As crass it may sound, for most of our nation's history, the single most direct route to the United States Senate for a woman was through the cemetery. With the exception of Margaret Chase Smith, the ten women who served in the Senate prior to the 1978 election of Nancy Kassenbaum arrived there by virtue of the death of their husbands.
Oregon's Maurine Neuberger was no different. Her husband, Richard L. Neuberger was the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Oregon in 40 years when he took the seat in 1954. His sudden death in March 1960, just days before he planned to file for re-election, left Oregon Democrats in a quandary. Most realized that Maurine Neuberger would be a formidable, perhaps unbeatable candidate, but would she run?
|1960 Bumper Sticker|
She decided to make the race because, she says, "I was probably as qualified as any other potential candidate. And, above all, I knew in my heart that Dick would have wanted me to run." But the races not to be a sympathy campaign. She wanted Oregon voters to make a decision based on what kind of lawmaker she would be.
And unlike most of her female predecessors in the Senate, Neuberger did have a record of her own--as a state representative from Multnomah County for two terms in the early 1950s, where she served concurrently with her husband, a state senator. Among the legislation she introduced there was a bill entitling working women to a child care tax credit.
|Tri-fold 1960 Campaign|
Displaying a campaign style which, according to a Republican exuded "charm, warmth, spontaneity and a friendly open manner -- none of the dogmatic bombast that politicians sometimes feel is called for." Neuberger outdistanced four competitors in the May primary by 184,000 votes. Despite a Nixon victory in Oregon that November, Neuberger piled up a 70,000 vote majority over former Oregon Governor Elmo Smith.
As a freshman senator, Neuberger championed a nationwide anti-smoking campaign, truth in packaging for cosmetics and extension of the interstate highway billboards ban. But her personal life began to grab the headlines away from her work in Washington.
|7/8" 1960 pin|
But Neuberger had already decided not to seek reelection, so the depth of these political vulnerabilities were never tested at the ballot box. her stated reason for retirement was the high cost of campaigning, which she said she expected to nearly triple from her 1960 campaign (which cost under $100,000).
Neuberger is now divorced from Dr. Solomon and at the age of 84 living, once again, in Portland, Oregon.
Update (By OR-APIC Member Carl Fisher)
After her divorce from Dr. Solomon, Neuberger spent her later years serving as a respected party and state elder in Oregon. The Washington County Democrats renamed their annual dinner after her in the 1980s and just recently held the 30th Anniversary dinner. She also spent many years tutoring Portland area elementary students in reading and mathematics. She passed away in 2000 at the age of 93.
|2012 3" Dinner Pin|