Patricia Schroeder was a longtime Democratic U.S. Representative from Colorado known for her work towards women’s rights.
After earning her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, Schroeder worked as a teacher and was legal counsel for Planned Parenthood before running for office. She first ran in 1972 on the heels of her husband’s unsuccessful bid for the Colorado General Assembly. A dark horse candidate with no support from the Democratic National Committee, Schroeder pulled off a surprise victory in her first election. The first woman elected to Congress from the state, she would go on to serve in the U.S. House for 12 terms before stepping down in 1997.
Calling herself a fiscally conservative liberal, Schroeder focused much of her work on issues of women’s rights. Among her most important accomplishments was the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, guaranteeing job-protected leave for employees with health or family issues. Schroeder was also a driving force behind legislation including the 1985 Military Family Act and the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. She was the first woman ever to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She had considered a run for president in the 1988 election; her announcement that she would not run made headlines for her tears during the announcement.
Shortly after her retirement from politics, Schroeder was named president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers. Serving there for 11 years, she was a major figure in the controversy over Google’s digitization of copyrighted books. She opposed the practice, and her fight helped secure compensation for writers and publishers.
Schroeder on her tears when declining to run for president
“That was a great example of people saying things like, “Well, never again can a woman run for president in my lifetime because she shed tears.” You don’t see anybody saying never again can a man be governor of New Hampshire because [John] Sununu [Jr.] cried so hard he couldn’t even finish his speech when he was saying goodbye. Or never again could a man run for president because I think every single one of them has shed tears in public now.” —from a 1996 interview for the Los Angeles Times
Tributes to Patricia Schroeder