St. George, Katharine (1894–1983)

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St. George, Katharine (1894–1983)

U.S. congressional representative. Born Katharine Delano Price Collier in Bridgnorth, England, on July 12, 1894; died in Tuxedo Park, New York, on May 2, 1983; second daughter and third of four children of Price Collier (an Iowa-born writer, Unitarian minister and European editor of Forum magazine) and Katharine Delano (sister of Sara Delano Roosevelt , the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt); cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; educated at private schools in England, France, Switzerland, and Germany; married George St. George, in April 1917; children: Priscilla St. George .

Served as U.S. representative from New York (January 3, 1947–January 3, 1965); became executive vice-president and treasurer of the St. George Coal Company (1947); was first woman to become chair of a Republican campaign committee in New York State; her proposed Equal Rights Amendment for women (1959) became law in the form of the Equal Pay Act (1963).

Katharine St. George was born Katharine Delano Price Collier in 1894 in Bridgnorth, England, of American parents. Her distinguished family lineage included Philippe de la Noye, a Huguenot who had journeyed to Plymouth Colony in 1621, and Isaac Allerton, who had served as the pilgrims' business agent. She was also the first cousin of future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt on her mother's side, and pursued a political career at the same time that her more famous relative made his run for office.

When Katharine was two, her father relinquished his job as European editor of Forum magazine and returned with the family to the United States. The Colliers settled in Tuxedo Park, New York, famous as the first haven created specifically for millionaires and as the place where the men's dinner jacket came into vogue. Like other fashionable society girls, Katharine received her education in private schools in England, France, Switzerland, and Germany, starting at age 11, then made Tuxedo Park her permanent home base after her father's death in 1913. She married George St. George, a clerk for J.P. Morgan and Company, in April 1917, and became involved in such local civic affairs as the Red Cross and the board of education. Two years after their marriage, George took ownership of a coal brokerage, eventually becoming chair of the board with Katharine acting as executive vice-president and treasurer. She also became an avid dog breeder, raising prize English setters and pointers and becoming the president of the English Setter Club of America.

St. George was also active in the Republican Party, eventually ascending to the presidency of the Tuxedo Park Republican Club as well as the governorship of the Woman's National Republican Club. Despite her high profile in local politics, she took a six-year hiatus after her cousin Franklin's successful Democratic bid for the presidency in 1932. When rumors circulated that Roosevelt would seek a third term in 1940, St. George reentered the political arena with renewed vigor as treasurer of the Orange County Republican Committee. No longer content just to support the candidacies of others, she hoped to win the Republican nomination for a campaign for the State Assembly in the early 1940s. When her bid was rejected, however, she continued to work for other candidates as chair of the county campaign committee, the first woman in New York State to hold such a post. She aligned herself with Governor Thomas E. Dewey in his unsuccessful attempt to unseat her cousin Franklin.

St. George finally had her chance to step into the political spotlight when she campaigned for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Republican ticket. Her campaign platform promised support for veterans—to whom she pledged homes and jobs—farmers, and labor unions. Elected in 1946, St. George listed among her priorities the relaxation of government control over private enterprise and the strengthening of American foreign policy. She had hoped to further these aims through participating on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, but she was instead appointed to the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, the Committee on Government Operations, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Rules Committee.

Despite her small physique (5'2" and 110 lbs.), St. George made her political presence felt from the first of her nine terms in Congress. One writer noted, "Mrs. St. George has been active and vocal on occasion, during her first session in Congress, conducting herself with the confidence of long experience in political life." She supported the constituents of her milk- and poultry-producing district by proposing bills which would allow for the use of surplus butter in rations provided to the military, and fought reductions in dairy price supports. She also worked to stabilize the broiler and egg industry through her proposed establishment of market regulations. Women also benefited from St. George's efforts; she presented legislation to include the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps under the provisions of the Veteran's Administration law during her first term and attempted to present before the House a proposed Equal Rights

Amendment for women in 1950. Although the Judiciary Committee denied the latter request, she eventually achieved her goal when the Equal Pay Act, guaranteeing equal pay for men and women, became law in 1963.

St. George's committee work extended her influence in several directions. She advocated the delegation of the power to increase postal rates to the Postmaster General in 1953, and throughout the decade pressed for the establishment of a federal safety division in the Labor Department. An ardent capitalist, St. George argued against granting Veteran's Administration gratuities to any member of an organization that advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government. She responded to the Supreme Court's 1963 prohibition of official school prayer by introducing a joint resolution to allow for the overriding of the Court's decisions by a two-thirds majority vote of both Congress and the Senate. She firmly believed that government employees should adhere to a common code of ethics and voted against a measure passed in 1964 that increased the salaries of federal career employees.

St. George's run for a tenth term in 1964 resulted in her defeat by John G. Dow. She returned to civic activities in Tuxedo Park, chairing the Tuxedo Park Republican town committee until 1979. She died on May 2, 1983, and was buried in St. Mary's-in-Tuxedo Church Cemetery.

sources:

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

Rothe, Anna, ed. Current Biography 1947. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1947.

B. Kimberly Taylor , freelance writer, New York, New York

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