“The first 30 years are the hardest.” —Edith Nourse Rogers, commenting on her service in Congress
Born this day in 1881: Edith Nourse Rogers (1881–1960), Representative in Congress (R, Mass.) from 1925 to 1960, noted veterans’ advocate and supporter of women’s roles in the military, created both the Women’s Army Corp and the GI Bill of Rights
Rogers was born Edith Nourse in Saco, Maine. She was educated in Lowell, Massachusetts and Paris, France. In 1907 she married John J. Rogers of Lowell. In 1912 Mr. Rogers was elected to Congress, and the couple moved to Washington, D.C.
Rogers volunteer for the Red Cross, serving both oversees and at home. She did extensive work with military hospitals, including conducting field inspections with her husband. President Harding, and later presidents Coolidge and Hoover, appointed her as presidential representative to visit veterans and military hospitals.
In 1924 she served as a presidential elector for Calvin Coolidge and as secretary of the electors of her district she became the first woman to officially deliver the vote.
After her husband’s death in 1925, Rogers was urged by prominent republicans to run for his seat. She won the special election held to finish his term. She was subsequently re-elected for 17 more terms, making her the longest-serving woman in Congress. She was a popular politician, and from 1942 on carried every city and town in her district—garnering between 72 and 100 percent of the votes.
Much of Rogers’s long career was devoted to veterans affairs as well as women in the military and women’s rights (including equal pay). She served on the Committee of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Service Committee, and was ranking Republican on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, serving twice as its chair.
Rogers introduced more than 1,200 bills into Congress. Among her most notable achievements are the creation of the Women’s Army Corps and the drafting of the GI Bill of Rights.
Rogers received many honors and citations, particularly for her work on behalf of veterans. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998.
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