On April 19, 1977, fifteen Congresswomen held the first meeting of the Congresswomen’s Caucus in a small room in the Capitol, known then as the Congresswomen’s Reading Room. In the months that followed, the Congresswomen met to discuss Social Security and private pension reform, as well as the importance of child care and job training to moving women off welfare. The new Caucus met with then-Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps to discuss government contracts for women-owned businesses and asked the Small Business Committee to hold hearings on the subject.
In 1981, the Congresswomen invited their male colleagues to join the Caucus and changed the organization’s name to the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Twenty-four newly elected Congresswomen arrived on Capitol Hill in 1993, nearly doubling the number of women in the Caucus in what became the “Year of the Woman.”
The Congresswomen frequently continued to gather – both formally and informally – in their room in the Capitol. In 1990, the House unanimously approved a Caucus-inspired resolution to honor long-time Caucus Secretary Lindy Boggs by naming the room the Corrine “Lindy” Boggs Congressional Women’s Reading Room.
In 1995, the House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for offices and staff of caucus organizations on Capitol Hill. Following the January 1995 vote, the Congresswomen reorganized themselves into a Members’ organization by the same name. As a result of the rule change, male Members no longer belong to the Caucus.
Bipartisanship is the key to the Caucus’ strength and success. The legacy of its first 40 years is one of Democratic and Republican Congresswomen committed to improving the lives of women and families, and willing to put their partisan differences aside to do it.