Neuberger, Maurine B. (1906–2000)

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Neuberger, Maurine B. (1906–2000)

U.S. Democratic senator (November 8, 1960–January 3, 1967). Born Maurine Brown on January 9, 1906, in Cloverdale, Oregon; died on February 22, 2000, in Portland, Oregon; daughter of Walter T. Brown (a physician) and Ethel Kelty Brown (a teacher); earned teacher's certificate from the Oregon College of Education, 1925; University of Oregon, B.A., 1929; graduate work at the University of California-Los Angeles; married Richard L. Neuberger (a journalist and later a U.S. senator), in 1945 (died 1960); married Philip Solomon (a psychiatrist), in 1964 (divorced 1967).

Served in Oregon state House of Representatives (1951–55); served in U.S. Senate (1960–67).

The daughter of a country doctor and a schoolteacher, Maurine B. Neuberger was descended from Scotch-Irish Oregon pioneers. In 1925, she obtained her teacher's certificate from the Oregon College of Education, and began her teaching career at a private school in Portland, Oregon. She soon transferred to a public-school system to teach physical education and dance, but after a few years resumed her own studies. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Oregon in 1929, and afterward did graduate work at the University of California in Los Angeles.

The trim, athletic Neuberger met her future husband, Richard L. Neuberger, in 1936. After he fulfilled his wartime Army duty, they were married in December 1945. By this time Neuberger was already active in civic and education groups, including the League of Women Voters, but her political career began in earnest in 1946 when she assisted her husband with his campaign for Democratic senator of the Oregon State Senate. He was finally elected in 1948. In 1950, Neuberger won her own seat in Oregon's legislature when she was elected to the state House of Representatives. Her election made the Neubergers the first married couple to serve concurrently in both chambers of a state legislature.

With their salaries as elected officials quite low, they made most of their living through collaborative journalism on Northwest political issues, which Neuberger both co-wrote and illustrated with her own photographs. In 1954, they published Adventures in Politics: We Go to the Legislature. Neuberger concentrated mostly on educational and consumer issues in the House of Representatives, sponsoring bills such as those which established programs for both learning-disabled and gifted children. A popular vote-getter who was described in 1960 by the New York Post Magazine as having a "refreshing candor [flowing from] a relaxed sureness about her own … political morality," and by her husband as having "marched to the top of the ballot blurting out exactly what is on her mind," she was reelected in 1952 and 1954 by sizable margins.

In 1954, her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate (the first Democrat so elected in Oregon in 40 years), and at the end of 1955 Neuberger gave up her state House seat to accompany him to Washington, D.C. Working as his unpaid assistant, she researched impending bills, prepared radio and newsletter information for his Oregon constituency, and in 1959 attended a congress of NATO in London. Then, abruptly, she was thrust into the political spotlight when her husband suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in March 1960, just two days before the filing deadline for the primary election. Numerous influential figures in politics and the press, including journalistDoris Fleeson and Margaret Chase Smith , the Republican senator from Maine, urged her to run for what remained of her husband's term as well as for the next full term. Neuberger, who declared her candidacy just under the wire, ran unopposed for the short-term special election and triumphed over a former governor in the general election, becoming only the third woman in U.S. history to win a full Senate term.

After taking office in 1961, Neuberger served on the Agriculture Committee, the Banking and Currency Committee, the Committee on Commerce, a Special Committee on Aging, and a Committee on a Parliamentary Conference with Canada. She supported a bill to cap campaign expenditures and allow federal government subsidies for congressional and presidential campaigns, asserting the bill would keep candidates from having to rely on "political fat cats." Neuberger was well ahead of her time in this issue. She voted for federal grants to states' educational television programs, temporary extension of unemployment payments, a minimum wage hike, and redevelopment aid for high-unemployment areas. She supported foreign tourism in the United States, tax deductions for child care, an end to the use of "national origins

quotas" in the American immigration system, and funding for establishment of the President's Commission on the Status of Women. She backed the expansion of the federal highway system, while at the same time urging highway billboard control. She also sponsored a bill to create the Oregon Dunes National Seashore, a project which had been a favorite of her late husband, although this effort was unsuccessful.

An unaffected woman who once modeled a bathing suit at a Washington, D.C., charity event (and during the ensuing brouhaha in the national press simply noted, "If I go swimming, I do wear a bathing suit, you know"), Neuberger was known for her warmth and forthrightness. She was fond of hiking, swimming, and hula dancing, and periodically spoke at Unitarian church conferences. She chose not to run for reelection in 1965, in part because of her distaste for the extensive fund-raising necessary to mounting a successful campaign. After leaving the Senate in 1966, she gave lectures on consumer and women's issues, and taught American government classes at Reed College, Radcliffe Institute, and Boston University. In 1969, two years after the end of her second marriage, she returned to Oregon, where she lived in Portland and was active in civic and social life. A mentor to younger female politicians and mentally alert until the end of her long life, Neuberger died of a bone marrow disorder in Portland on February 22, 2000.


Current Biography, 1961. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1961.

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

The Oregonian (obituary). February 23, 2000.

Jacquie Maurice , freelance writer, Calgary, Alberta, Canada