Boggs, Lindy (1916—)

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Boggs, Lindy (1916—)

U.S. Representative, Democrat of Louisiana, 93rd–101st Congresses. Name variations: (nickname) Rolindy, for her father Roland, which later became Lindy. Born Corinne Morrison Claiborne at Brunswick Plantation, Louisiana, on March 13, 1916; daughter of Roland andCorinne (Morrison) Claiborne ; graduated from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University, 1935; married Thomas Hale Boggs (U.S. Congressional representative and majority leader), on January 22, 1938 (died, March 1973); children: Barbara Boggs Sigmund (mayor of Princeton, New Jersey, from 1984 until her death in 1990); Thomas Hale Boggs (Washington lawyer and lobbyist); Corinne "Cokie" Roberts (b. 1944, National Public Radio and ABC-TV correspondent who married Steve Roberts).

In 1990, citing "family considerations," Lindy Boggs shocked Capitol Hill by announcing that she would not seek reelection to Congress, ending a 17-year legislative career. Although it was a difficult decision for Boggs—who had succeeded her husband Hale in March 1973, five months after his small plane vanished over Alaska during a campaign trip—she left to spend time with her daughter Barbara, who was critically ill with cancer.

Raised on two plantations in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, Lindy Boggs graduated from Tulane University and taught history before marrying Hale Boggs, whose political career included 14 terms as representative and a stint as majority leader of the House. Beginning in 1948, she ran her husband's campaigns, managed his Capitol Hill office, and headed a number of other organizations, including the Women's National Democratic Club, the Democratic Wives' Forum, and the Congressional Club. She chaired the committees for both John Kennedy's and Lyndon Johnson's inaugural balls. Her election to Congress in 1973 meant a changing role for Boggs: "I went from being president of everything to being a mere member of Congress," she quipped.

Raising her three children while commuting between Washington and New Orleans, Boggs juggled work, motherhood, and her husband's drinking problem. She also had to cope with the enmity of many Louisiana constituents because of the family's support of the civil-rights movement; a cross was once burned in their yard. Her daughter Cokie Roberts , news correspondent for ABC-TV, recalled: "She was always there, but she was always working. We thought she was the most beautiful woman alive." It wasn't until Boggs became a widow that she thought much about feminism, when it proved difficult for her to get credit to purchase her own condominium in her husband's absence.

Boggs had a reputation for tenacity and Southern charm; one colleague remarked, "You could get diabetes standing next to Lindy—she's that sweet." Her legislative interests were wide-ranging, including equal opportunity for women and minorities, housing-policy issues, technological development, and Mississippi River transportation. Boggs took the greatest pride in helping to establish the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, which assesses the conditions of the nation's families and children. In 1976, she became the first woman to preside over a national political convention when she served as chair of the Democratic National Convention. That year, Boggs also worked to expand awareness of American history and served as chair of the Joint Committee on Bicentennial Arrangements. She chaired the Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms and was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.

Boggs' daughter Barbara Boggs Sigmund lost an eye to cancer in 1982. Before Sigmund's death in 1990, when Boggs was preparing to retire, Barbara thought it would be difficult for her mother to find another job that would match her talents and vitality, calling Boggs "a 40-year-old-woman trapped in a 74-year-old-body." Lindy approached retirement more philosophically. "Of course I will miss it and my friends. But I don't think I will be lonely. I always said that being a Congresswoman was an interruption of my regular life." In 1997, Lindy Boggs was appointed U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

sources:

Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.

People Weekly, April 13, 1990.

suggested reading:

Boggs, Lindy, and Katherine Hatch. Washington Through a Purple Veil: Memoirs of a Southern Woman. NY: Harcourt, Brace, 1994.

Roberts, Cokie. We Are Our Mothers' Daughters. NY: William Morrow, 1998.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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