The House

The People's Chamber

The founders expected the House of Representatives to take center stage in the new American government. They felt that its status as the only national institution with members elected directly by the people made the House uniquely important—and posed special dangers. "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy," warned Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts at the Constitutional Convention.

Through much of this early period, the House was indeed the nation's driving political force. It proposed the Bill of Rights, drafted legislation to create government agencies, carried out investigations, and shaped an aggressive policy toward Great Britain.

Getting Organized

The House of Representatives was new, yet rested on familiar foundations. The individual states had long experience with popularly elected legislatures. Representatives also looked to Britain's House of Commons, adopting ideas such as a presiding Speaker and basic parliamentary procedures. Its launch went smoothly.

Edith Nourse Rogers 1881–1960, Massachusetts

Wed, 2013-04-24 14:16 -- administrator

Former Red Cross volunteer Edith Nourse Rogers shaped hundreds of bills benefiting veterans’ causes. Rogers chaired the postwar Veterans’ Affairs Committee, capping a 35-year House career. “The first 30 years are the hardest,” Rogers said. “It’s like taking care of the sick. You start it and you like the work, and you just keep on.”

Edith Nourse Rogers, photograph © Shelburne Studios, 1956
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Patsy Takemoto Mink 1927-2002, Hawaii

Wed, 2013-04-24 14:11 -- administrator

In 1964, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. As one of only eight women in Congress at the time, she said "I always felt that we were serving a dual role," representing both their districts and American women. True to that approach, she championed legislation concerning childcare, education and gender equity.

Patsy T. Mink, photograph by unidentified artist, ca. 1960-1970
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Barbara Jordan 1936–1996, Texas

Wed, 2013-04-24 12:45 -- administrator

In her first term, Jordan electrified the Nixon impeachment hearings with her eloquence. “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total,” she intoned. “I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.” Ill health, however, cut short her promising political career.

Barbara Jordan listening to debate on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, photograph, July 25, 1974.

D.C. Public Library, Star Collection, Copyright Washington Post

Sam Rayburn

Tue, 2013-04-23 16:24 -- administrator

Rayburn, the longest-serving Speaker of the House, advised new members for years that "if you want to get along—go along" Among his protégés were Representative Lyndon Johnson and the future Speaker Carl Albert. "Mr. Sam" preferred to work behind the scenes, getting things done by negotiating with committee chairs and the Republican leadership.

Jeannette Rankin's Credentials, 1916

Tue, 2013-04-23 15:51 -- administrator

Woman suffrage was won in Montana in 1914. In the first state election with women voting, the state elected the first woman in Congress. Rankin's 1940 campaign resulted in her return to the House after a 22-year absence.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

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