THE WOMEN'S CAUCUS
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 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.
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.
Twenty-four newly elected Congresswomen the largest number ever elected to the House in any single election arrived on Capitol Hill in 1993, nearly doubling the number of women in the Caucus in what became known as the “Year of the Woman.”
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.
Bipartisanship is the key to the Caucus' strength and success. The legacy of its first 32 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.
Since 1977, Caucus members have successfully worked to improve the lives of women and families. They have fought to open the doors of opportunity for women and girls in both school and work. They have championed fair credit, tougher child support enforcement, equitable pay, and retirement income. And they have led efforts to promote women's health and protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, securing several billion dollars for these efforts.
Although its members have numbered roughly 17 percent of the House (including Delegates) —at its highest point— the influence of the Caucus has far exceeded its representation in Congress. The Caucus' long list of legislative accomplishments includes:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Child Support Enforcement Act
The Retirement Equity Act
The Civil Rights Restoration Act
The Women's Business Ownership Act
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act
The Mammography Quality Standards Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Violence Against Women Act
The Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act
Reauthorization of the Mammography Quality Standards Act
The influence of the Caucus extends far beyond its impressive list of legislative achievements affecting domestic policy. Caucus members have championed women's issues around the globe from Cambodia to Cairo to Beijing, working to bring international attention to the plight of refugees and representing the Congress at U.N. world conferences on women.
The Caucus has also served as an inspiration and a model worldwide for women parliamentarians - whose image of American democracy is shaped in part by the example of women from different political parties working together to improve the lives of women and families.