On Pat Schroeder, Whom We May Not Have Deserved

In the U.S., we are focused on things like stubborn inflation rates, bank failures, narcissistic billionaires, and our often ridiculous but alarmingly divisive culture wars. This leaves little time to mourn the passing of giants, so I just wanted to pay a quick tribute to one of them, a person who actually made our lives better instead of just more acrimonious: Pat Schroeder.

What Did Patricia Schroeder Accomplish?

Even if you didn’t always agree with former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder (assuming you knew who she was) on all the issues, it’s hard to deny that our lives wouldn’t be considerably worse without her. Here’s a list of some of her major accomplishments:

  • championed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was approved by Congress in 1993 and provides job protection for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the care of a newborn, sick child or parent (and for up to 26 weeks to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness)
  • was a major driver behind The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), a law that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions
  • was a primary sponsor of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, which established procedures for national criminal background checks for child-care providers and encouraged states to improve the quality and accessibility of their criminal history and child abuse records
  • introduced the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), a law aiming to prevent and respond to violence against women, such as domestic violence; it provides:
    * funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women
    * legal protection and services for victims of violence
    * education and prevention programs to raise awareness and reduce violence
  • was a strong advocate for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, which provided lower-income women with breast and cervical cancer screening and post-screening diagnostic services in an effort to enhance early detection

But Wait, There’s More!

Most obituaries of her are bound to focus on trivial cultural crap that sticks in people’s memories, such as the fact that she coined the term “Teflon president” for Ronald Reagan and cried (how dare she!) when she dropped out of her presidential bid in 1987.

But she was a legislator and I think that’s what we should focus on. Schroeder fought hard and accomplished much for her country. Much more than most of us ever will. She tried to do what was right, such as when, as chairwoman of a Post Office and Civil Service subcommittee, she advocated for federal employee whistleblower legislation.

She served 12 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, where she advocated for arms control.

We should devote more space in our minds to heroic public servants like Pat Schroeder, but instead we tend to focus on the exhausting, petty, misinformation-laden outrages of our age. Sometimes I think that, as a nation, we don’t deserve the people who serve us best. But I’m so very glad they’ve lived their lives anyway.