Kee, Elizabeth (1895–1975)

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Kee, Elizabeth (1895–1975)

Democratic congressional representative from West Virginia (82nd–88th Congresses, July 17, 1951–January 3, 1965). Name variations: Maude Elizabeth Kee. Born Maude Elizabeth Simpkins in Radford, Virginia, on June 7, 1895; died in Bluefield, Virginia, on February 15, 1975; attended public and private schools in Montgomery County and Roanoke, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Bluefield, West Virginia; graduated from Roanoke Business College; married John Kee (an attorney and politician), in September 1926 (died May 1951); children: James Kee;Frances Kee .

Not only was Elizabeth Kee the only woman representative from West Virginia, but her congressional seat was very much a family affair. Her husband served as a Democratic representative from 1932 until his death in 1951, after which Kee won a special election held to fill his vacant seat. Kee served for six terms and was then succeeded by her son James Kee, who had acted as her administrative assistant during her congressional tenure.

Born in Radford, Virginia, in 1895, Kee was raised in Roanoke and graduated from the Roanoke Business College. She worked as a secretary for the Roanoke Times and as a court reporter for a law firm before marrying attorney John Kee in 1926. During the early years of her marriage, Kee wrote a weekly column, "Washington Tidbits," which was syndicated to West Virginia newspapers. When her husband was elected to Congress in 1932, Kee became his executive secretary, a position she held until 1949, when he became chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Throughout her years in House service, Kee was a member of the Committee on Governmental Operations and chaired a Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on veterans' hospitals. A liberal like her husband and ardently pro-labor, she was a proponent of many of the domestic policies of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Her

tenure was marked by her support of economic aid to Europe, consumer price and federal rent controls, and higher Social Security benefits. She also launched a campaign to obtain books for the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fisherville, Virginia. Ill health forced Kee into retirement, and she did not seek an eighth term in 1964. Elizabeth Kee lived in Bluefield until her death in 1975.


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

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts