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Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, a pioneer for women's rights, dies at 82

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The first woman that Colorado ever sent to Congress has died. In 1972, Pat Schroeder was 32 years old and a mother of two when she became one of just 14 women in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here she is in 1998 on NPR's Fresh Air.

PAT SCHROEDER: There were no women pages, no women interns, no women anything. I mean, it really was the guy gulag. And the attitude was, you're just so lucky that we let you on the House floor.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Schroeder was the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She co-founded the Congressional Women's Caucus. She fought for equal pay, the Equal Rights Amendment and family leave.

PFEIFFER: And she was known for her passion and her wit. If you've heard the term Teflon president to describe the late President Ronald Reagan, it began with Schroeder.

SCHROEDER: And then one morning, I was doing eggs on a Teflon pan. And I suddenly thought, that's it. This guy has a Teflon coat just like this doggone pan.

FADEL: (Laughter) Reviled in some political circles and revered as a feminist icon in others, she left office in 1997.

SCHROEDER: I always wanted to go out at the top of my game, you know? We always said that you came out of Congress one of three different ways, by a ballot box, by a coffin-type box or you can walk out on your own. And I wanted to walk out on my own.

FADEL: She titled her memoir "24 Years Of Housework... And The Place Is Still A Mess."

PFEIFFER: She had some final plans that she shared on NPR's All Things Considered.

SCHROEDER: I always wanted to be cremated and made into a doorstop so I could hold a door open because basically what I want to do is hold doors open for people. And I figured that's what I was trying to do in my political career. So why not try and do it in the afterlife, too?

PFEIFFER: Pat Schroeder was 82.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEAVV'S "PAVED PATHS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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