Woodhouse, Margaret Chase Going (1890–1984)

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Woodhouse, Margaret Chase Going (1890–1984)

American educator and politician. Name variations: Mrs. Chase Going Woodhouse; Margaret Woodhouse. Born Margaret Chase Going in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, on March 3, 1890; died on December 12, 1984, in Sprague, Connecticut; daughter of Seymour Going (a mining and railroad executive) and Harriet (Jackson) Going; educated at public schools in California, South Dakota, and Kentucky; McGill University in Montreal, Canada, B.A., 1912, M.A., 1913; married Edward Woodhouse (a professor of government), in 1917; children: Noel Robert (b. 1921) and Margaret (b. 1925).

Worked as an economics professor at a number of American universities throughout her career; served as senior economist with the Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1926–28); acted as founder and managing director of the Institute of Women's Professional Relations (1929–46); elected secretary of state for Connecticut (1941); elected to the U.S. Congress (1944); failed in reelection bid (1946); became executive director of the women's division of the Democratic National Committee (1947); won a second term in Congress (1948); lost reelection bid (1950); became the special assistant to the director of Price Stabilization (1951); served as the director of the Service Bureau for Women's Organizations in Hartford, Connecticut (1952–80).

Margaret Chase Going Woodhouse, known as Chase, was born in 1890 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, the only child of Harriet Jackson Going and Seymour Going, a prominent railroad and mining businessman. The family moved frequently between Canada and the United States, so she attended public schools in California, South Dakota, and Kentucky. In 1908, she graduated from Science Hill School in Shelbyville, Kentucky. She then entered McGill University in Montreal, Canada, completing a bachelor's degree in economics in 1912 and a master's degree a year later. After a few months as a social worker, Woodhouse decided she needed to continue her education abroad. She studied economics in Germany and England before returning to the U.S. at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to begin graduate studies at the University of Chicago. She was named a fellow in political economy in 1917; later that year she married Edward Woodhouse, a professor of government at the university.

When Edward joined the armed forces with the United States' entrance on the European battlefield, Woodhouse accepted a professorship in economics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where her first child, Noel, was born in 1921. She also taught during the summer at Smith's School for Social Work. After the birth of her second child, Margaret , in 1925, Woodhouse left Smith to join the home economics bureau of the Department of Agriculture as a senior economist; she remained there until 1928. That year, she took on a new position, as director of personnel at the Woman's College at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While in North Carolina, Woodhouse combined scholarship with political and civic activism. On behalf of professional women, she chaired the research division of the North Carolina Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. She was also co-founder of the Institute of Women's

Professional Relations, of which she served as director from 1929 to 1946. The Institute was established to study the economic and educational needs of working women, and to work with colleges to create curricula to meet the needs of that growing population. Woodhouse served as editor of the Institute's numerous publications, including Women's Work and Education. In addition to her teaching, family, and Institute duties, she was a leader in many civic and women's organizations in the 1930s, including the League of Women Voters, the Altrusa Clubs, the American Home Economics Association, and the American Sociological Society. She also found time to contribute articles on labor policy to various scholarly journals, and published several books aimed at women, including After College—What? (1932), Dentistry, Its Professional Opportunities (1934), and Business Opportunities for the Home Economist (1934).

Also in 1934, Woodhouse began a 12-year tenure as professor of economics at the Connecticut College for Women. A committed liberal Democrat, she was active politically in Connecticut state politics, serving as president of the Connecticut Federation of Democratic Women's Clubs. In 1940, Woodhouse decided to enter electoral politics, campaigning for Connecticut secretary of state. She won the election by a record-breaking majority for a Connecticut state election.

When her term ended in 1942, Woodhouse returned to teaching at Connecticut College, and published The Big Store the following year. In 1944, she entered politics again, running for election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut's second district. She built her campaign around solutions to the economic and labor issues America would face when World War II ended and military personnel returned home; she supported a revised tax system to keep inflation down, and advocated the creation of an international body to maintain peace in Europe. Woodhouse won the 1944 election, becoming the second Connecticut woman to serve in Congress.

Sworn into office in January 1945, Woodhouse faced controversy on her first roll-call vote when she opposed a bill to make the House Committee on Un-American Activities a standing committee. Assigned to the important Committee on Banking and Currency, Woodhouse traveled in Western Europe to observe the state of postwar European economies. She returned keenly aware of the global dimensions of the postwar American economy and became a strong voice in favor of the establishment of an international monetary fund and world bank to aid in the reconstruction of postwar Europe and promote political stability. However, she also favored continued federal price controls as a member of the Congressional Committee for the Protection of the Consumer. Woodhouse also defended liberal positions on issues such as child welfare, federally funded women's health clinics, and public education.

Although she was defeated in her bid for reelection in 1946, Woodhouse regained her seat in 1948 but was defeated again in 1950. After leaving Congress, she worked in the public sector. She was assistant to the director of Price Stabilization from 1951 to 1953, and, from 1952 to 1980, was director of the Service Bureau for Women's Organizations in Hartford, Connecticut. Woodhouse died at the age of 94 in Sprague, Connecticut.


Current Biography 1945. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1945.

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

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California