red Cross and inspected field hospitals during World War I. She was called an angel for her work nursing injured veterans, and was a long-time advocate for veterans’ rights.
Rogers ran for (and won) her late husband’s seat in the House in 1925, and became the first woman to represent the Bay State in Washington, D.C. Rogers helped create the Women’s Army Corps, worked to set up pensions for army nurses, and helped write the GI Bill.
During her time in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate, Lois Pines stood up for women’s rights and the environment. In 1975, she created and chaired the Asbestos Commission to investigate the health risks of building with asbestos. It was the first commission of its kind in the country.
Pines also cofounded the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, which gave women in politics a place to come together and campaign for women’s rights.
Marie Howe held office in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1965 to 1988. During that time, she helped pass a stronger Lemon Law to protect people from being sold faulty cars in the Commonwealth. She also worked on public transportation issues in the state and reformed rules in the Massachusetts Legislature.
Doris Bunte became the first African American female legislator to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973. She advocated for racial equality in schools and neighborhoods throughout her legislative career, and was a key player in pushing for local and statewide desegregation.
Margaret Mary Heckler
In 1966, Margaret Mary Heckler became the first woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress who didn’t take her husband’s seat. During her 8 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Heckler supported women’s rights, fought domestic abuse, and worked to help women on maternity leave keep their pensions. In 1977, she helped found the Congresswomen’s Caucus.
Heckler also never lost touch with her constituents — she even set up a toll-free hotline to her Washington office so her constituents could reach her. She spoke up for New England’s fishermen and textile industry, and demanded the release of a Massachusetts resident who was arrested for spying overseas.
Massachusetts women have been shaping our state’s political conversation for many years. Let’s celebrate their accomplishments, during Women’s History Month and beyond.
Do you know Massachusetts women who have made a difference in politics? Share their stories by commenting below or tweeting @MassGov.
Tags: female leaders, female legislators, influential women, Massachusetts politics, Massachusetts women, women, women in politics, women leaders, women legislators, women's history month, women's rights
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