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Pat Schroeder, family rights pioneer, dies at 82

A former Colorado congresswoman, Patricia Schroeder is being hailed for work on paid leave, women’s rights and other family issues

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Pat Schroeder speaks to a reporter during an interview at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Pat Schroeder speaks to a reporter during an interview at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 30, 1999. Schroeder, a former Colorado representative and pioneer for women’s and family rights in Congress, died Monday night, March 13, 2023, at the age of 82. Schroeder’s former press secretary, Andrea Camp, said Schroeder suffered a stroke recently and died at a hospital in Florida, the state where she had been residing.

Nick Ut, Associated Press

Patricia Schroeder, former U.S. representative and pioneer for women’s and family rights, died Monday. She was 82. In her memory, people are reflecting on her political legacy.

Schroeder’s former press secretary, Andrea Camp, said recently that Schroeder had a stroke. She died at a hospital in Celebration, Florida, where she had been living most recently. When she was in Congress, she represented Colorado.

Passion for politics

Schroeder is notorious for her fiery wit and achievements in advocating for women’s and family rights, the New York Post said. “She forced government institutions to acknowledge that women had a role in government as she battled the powerful elite.”

The article added that “the uniquely confrontational style did cost her, though, as she was never appointed to lead a committee. Undeterred, she said she was unwilling to join what she considered ‘the good old boys’ club’ just to score political points.”

Schroeder battled pressures to conform to negative social ideals of women, Politico said, noting she was forced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman F. Edward Hebert to share a seat with U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums, who was the first Black man to serve on the committee, while Schroeder was the first woman so assigned.

“Schroeder said Hebert thought the committee was no place for a woman or an African-American and they were each worth only half a seat,” Politico reported.

“When a congressman once asked how she could be a mother and raise two small children, she shot back, ‘I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both’,” per the New York Post.

Schroeder’s accomplishments

While in college, she was a pilot and ran her own flying business to pay for her education. She served two years as a field attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

National Public Radio says after Schroeder’s election to the House of Representatives in 1972, she continued to win reelection 11 times from her district in Denver.

“One of Schroeder’s biggest victories was the signing of a family leave bill in 1993, providing job protection for care of a newborn, a sick child or a parent,” NPR said.

“Schroeder helped forge several Democratic majorities before deciding in 1997 it was time to leave,” Politico reported.

“Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Schroeder broke barriers with her leadership,” the article said. It quoted a statement from Polis’ office: “Marlon and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Pat, a friend, a leader and a champion for Colorado and our nation.”

In a tweet, Polis said: “Her wit, wisdom and great love for our country will be missed, and my condolences to her loving family.”

Per Fox News, “Schroeder retired in 1997 and her parting shot to Congress came the following year when she penned a book titled ‘24 Years of Housework ... and the Place Is Still a Mess. My Life in Politics.’”

“Pat Schroeder blazed the trail. Every woman in this house is walking in her footsteps,” Fox News quoted Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Schroeder is survived by her husband of 61 years, two children, a brother and four grandchildren.