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Rep. Louise Slaughter, progressive champion of women’s rights, dies at 88

“Louise was a trailblazer,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

House Democrats Respond To Vote On Resolution To Sue President Obama
House Rules Committee ranking member Rep. Louise Slaughter
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who at 88 years old was the oldest member of the House of Representatives, has died.

Slaughter, who was the top Democrat on the powerful Rules Committee, which determines how bills are voted on the House floor — and the only woman to ever chair that committee — fell at her residence in Washington, DC, and suffered a concussion last week. She was taken to George Washington University Hospital for treatment, where she died, her office confirmed Friday morning.

Born Dorothy Louise McIntosh Slaughter on August 14, 1929, in Kentucky, she earned a microbiology degree and a master’s degree in public health. She moved to Rochester, New York, in the 1950s and began her political career there. She won a seat in the Monroe County Legislature in 1975 and went on to serve two terms in the New York State Assembly in 1984.

She became the first woman to represent Western New York in the US House, beating out Republican Fred Eckert in a contentious race in 1986.

Rep. Louise Slaughter’s legacy

One of the longest-serving House members, Slaughter was a prominent voice for women’s empowerment and diversity in the House. She was a founding member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, which promotes women’s reproductive rights, and she co-authored the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in 1994 as the first comprehensive law to address domestic violence and sexual assault against women, including the first federal criminal law against battering.

Her progressive legacy in Congress ranges from landmark government ethics legislation to health care and historic legislation to prevent discrimination. She played a key role in moving the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and during that period she received death threats. She was a fierce advocate of fair trade, even breaking with her party leaders to denounce international trade agreements, saying they only hurt manufacturing jobs.

When President Bill Clinton asked for her support on NAFTA, she famously replied, “Why are you carrying George Bush’s trash?”

Her legislative accomplishments include co-authoring the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which passed in 2008 and prohibits individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment.

One of her bills, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2012, requires lawmakers to disclose which stocks they buy and sell to their constituents — a law that ultimately led to the ongoing investigation into fellow New York lawmaker Rep. Chris Collins (R) after the House Ethics Committee concluded there was “substantial reason to believe” that Collins engaged in insider trading to benefit a company of which he is a shareholder.

Slaughter was a close confidante of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who released a lengthy statement on the loss of her friend.

“Louise was a trailblazer,” Pelosi said. “Her strong example inspired countless young women to know their power, and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table. She took great pride in representing the area around the historic Seneca Falls Convention, and embraced the future with her forceful engagement on social media.”