Feminists and Friends Reflect on Pat Schroeder’s Legacy

Rep. Pat Schroeder speaks in support of the Equal Rights Amendment on June 24, 1981. (Denver Post via Getty Images)

Since the news broke about Pat Schroeder’s death on March 14, there have been thousands of tributes, obituaries, tweets and social media postings in her honor. They described her as a maverick, pioneer, feminist champion, trailblazer, fearlessly independent politician, and an icon and role model for many elected officials, men and women alike. We agree—but for the feminist movement, Pat Schroeder was much more. She was a member of Congress not just for the people in Denver, but for feminists across the United States.

As a tribute to her passing, Ms. editors first asked Ellen Goodman, an awarding winning syndicated columnist and close friend of Pat’s, to write a tribute. Goodman responded by suggesting we ask not just her, but others, to share their favorite Pat Schroeder stories. Several of us in the feminist community were lucky enough to call Pat Schroeder our friend, and we are proud to share tributes that go beyond the existing obituaries.  

On March 22, 2023, the House of Representatives will honor Schroeder with a moment of silence, which will occur during or immediately after first votes at approximately 6:30 p.m. EDT. On this same day in 1992, the Congress passed a final Equal Rights Amendment resolution for the states to bring the ratification process. 

In honor of this one minute—60 seconds—of silence, below find 60 stories from people who knew and admired Pat Schroeder.

But first, here are a few more facts about Pat Schroeder the obits missed:

She came to Congress in 1973 when only 16 women (3.2 percent) were in the House of Representatives. Joining the ranks of a small band of strong feminists—including Bella Abzug, Cardiss Collins, Shirley Chisholm, Elizabeth Holtzman, Barbara Jordan and Patsy Mink—together they carried forth the work of retiring Martha Griffiths, who spearheaded Congress’ passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. She stayed longer than all of these, except Patsy Mink, when Pat retired in 1996. Today there are 125 women in the House, or 28.7 percent.

Schroeder was an insider-outsider, a brilliant strategist who proudly supported NOW, Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority, AAUW, the League of Women Voters and others non-governmental groups who could rock the boat from the outside, so she and others could move dozens of new laws and policies to help women and families.

Pat led the march of women members of Congress to the Senate demanding that Anita Hill testify at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, sparking the 1992 Year of the Woman—so named since many new women were elected to Congress over their being disgusted at the misogynist treatment of Hill.

After a few years in Congress, she was a founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Under her leadership, the caucus transformed the policy landscape for women and provided legislative leadership on critical issues impacting women’s lives, health and pocketbooks. She, along with her caucus members, eliminated gender discrepancies in health research and expanded breast and cervical cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense—and those were only a few of the advances the congresswomen worked together to accomplish so that women’s lives would be healthier, safer and more economically secure.

Pat Schroeder was the author of the Violence Against Women Act, the Economic Equity Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Child Abuse Prevention Action, and a dozen more ground-breaking laws to help women, children and families. She was also a strong, unwavering voice for abortion rights and women’s reproductive health, having almost died in childbirth. She was proud that one of her final bills as a member of Congress was the Safe Motherhood Act, the first call for a comprehensive plan to reduce maternal mortality in the U.S.  

Without a doubt, her family—husband Jim, son Scott, daughter Jamie and four grandchildren Ellie, James, William and Beatrice—was always a top priority. And when people questioned her about her ability to be a mom and a member of Congress, she famously said, “I have a brain and uterus, and I use them both.”

Pat Schroeder has made the world and this country a better place.


 It’s been almost 20 years since Pat and I first sat down to talk and think about our next steps. The first question our small group of women in their 60—soon to be deep friends—embraced was a simple one: “What should we do now that we already know the first line of our obituaries?” 

Now I am reading that obit with a heavy heart full of loss for my friend,. 

She was a quick wit. Check. She was a “pioneer.” Check. She stood up and up and up for women’s rights and families. Check. 

Pat once described herself as being part of the “beach head generation,” the frontline of the second-wave feminists who landed in politics under supremely unfriendly fire. We took casualties and took new territory.

As the obit says, she was one of the firsts: Harvard law student, congresswoman, working mother. But the obit doesn’t mention her generous heart. 

Pat truly got it: what it was like to juggle family and work, to be a woman in the Army, a pregnant woman in the workplace, a certified member of the sandwich generation, and a woman in politics when women weren’t expected to use—as she put it—both her brain and her uterus. 

The New York Times, predictably, wrote (too much) about the moment she decided not to run for president. They wrote about the tears she shed—heaven forfend—but not her own retort that Kleenex would ask her to be their spokeswoman. 

But in the end, I suppose no obit can tell you about the woman who had more Christmas decorations than Macy’s. Who was as passionate about her four grandchildren as about the Democratic Party. Who didn’t cook but did take her entire extended family on cruises where others did the cooking. Who put smiley faces on her letters. Who took our little group of elders to Disney World for a space slide. Who had a sense of fun that extended to a dance-a-thon in Havana. And who was utterly determined to live life to the fullest until the very last. 

She cared about so much. And so many. 

Earlier this month, I got my weekly copy of her collated “Friday Funnies,” a bunch of comics and cartoons. I didn’t know it would be the last one.

Pat closed the email as she always did, sending “Hugs.” 

—Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist


Pat Schroeder was a fierce force for good, using her 24 years in public service to advocate for women and families. “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time,” she’d say.

—Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and the first woman to win a presidential nomination by a major U.S. political party

Reps. Shirley Chisholm and Pat Schroeder in March 1982. (Courtesy of the Shirley Chisholm Project at CUNY Brooklyn College)


The 1988 Democratic presidential race was turned upside down on May 8, 1987, when frontrunner Colorado Sen. Gary Hart withdrew in the wake of allegations of extra marital affairs.

Among Democratic women who had been energized by the 1984 vice presidential nomination of Geraldine Ferraro, the buzz began: Was there an opening for a woman to join the race?

I began to hear rumblings from sources I had as The Associated Press reporter who covered the Ferraro effort from Day One. Over time, one name came up as the likeliest candidate: Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder. I had covered Schroeder many times over the years as I specialized in stories about women in politics. She was remarkably engaging so it was natural to check in regularly with her, with her office and her friends.

On June 5, as I was making the usual rounds of calls to sources, the buzz took a sharp turn: Several were sure Schroeder was going to run. There was a meeting, maybe at her office. I couldn’t get confirmation. So I called her office and left a message that I had a question for the congresswoman.

A couple of minutes later, the phone rings. “Hi, it’s Pat Schroeder. I hear you wanted to ask me a question. I only have a minute: I’m running to the airport,” she said, a little out of breath.

Yes, I said. I hear you are thinking about running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“How the…did you…?” she said.  A pause. “Yes, I am thinking about it. No decisions yet.”

And that was the story of the day, rushed out on the AP wire.

—Evans Witt, retired AP political correspondent


Pat Schroeder broke barriers for women in Congress and for women everywhere. She fought for women’s social security rights, family medical leave, women in the military—the list goes on. Especially quick-witted, always seeing the irony and ridiculousness of those who opposed women’s rights, she would laugh and kept moving forward. Her campaign slogan, “She wins, we win,” was true for millions of women and families. Pat Schroeder and I shared birthdays on the same day in July with phone calls and lunches. I will miss her.

—Eleanor Smeal, publisher of Ms. and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation


The passing of former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder is a profound loss for our nation. Throughout her more than two decades in the House, Congresswoman Schroeder proved to be an effective legislative force, whose bold vision and firm values helped deliver progress for America’s women, service members and working families.

On Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Schroeder was a trailblazer: the first woman to represent Colorado in Congress and the first women to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. A co-founder of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, Congresswoman Schroeder relentlessly fought against sexism—not only across the country but in the Capitol. She wrote the original legislation to guarantee paid leave, which she championed year after year until President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993. Her Military Family Act of 1985 continues to care for the loved ones of our heroes in uniform. These are just two examples of her remarkable legislative legacy.

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. It was a special triumph when her years-long advocacy finally brought the statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott into the Rotunda to honor generations of women who fought for gender justice. Her courage and persistence leave behind an indelible legacy of progress and have inspired countless women in public service to follow in her footsteps.

May it be a comfort to her husband James, their children Scott and Jamie, their grandchildren and the entire Schroeder family that so many mourn with and pray for them at this sad time.

—House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the first woman to hold the office


Pat Schroeder was a pioneer. In her 24 years in Congress, she seized every opportunity to advance equality for women, and the laws she helped pass fundamentally reshaped our country for the better.

On issue after issue, Pat stood up for basic fairness, sensible policy, and women’s equal humanity. The result was a legislative record that changed millions of women’s lives—and men’s lives—for the better.

I saw firsthand Pat’s moral compass, legal mind and political savvy when we worked together on the Violence Against Women Act. She was the primary sponsor in the House; I led the charge in the Senate. Together, we got it done. With Pat as my partner, I never doubted that we would.

She inspired a generation of public servants, proved that a young mom could be a formidable Congresswoman, and did it all with legendary wit.

—President Joe Biden


Pat Schroeder broke barriers as the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. Over her 24 years in Congress, she championed women’s rights and helped secure passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Her legacy will inspire generations of leaders to come.

—Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and person of color to serve in the role
U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder speaks at a vigil by women, churches and poor people’s groups to protest welfare reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 1995. Rep. Bella Abzug (left), a fellow women’s rights advocate, watches. (Richard Ellis / AFP via Getty Images)


Thank you, former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder, for fighting for equal rights and family leave, and for standing up to the “good ole boy” network in Congress. 

—Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.)


Patricia Schroeder was the coach, the leader, the strategist. She was, by far, the greatest feminist of my time in Congress.

I learned of her passing on #EqualPayDay. No one was a greater advocate for women’s equality, and she was right out front on equal pay and other issues. She was priceless. 

I remember, late one night, I was sitting on the House floor and she came and sat next to me. She asked, “What makes us different?” What propelled us to run for office and serve in such male-dominated institution? We reached the conclusion that it was in large part because our fathers had faith in us. They supported everything we did. Never think that fathers aren’t just as important as mothers in helping girls and young women reach their fullest potential.

It was great fun to serve with Schroeder. She was so quick-witted. When we tried to get a suffragist statue out of the Capitol basement and to the rotunda on display, a Republican said, “They’re too ugly.” Schroeder responded: “Have you looked at Lincoln lately?”

I had the privilege of following in her footsteps and carry forward new laws to help women and families.  Onward to ratifying ERA, expanding paid family leave, restoring abortion rights and moving forward the fights together we and others began and will someday happen.

—Carolyn Maloney, former member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1993–2022


Great activist supporting women’s causes and known for shutting down right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Legislator extraordinaire, her contributions are well documented in history!

—Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)


Pat was a good friend to Ms. from its first publication until her death.  Over the years, Ms. covered her many break-through accomplishments for women and girls, her wit and wisdom … and of course, that iconic photo of the moment she led the group of congresswomen in a march from the House to the Senate to demand that hearings be held on Anita Hill’s allegations against then-nominee for the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. I was at the NOW conference when she appeared, having just announced her intention to explore a presidential run—the energy and sheer joy of the conference delegates who hailed from every state in the country, cannot be described. She was generous in spirit, passing the torch to others in Congress as she retired, and more importantly lighting new torches especially for young women who were interns, staff, colleagues and friends.  

—Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. (See the image on Twitter.)


Every woman currently serving in Congress owes a tremendous debt to Pat Schroeder. With her steadfast commitment and sharp wit, she proved women could be mothers, wives and congresswomen, and that they could lead on everything from family issues to national security.

—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)


When I think of Pat Schroeder, I think of her leading a delegation of women House Reps to the Senate to demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee address the allegation of sexual harassment made by Anita Hill regarding the nomination of Clarence Thomas. That image was powerful.

—Sherrilyn Ifill, former president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (See the image on Twitter.)


RIP Pat Schroeder. You were a pioneer for women in Congress and I will never forget our march over to the Senate to protest the treatment of Anita Hill. You put down the prejudice you faced as a woman with humor and grit, and paved the way for so many. Your memory is a blessing.

—Barbara Boxer, former senator from California
Pat Schroeder, pictured here in New Orleans in August 1988. (Ed Lallo / Getty Images)


It was said that when Pat Schroeder kissed a baby on the trail, she *really* kissed *that* baby. It was deeply important to her that when she campaigned, she was vulnerable and made genuine connections with people. This was her superpower and Achilles heel.

—Kevin Eggleston, writer and actor


I’ve been thinking about Pat Schroeder like so many of us. In 1988, shortly after my son Jonathan was born, Cathy Saypol and I were doing the publicity for a childcare conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I was bringing Jonathan along to meetings and brought him to the conference. Before going to speak, Pat Schroeder saw him and within moments he was in her arms when she brought him to meet the press—because, as she said, “This is why we are here today.” Pat was a feminist pioneer with a huge heart and a determination that inspired all of us. I will never forget her smile and warmth as she held Jonathan.

—Karin Lippert, publicist at KLPR Media and former Ms. magazine publicist


In 1992 I saw Pat Schroeder speak in Portland, Maine, with my daughter. Pat was discouraged folks didn’t want to run for office anymore. Pat asked me about running for Maine Senate—seemed like a crazy idea. I’d been a mom/farmer who’d never thought of running. Hannah said, “Go for it!”

I’m not the only one Pat Schroeder encouraged to get active in public life. She made a major impact and will be forever missed.

—Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)


Pat Schroeder was an incredibly effective lawmaker whose decades of service made America better, fairer and stronger. I’ll always be grateful for her essential support in passing the Family and Medical Leave Act.

—Bill Clinton, former U.S. president


A trailblazer for women has left us. I was lucky to call her aunt and even luckier to see the impact she had on the world firsthand. Fearless and speaking her truth no matter the consequences—that was Aunt Pat. 

—Lara Hood Balazs, CMO at Intuit


Our country is a different place because of Pat Schroeder. When she first ran for office, the idea that a young mother could also be an effective lawmaker was shocking to a lot of people. But the example she set taught us a lot about what an effective lawmaker really looks like.

—Melinda French Gates, philanthropist


I spent a summer in the early ’80s working for Pat Schroeder. She was brilliant, funny and great with a one-liner. She knew more about weapons systems than some generals. And she loved my mom’s fruit salad.

—Tom Lyden, investigative reporter for FOX 9, KMSP-TV, Minneapolis/St. Paul


On rough days working on the Barney Frank collection, I would seek out materials from Pat Schroeder (or Barney talking shit about Gingrich). She would always sign notes to him with a little smiley face in the ‘P’ and generally had some great quotes.

One that read: “Congratulations for being the first male Member to join the Congresswomen’s Caucus. Welcome! I look forward to working with you.”—with the smiley face “P” and signed YEA!

—Lauren VanDenBerg, archivist at the Central Archives Project of the American Museum of Natural History


What I remember most indelibly about Pat was not how smart she was, although she clearly was whip smart. Nor was it how witty she was—although she was known for her barbed humor, famously explaining that even though she was a mother of two young children, she could still function in Congress because “I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.”

All of this is vintage Pat and as someone who knew her from our days on The Great American Family Tour—an effort to build grassroots support for the Family Medical Leave Act by doing events in the presidential primary states after she decided not to run—in 1986, to earlier this month when we shared emails about our kids, I appreciate all of it. But what I will most remember about Pat Schroeder is something simple:

She was fun. She shared jokes, funny saying and stories. She was good-natured and energetic. She was optimistic even against long odds. I was so lucky to have known her as a close friend.

—Diana Meehan, founder of the Archer School for Girls


Congresswoman Pat Schroder was a giant in the fight for equal rights. When asked how she could be both a mother and a lawmaker she replied, “I have a brain and uterus and I use both.”

—Barbara Streisand, actor


One of my favorite memories was during the March for Women’s Lives in 1986. We were standing together on the stage, looking at hundreds of thousands of marchers all fired up and ready to fight. She turned to me, smiled and said, “Just imagine what we could do if we had money!”

—Jeanne Clark, director of governmental affairs at Allegheny County Sanitary Authority


I remember when I was her congressional page she ensured that every holiday (Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.) I had a celebratory balloon or token delivered to me on the House floor—an example of thoughtfulness and kindness, lest I felt homesick. While she was giving her all to drive change of consequence for the people of the country she loved, she still found time to share joy to one young woman who admired her tremendously.

—Shana Goldberg-Meehan, TV producer and writer, and executive producer of Friends


I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder. Her legacy continues to guide very important work in Congress. To honor her and everything she accomplished, we must continue to fight for families, mothers and children.

—Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)


We’ve lost a giant of a leader. Pat Schroeder, a firebrand former congresswoman who broke barriers as a woman’s advocate, has died at 82. She was the first woman on the House Armed Services Committee, a pilot and a mother. I remember her example of strength and bravery in Congress.

—Deborah Roberts, journalist


I recall first taking notice of Congresswoman Pat Schroeder as a young girl. She used her position as a member of Congress as a force for good, bringing more equity for women in the workforce that impacted the lives of millions of women and families. It was an honor and true joy to know her once I was elected to Congress myself, as a mother of young children, which I am confident was made possible by her courage, leadership and passionate advocacy.  

—Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)


I will remember Pat Schroeder as a champion and trailblazer. I was proud to welcome her to UNH Law when she spoke at my law school graduation three decades ago. When others were afraid, she supported my run for Congress. I am honored to be lifted on her shoulders.

—Donna F. Edwards, former House member, 2008–2017


Congresswoman Pat Schroeder was a champion for women’s rights. When she was elected to Congress to fight for all of us, here is what she had to deal with in her workplace:

F. Edward Hebert of Louisiana, the committee hard-line conservative Democratic chairman, allowed just one seat in the hearing room from to be shared by Schroeder and Ron Dellums, a newly elected African American congressman from California. She recalled Herbert saying, “The two of you are only worth half the normal member.” Schroeder said she and Dellums “sat cheek to cheek on one chair, bring to retain some dignity.”

—Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center


Of Vice President Dan Quayle, she said: “He thinks that Roe versus Wade are two ways to cross the Potomac.”  Trailblazer Pat Schroeder made so many of us braver.

—Connie Schultz, columnist


Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder was a fearless champion for women’s rights. Her work has inspired countless women in politics and government, and we hope to continue to uphold her legacy. 

—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)


The late Pat Schroeder coined the first women’s cooking term to make it into the political lexicon when she said that Reagan was the “Teflon president.” That is not an image that any male congressman would have used in the 1980s. And it was pitch-perfect.

—Walter Shapiro, award-winning political journalist


It’s hard to fully appreciate the challenging environment in Congress that Pat experienced as one of only 16 women, yet her leadership, tenacity and wit produced monumental change that continues to impact our society. 

I was excited to help host a Minnesota event in July 1987 when I was lieutenant governor and as she considered a run for president. Her leadership on FMLA and childcare legislation strengthened our own Children’s Agenda in the 80’s.  

As president of the American Association of Publishers, she delivered a fabulous plenary speech at the annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educator in my first year as CEO in 1998. And later, we served together on the board of the Communications Consortium Media Center strengthening messages and communications for policy change on the many aspects of the women’s rights and children’s agenda, in the US and globally. She was a star in so many ways. Thank you Pat.

—Marlene Johnson


Patricia Schroeder was in her first term as a member of Congress when I met her in 1973.  Speaking to a group at the Methodist Building behind the Capitol, a mecca for causes of all sorts, she declared, “It took 144 years for American women to get the vote. How long will it take before women are equal in the halls of Congress?” It was a rallying cry for me. I gathered a group of women to create a Women’s Campaign Fund early in 1974 and chaired the board in its early days. Schroeder was a co-signer on our first fundraising direct mail letter, which began with the very words I had heard her speak.

She was my go-to woman for witty insights into the workings of Capitol Hill. Once at a fundraiser, she told the crowd, “Nobody ever says to men, how can you be a Congressman and a father! Women have more power than they recognize, and they’re very hesitant to use it for they fear they won’t be loved.’ ‘Right on,’ someone shouted.

Almost 12 years later, she came to Maine to be the guest speaker at a Maine Women’s Fund event. She spent the night at my home, and we did the obligatory trip to L.L. Bean, where she fell on an ice patch before I could catch her. No lasting damage fortunately. 

Her ill-fated run for the presidency had already occurred, but her contributions to the world and women would remain stellar her whole life. Her spirit, vision and wit was mighty and will be sorely missed.

—Anne B. Zill, author of the forthcoming book, Out of the Main(e) Stream, from which this remembrance is excerpted


I worked for Pat Schroeder for 18 years, starting as a Washington intern and ending as her district director. Now as a public affairs expert, what did I learn from her, and what can you learn?

1.   Keep a sense of humor. Critical and disarming.

2.   Keep your sights high. Pat was a private pilot and kept eyes above the horizon. Taking that  

      focus to Washington she was always ahead of the curve on ideas.

3.   Speak publicly with passion. A written speech works but speak from the heart. It communicates  

      more. She would often get on stage with two words written on her hand and off she went.

4.   Soak up the (real) news and information. Knowledge is power.

5.   Remember not to take yourself too seriously. See #1.

6.   Stand your ground. Don’t be intimidated by anything or anyone. 

7.   Go for it. She neither sought permission nor forgiveness.

8.   Cole slaw on BBQ is pretty tasty.

—Louis X. “Kip” Cheroutes, government consultant


From the moment I met Pat in her first campaign for the U.S. Congress, I knew she was a force of nature! Over the decades, as fierce feminist advocates, we worked tirelessly on so many issues she championed, often with Kathy Bonk at our side.

Sometime in the 1980s they brought Rob Reiner, who was just starting to explore what would become his long-haul effort on behalf of children, to meet with me and my husband Jerry Dunfey. Huddled in a booth at the Last Hurrah Bar in the Parker House Hotel until the wee hours of the night, Pat’s brilliant strategy in full horsepower. She discerned how to dissect every dimension of turning progressive ideas into concrete actions with tangible positive effects. It was like learning from a Ninja master!

Kathy and I with Donna Brazile organized the closing unity celebration at the 1985 Nairobi Conference on Women with Pat cheering us on.

My last interaction with Pat was in December 2022 and her words “May you never tire!” will inspire me to keep advancing her legacy, a lifelong dedication to make the U.S. and the world more just for women, children, families and everyone. Viva Pat! 

—Nadine Hack, CEO of beCause Global Consulting


Pat Schroeder was a burst of sunshine and smarts, breaking barriers and forging new parts.  For me, as a young House Armed Services Committee staffer, and countless others, she was an inspiration.

—Joe Cirincione, national security analyst


Pat Schroeder, for this Montana girl, meant the world. When I was a kid, it was the Colorado Congresswoman who showed me that us western gals could rise up. Before the big Emily’s List 1992 Year of the Woman, before so much, was Pat.

—Stephanie Schriock, political strategist and former president of EMILY’s List


Pat Schroeder was my shero long before I met her, and she became a friend. For over 15 years in Orlando, we spent time almost every month as part of a small discussion group. Pat was brilliant, kind, strategic, caring and very funny.

—Joanie Schirm, retired CEO and author


Pat Schroeder was a champion for women—shattering glass ceilings, lifting our voices, and seizing our seat at the table. She opened the door for the many women who have followed her footsteps into Congress, and I’m grateful for her bold leadership.

—Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), whip of the U.S. House of Representatives


Pat Schroeder was a pioneer for women’s rights. She was a trailblazer, a role model, a mentor and a friend. She dedicated her life to serving her community, and to championing the well-being of women and families throughout this country.

And I am eternally thankful, not only for all of the incredible work she did for our state, but for the guidance and friendship she provided along the way. Pat was elected to Congress when I was in high school and she inspired a generation of young women, like me, to dream high. She became a mentor and dear friend after I succeeded her.

—Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)


I joined Pat’s staff in 1990 because I believed in her vision for America—a place where women and men stand equal in intellect and opportunity. I couldn’t figure out why she hired me, a young kid just out of college. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I worked hard, stayed focused, and thought as big as she expected.  Now, over 30 years and several careers later, I realize I missed Pat’s bigger point which is that imposter syndrome is a woman’s worst enemy and that it is possible — and possibly more effective—to combine quirkiness with compassion, the heart with the smart, and laughter with leadership. This is what will make the world a better, more equitable place.

Pat’s famous campaign slogan was, “She wins, we win.”  I now understand a bit more what she meant. Thanks, Pat.

—Wendy Wasserman, former staff assistant to Pat Schroeder


Pat believed in public service. She was mission driven. Congress was not a career but a vehicle to fight for change for women and against the military industrial complex that was sapping national resources away.  

Pat used humor to bring complex problems down to human scale—to define problems and point to solutions.  Her humor helped give people the sense that they could be problem solvers.

Pat was driven by hope not hate. She knew that hope is an essential political, psychological and spiritual necessity.  She also knew that hope needs a strategy. Hate needs only itself to spread and corrode.  

Pat announced her potential candidacy for president from this same impulse to get things done. In the end, Pat realized time and fundraising to build a national campaign were against her. Much has been written about these seconds of tears, as though this was a weakness.  

But those tears were because she knew she would be disappointing so many who saw in her a new politics—politics of hope, not hate, where everyone matters and we could get things done. She never gave up on hope. We won’t either.

—Pam Solo, former campaign director for Pat Schroeder


Pat Schroeder remains my hero, I am both proud of having worked for her and having learned so much from her.  She was the smartest, funniest, warmest and most effective strategist and legislator. Sadly, the word has lost a great one who had helped so many.

Susan Wood, director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at George Washington University


In this weird period of retrenchment and recrimination we’re currently in, where some of our country’s unfortunate episodes of negative history are being erased left and right, Schroeder’s passing is a good moment for us to remember where we were not so long ago, so we don’t forget how far we’ve come. Revisiting Schroeder’s many battles tells me we need to hold on tight to our collective memory, even the bad memories; they are mile markers with which we can mark our progress as a nation. And those mile markers need to be tended to with care to keep us from backsliding into places we’ve fought hard to put into the rearview.

—Vince Bzdek, editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, from his column, “The passing of Pat Schroeder reminds us how far we’ve come”


Her quick wit was unmatchable. Pat Schroeder was one of a kind whose contributions to women, Colorado and the country are too numerous to count.

—Regina Cowles, political organizer


So sad to hear of Pat Schroeder’s passing. She was a tough fighter for women’s rights and the other causes that moved her toward public service. She was always very kind and thoughtful whenever I saw her in Congress.

—Joe Scarborough, anchor at MSNBC


When Pat Schroeder was elected to Congress in 1972, the speaker tried to swear in her husband. Later she was forced to share a seat on Armed Services Committee because she and Ron Dellums, a Black man, were deemed worthy of only half a seat. One of her biggest victories was Family and Medical Leave Act. Rest in peace.

—Amy Diehl, author and information technology leader


Congresswoman Schroeder, though noted as outspoken advocate and maverick, was equally adept at working with powerful Democratic committee chairs and her Republican colleagues across the aisle.

Her signature accomplishment, the 1990 Family and Medical Leave Act, passed with the help of co-sponsor Marge Roukema (R-N.J.) and several dozen Republican votes. Schroeder understood that successful politics was a game of addition, built on alliances and coalitions.

—Daniel Buck, staffer of Pat Schroeder during 1970s–1990s


One of the greatest women to ever serve in government. I met Pat Schroeder when she came to speak to the Journalism and Women Symposium in the 1980s. She was inspiring and a warm and joyous presence. Her witty comments set her apart from other congressional members. The wonderful AP obit captures her amazing spirit.

—Linda Deutsch, retired AP journalist


The world got a little dimmer with the passing of former congresswoman and equal rights champion, Pat Schroeder. We have so much work left to do to make Pat and the women who came before her proud. Honored that she made Central Florida her home for so long.

—Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.)


Had a long sit down with Pat Schroeder in Denver when I was covering the Sanctuary movement. We were scheduled for a 30 minute but went nearly two hours. I came away thinking that if only everyone in Congress were that smart, we’d be a hell of a lot better off.

—John D’Anna


I am grateful to have worked for one of the most generous, brilliant and far seeing advocates for women. Pat Schroeder was a champion of the ERA. the Women’s Equity Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Women’s Health Equity Act and the rights of Military and Civil Service spouses. Pat was a trailblazer, setting a high bar for leadership. starting the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues with a handful of women serving in Congress. She called for civility, fought of peace and sought legislation for arms and gun control. She fought for lasting change.

—Robyn Lipner, founder and owner of Chevy Chase Confections


When Pat Schroeder told us in 1987, she would not run for president, I was seven months pregnant and in business attire. Dad, age 75, had Schroeder buttons all over his lapel. Standing there weeping, we made the evening news as two classic constituents.

—Susan Liehe, communications and marketing at Denver Economic Development and Opportunity


Taking a moment to mark the passing of Pat Schroeder, a hero of mine and legislative powerhouse.  She was the first woman on the Armed Services Committee, her bills transformed how women and families navigate pregnancy and early parenthood.

—Ellen Weintraub, chair of the Federal Elections Commission


I interned for Rep. Schroeder in 1984 in the Rayburn office. It was astounding how many powerful men would seek her counsel in so many different areas. Ted Kennedy, Ted Turner and Jesse Jackson would come in, and she let us interns sit in on so many of these meetings.

—Carrie G.


Pat Schroeder was a whip smart, funny, warm, courageous person who was an original American action hero/shero.  She could outsmart foes with her sharp Harvard law mind, melt away obstacles with her Midwestern kindness, disarm opponents with her unique humor and use her superpower of attentive listening to create lasting change for a fairer country for countless Americans.  

While her legislative achievements spanned diverse issues, Pat was best known for being a fierce advocate for women.  And many young women asked her for advice. She told them to make sure women were in rooms where decisions were being made.  And if they were not, to kick the door down and hold the door open for those behind them. Politics she reminded us is not a spectator sport –you have to be ready to roll up your shirtsleeves and get in the fight.

So maybe the best way to remember Pat is to keep kicking down doors for one another and for those without power. Get out there. Make change happen. As Pat would say, Onward!

—Andrea Camp, legislative director and press secretary for Pat Schroeder


Pat loved history, often sharing little known facts about women’s role in shaping America and the world.  She loved books, reading and writing, and sharing funny comics including a week before she passed away.

A few days ago, a friend sent me the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem Dirge Without Music. The last lines are ever so appropriate:

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Pat’s spirit will live on, along with the positive impact of her many, many accomplishments.

—Kathy Bonk, feminist activist and longtime friend of Pat Schroeder

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

Kathy Bonk is a long-time feminist activist, contributor and advisor to Ms.
Andrea camp is a consultant to many nonprofit organizations. In addition to having served as legislative director and press secretary to Rep. Pat Schroeder for 20 years, she also served as chief of staff to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and executive director to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.