When nature calls for male members of the House of Representatives, they only have to walk steps to answer.
But for the some 100 female members, it’s not so easy. The women have to walk off the House floor, through what is usually a sea of tourists in Statuary Hall to reach the ladies’ restroom.
That gender inequality among the nation’s elected representatives, baffled Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, so much, that she wanted to show us as part of her exit interview before leaving Congress.
“You have to go not only through Statuary Hall, and you have to go through kind of an anteroom, then you get down to the House of Representatives. So it’s quite a ways,” said Bachmann, motioning all the way across Statuary Hall towards the House floor, which you can’t even see from the ladies lounge.
(Note: Another ladies room was placed closer to the House floor at the order of House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.)
Bachmann is known as a hard charging polarizing conservative – not so much as a feminist wanting to shine a light on how far women still have to go for parity in politics.
But she knew the whole story of how even the original women’s restroom came to be – thanks to former female Rep Lindy Boggs, wife of famous former Rep Hale Boggs , for making it happen. Officially, it is called the Lindy Claiborne Boggs Congressional Reading Room.
“They said well, there’s a broom closet over here off of Statuary Hall, ” she said, pointing to what is now the ladies lounge.
The piece of history Bachmann says fascinates her is that the current ladies room room was where former President, Rep. John Quincy Adams died in February of 1848. He collapsed following one of his famous anti slavery speeches in Statuary Hall, which was then the House floor.
“He’d been president, and he was asked to run for Congress specifically to fight against slavery. And he was all worn out, as most presidents are, but he was so moved by slavery he came back,” Bachmann said. “And for over twenty years, he stood over here, and every single day he stood up with his petition to stop slavery. And every day he was booed down and hated, hated, hated by his fellow Congressmen. Until finally at the very end of his life, he stood up again with his petition, and collapsed.”
She said the couch where Adams died is still in the ladies’ restroom.
“He was laid on a couch that’s still in here – that was the same couch, it’s obviously been redone, and he laid here for three days. Well now the interesting story is, this was a broom closet that no one knew, but on the wall is a bust of John Quincy Adams. And it said that he was serving here and he collapsed, he came, and it told the whole story about how he died on this couch while he was in the midst of fighting for slavery. That whole story was lost until this room was recovered,”
Leave it to the women, Bachmann said, to figure it out.