Patricia Schroeder ’64, a feminist pathbreaker in Congress, who served as U.S. representative from Colorado from 1973 to 1997, died on March 13. She was 82.
The first woman elected to represent Colorado, during her 24 years in Congress Schroeder championed legislation on family leave and pregnancy discrimination, from the Family and Medical Leave Act to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. She also helped to pass laws that reformed spousal pensions, opened military jobs to women, and required federally funded medical researchers to include women in their studies. “I could not understand why women weren’t just raging about this stuff,” she said in a 2002 Harvard Law Bulletin interview.
The first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, she worked for arms control and reducing military spending. She also worked to improve benefits for military personnel and persuaded the committee to recommend that women be allowed to fly combat missions. (She herself was a pilot and had earned her license when she was 15).
At Harvard Law School, she was one of 15 women in her class. She and her classmate James Schroeder married in 1962. Early in her career, she worked for the National Labor Relations Board, volunteered as counsel for Planned Parenthood, and taught at the University of Colorado and Regis College.
After her years in Congress, Schroeder became president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and cochair of Democracy Online Project’s National Task Force.
“It was my great personal privilege to serve with Congresswoman Schroeder, whom many of us consider one of the bravest women to ever serve in the halls of Congress,” said Nancy Pelosi, the former House Speaker and first woman to hold that role. “Her courage and persistence leave behind an indelible legacy of progress and have inspired countless women in public service to follow in her footsteps.”