Cover image for Biographical dictionary of congressional women
Biographical dictionary of congressional women
Foerstel, Karen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
300 pages, 10 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1290 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK1012 .F57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This comprehensive reference guide to women who have served in Congress provides detailed biographies of each of the 200 women who have held office on Capitol Hill over the past 80 years. Along with statistics on their congressional service, the biographies contain first-hand interviews and personal anecdotes.

An introduction outlines the history of women in Congress, the obstacles they faced early in the century as well as today, and their slow but steady rise to power within the congressional hierarchy. The introduction also looks at how women campaign for national office and how the sexual scandal surrounding President Bill Clinton played a role in women running for Congress in 1998. There are also two reference charts showing every woman who has ever chaired a congressional committee, and the number of women serving in each congressional session since 1917.

Author Notes

KAREN FOERSTEL is a reporter with Congressional Quarterly Magazine. She is the co-author, with Herbert Foerstel, of Climbing the Hill (Praeger, 1996).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The introduction to this volume provides a good overview of the role the 200 women who have made it to Congress have played and of the political trends that have made their presence there noteworthy. Prejudices of voters and colleagues, challenges of fund-raising and establishing seniority, and blatant sexism in the House and Senate have kept the women of Congress from capturing most of the powerful positions but not from influencing the direction our lawmakers have taken. In addition to the political sketches, which range from a few paragraphs to several pages in length and are alphabetically arranged, the volume includes a chart listing all the women who have chaired full congressional committees, a chart that shows the number of women and their parties in each Congress, and a selected bibliography to direct those who want to know more. The index uses bold type to indicate main entries. The title is a bit of a misnomer in that the entries are not full biographies. They do capture the essence of the women's political lives and activities but rarely provide background information that would help explain political development. For that, the researcher needs to use other sources, including Marcy Kaptur's Women of Congress: A Twentieth-Century Odyssey [RBB F 15 97]. Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women might be a useful addition to high-school, public, and academic libraries not owning Kaptur.

Library Journal Review

This compendium of brief biographies of the 200 women who have served in Congress since 1917 adds little to available biographical resources. Though a handful of entries exceed 1000 words, most of the women receive annotations of a few hundred. (Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-MD, for example, gets about 700 words.) Foerstel (Climbing the Hill, LJ 3/15/96), a reporter at Congressional Quarterly, includes only 252 citations to books, journal articles, etc., for the 200 entries; approximately 30 percent of these citations rely on only three secondary sources. The final bibliography is fewer than two pages. The entries themselves are consistently positive, with only a modicum of context or critique. A 16-page introduction provides well-known generalities about women members (and a few mistakes, e.g., National Women's Party instead of the Civil Rights Act of Woman's Party, 1968 when the 1964 act is meant). Foerstel supplements the introduction with only two charts: one of women who have chaired full committees and one of the number of women in each house by party from 1917 to 1999. Much fuller information is available on the web, especially from the Center for the American Woman and Politics (√ĄCynthia Harrison, George Washington Univ., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

For each of the 200 women who have served in Congress since Jeannette Rankin, the first (1917), this dictionary provides a political biography averaging a page that includes political party affiliation, state, birth and death dates, dates in office, chief issues addressed, accomplishments, and where applicable, a brief bibliography of books she has written. A section in the middle has 12 black-and-white photographs. The book begins with a 13-page overview of women in Congress and tables giving the chairs of committees and the number of women by Congress. The volume ends with lists of books and articles noted in the text and a bibliography of other works about women in Congress. Names of entries and other individuals mentioned appear in the index. A reporter for Congressional Quarterly, Foerstel is familiar with Congressional terminology and procedure. This work updates three works now out of print: Women in Congress, 1917-1990, prepared by Office of the Historian, US House of Representatives (CH. Dec'91); Rudolph Engelbarts's Women in the United States Congress, 1917-1972 (CH, Oct'74); and Hope Chamberlin's A Minority of Members: Women in the US Congress (CH, Dec'73). All three have similar information up to their closing dates about women members, but many of Chamberlin's essays are longer (she covers only 80 women), Engelbarts has more bibliographical references, and Women in Congress has large black-and-white portraits of each member. Marcy Kaptur's Women of Congress: A Twentieth-Century Odyssey (CH, Mar'97) has 10- to 20-page biographies of 15 "tenured," well-known Congresswomen, and CQ's Politics in America (annual, 1969- ) offers three-page biographies of each Congress's members. CQ's Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1996 (1997) provides only brief biographies. Foerstel consolidates at reasonable cost biographies of the 200 women who have served to date. Since publication of Women in Congress, 68 women have been sworn in. Foerstel's work belongs in every political science reference collection. L. Treff-Gangler; University of Colorado at Denver

Table of Contents

Selected Bibliography