The resourceful lawmakers who opened the doors of parliament to young moms
What hard-fought success Schroeder got — “It took nine months to deliver each of my children and nine years to deliver FMLA,” she’d later say — came from “her humanity and her persistence and her humor,” says Ellen Bravo, the former director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, one of many national groups that worked for the bill’s passage. Year after year, Schroeder leaned into the absurdity of Washington, deploying a brand of witty straight talk that drew attention to her causes, well before social media and viral memes.
“She was able to not only endure nasty attacks, but direct a withering response at people,” says Bravo. “She handled them in a way that went through the veneer of authority.”
Schroeder was the one who declared Ronald Reagan to have a “Teflon-coated presidency” (reportedly conceived to her while frying eggs in a Teflon-coated pan). was an idea), calling the members of George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle the “Lucky Sperm Club.” They were able to run for office by benefiting from their family’s wealth.
And she faced her own indignation with humor and theater. When she won a seat on the House Armed Services Committee early in her term, the chairman, a Louisiana Democrat named F. Edward Hebert, said she and Ron Derams, a black Democrat from California, He was upset that he had been placed on a committee opposing Hébert’s military committee. I wish He offered only one chair for the two of them, so Schroeder and Derams sat together “cheek to cheek” for two years, as she later wrote. “Frank always said it was the only half-hearted thing I did when I was in Congress, but I don’t know if that’s true,” she told a House historian years later. He said sarcastically.
Even as Schroeder grew in influence and eventually launched a short-lived presidential run in 1987, she faced doubts and digging about her attitude: During a military visit to China in 1987 Last time, I wore a bunny suit to entertain the kids at the US Embassy. , the fact that she sometimes signs the “P” with a smiley face. Some of her greatest scrutiny came when she dropped out of the presidential race and publicly wept at her press conference, releasing a 1,000 Thoughts article on gender, politics and public norms.
But Schroeder was never afraid to wear motherhood and femininity on her sleeve. It took her and her children on official international trips to Denver and sometimes a pet bunny named Franklin Delano Rabbit. and spilled a glass of milk on me. [the ground]”I was always sticky…people would just be terrified, but that was the way we were.”
That unapologetic approach to parenthood is not uncommon in many public spaces today. But in 2018, she ran for a seat in the New York Congress with her two toddlers at home and formed Vote Mama, a group that supports young mothers. He said there are still many barriers to running for office. in politics.
And at least at the Congressional level, the family-friendly policies Schroeder championed at the height of his influence have all but frozen in time. most consider FMLA to be woefully incomplete. As Grechen Shirley and Bravo point out, the law only covers her 60% of workers due to eligibility restrictions. Many eligible people cannot afford it because they cannot afford it. (Bravo points out that state laws mandating paid sick leave are gaining momentum, now passed in 11 states and the District of Columbia.)
Grechen Shirley attributes the lack of progress to lack of representation. In the 118th Congress, record number of women That’s still only 540 voting members and 153 non-voting members, or 28% of the total. But it’s not just that there aren’t enough women in Congress, argues Gretchen Shirley, echoing what Schroeder discovered 50 years ago.
“That’s because our policies aren’t made by people with lived experience. If you want to change the system, you have to change the system makers,” she says. “So many women wait until their children are grown up before considering running for office, making it difficult to build tenure or the political power to gain leadership positions.”