Home A Life of Purpose Timeline Multimedia Scrapbook Resources

A Life of Purpose: Political Influence
''The strength of a nation is the morale of its people.''
U.S. Capitol
In 1940 voters in Cleveland, Ohio elected Republican Frances Payne Bolton to fill her late husband's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. At age 55 she stood on the brink of an extraordinary political career. A woman of vast energy, with steely determination and a knack for political persuasion, she remained in office for the next 28 years.

When Mrs. Bolton took her seat on the eve of World War II, she was one of six women in Congress. Already known as an advocate for nursing, she sponsored a bill to increase the wartime supply of nurses. The $5 million Bolton Act created the national Cadet Nurse Corps, making federal funding available to nursing schools, including those that trained African-Americans. The Bolton Act required all-white nursing schools to admit black women -- the first step in the integration of the nursing profession. Bolton remained a champion of civil rights for African Americans throughout her career in Congress.

Congresswoman Bolton also left her mark on postwar U.S. foreign policy. She spoke out forcefully against communism during the early years of the Cold War. While chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, she authored THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS OF WORLD COMMUNISM (1947), an important document warning that the Soviet Union was committed to world domination. She predicted the fall of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain. In her personal fight against communism, she interceded to win freedom for the Georgescu family's teenaged sons, detained for seven years in Romania. She paid her own way on a 20,000-mile trip through Africa, using personal diplomacy to encourage democracy among newly independent, nonaligned nations. She also urged the creation of an African desk in the State Department.

Mrs. Bolton took an active interest in Arab-Israeli relations. In 1947 she traveled to the Middle East, where she visited the Palestinian camps and was deeply affected by the human suffering she encountered. Though her sympathy for the Palestinian people lost her Jewish votes in her district, she received national recognition for her efforts as a humanitarian. On June 6, 1976, she won the national Human Relations Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The medal was presented by President Gerald R. Ford.

Involvement in foreign affairs did not prevent Mrs. Bolton from looking out for the interests of the 22nd District as few Ohio representatives have done before or since. She used personal funds to support the largest staff of any member of Congress. Her district, the most populous in the nation according to the 1950 census, rallied behind her in election after election until 1968, when she lost her seat to Charles Vanik, a Democrat. As Ohio's first congresswoman, she is remembered for her extraordinary generosity to the nursing profession, her advocacy of civil rights for African Americans, her recognition of the importance of Africa in the ideological struggle against communism, and her successful effort to save the view from Mount Vernon.

to top Continue to Next Essay


Politician, humanitarian, philanthropist, and patriot The Life of Frances Payne Bolton (1885-1977) Mrs. Bolton at a polling station Mrs. Bolton during her tour of Africa