Patricia Schroeder, Feminist Trailblazer in Congress, Dies at 82

Patricia Schroeder, a feminist legislator who helped redefine the role of women in American politics and used her wits to fight rampant sexism in Congress, died Monday in Celebration, Fla. He is 82 years old.

He died at the hospital of complications from a stroke, his daughter Jamie Cornish said in an email.

An aviator and a Harvard-trained lawyer, Ms. She was a driving force behind the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guaranteed up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member.

She helped pass the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibited employers from firing women and denying them maternity benefits because they were pregnant. He also supported laws that reformed spousal pensions, opened military jobs to women and forced federally funded medical researchers to include women in their studies.

Elected in 1972 as an opponent of the Vietnam War, Mrs. Schroeder served on the Armed Services Committee during his 24 years in Congress. From there, he called for arms control and reduced military spending.

She worked to improve benefits for military personnel and persuaded the committee to recommend that women be allowed to fly combat missions; Defense Secretary Les Aspin ordered it in 1993 By 1995, The first female fighter pilot was flying in combat. This further angered Ms Schroeder’s critics on the right, such as Lt Col Oliver North, who called her one of the 25 most dangerous politicians in the country.

One of Ms. Schroeder’s most enduring public images is of her crying when she announced in 1987 that she would not run for president. At an outdoor event in Denver, she He was overcome with emotion, pressed a tissue to her eyes and at one point leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder. This outraged some feminists, who said her tears reinforced stereotypes and set back the cause of women seeking office.

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It is an ironic accusation against a woman who has done so much to promote that cause. Ms. Schroeder is the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado and the first woman to serve on the Armed Services Committee. From the beginning she had to fight blatant discrimination, and faced questions about how she could function as a mother of two young children, as a mother, and as a lawmaker.

“I have a brain and a womb, and I use both,” she replied.

A longer version of this obituary will be published later.

Vivek Shankar Contributed report.

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