A Century of Women in Congress: The Transformative Role of Women in American Politics

Monday, September 25, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres Street

Free Admission with RSVP required



Join presenters Matthew Wasniewski, historian of the US House of Representatives, and Kathleen Johnson, oral history manager of the US House of Representatives, for a special discussion about an ongoing oral history project that includes interviews with more than 40 women US representatives who served from the late 1960s to the present. They will share selections from the interviews that will highlight the diverse pathways that women took to the House, as well as their efforts to achieve power and parity in the institution. 


Featured Presenters

Tom Widmer

Matt Wasniewski is the historian of the US House of Representatives. In 2010 a national search committee of academic and public historians unanimously recommended his hiring to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appointed him historian with the concurrence of then-Republican leader John Boehner. Matt previously had served as a historian and deputy chief in the House Clerk’s Office of History and Preservation from 2002 to 2010. He is the editor of a series of books on women and minority members of Congress: Women in Congress, 1917–2006; Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007; Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2012; and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900–2017. In 2004, along with Kathleen Johnson, he created the House’s first oral history program, which has since collected more than 400 video and audio interviews with representatives and longtime staff.  

Prior to joining the House, Matt worked as the associate historian and communications director at the US Capitol Historical Society from 1998 to 2002. In the early 1990s, he worked as a sports page editor for a local newspaper in northern Virginia. Matt is a past president of the Society for History in the Federal Government (2011–2012). He earned a BA in 1991 from James Madison University, double-majoring in journalism and history, and an MA in history from James Madison University three years later. He holds a PhD in US history (2004) from the University of Maryland at College Park. 


Kathleen Johnson is the manager of oral History for the Office of the Historian, US House of Representatives. When she joined the office in 2004, she helped to create the House’s first oral history program, focusing on the institutional memory of members and staff. Kathleen coauthored two books: Women in Congress: 1917–2006 and Black Americans in Congress: 1870–2007. As manager of the oral history program, Kathleen has directed a series of projects, including “A Century of Women in Congress” and “The Struggle for Representation: Oral Histories of African Americans in Congress.”  

Before joining the Office of the Historian, Kathleen earned a BA in history from Columbia University. As an undergraduate at Columbia, she played basketball for four years. Kathleen holds two master’s degrees in education and public history from North Carolina State University and worked as a high school history teacher in New York City and as a social studies curriculum consultant in Durham, North Carolina. 


This program is presented in conjunction with American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, on view at The Historic New Orleans Collection until October 8, 2023.