Who Is Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum?

Nancy Landon Kassebaum was the first woman to be elected to the US Senate without succeeding her husband into the job. She was a Kansas Republican Senator for three terms.

Nancy Landon Kassebaum was the first woman in the United States Senate who did not get there after the death of her husband during his term in office.

Alfred Landon was Governor of Kansas from 1932 to 1937. In the first year of his term, his wife gave birth to Nancy Landon in Topeka, Kansas. Nancy Landon earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Kansas in 1954, then a masters in Diplomatic History from the University of Michigan in 1956. Also in 1956 she married Phillip Kassebaum.

As she worked her way up to the position of vice president of Kassebaum Communications, a family owned company that managed two radio stations, she was also raising three children. Then she served on the Kansas Governmental Ethics Committee and the Kansas Committee on the Humanities.

Her first political office was as President of the Maize, Kansas school board. Maize was her home town. Republican Kansas Senator James Pearson hired her onto his Washington DC staff as a case worker in 1975 after she and her husband separated. When Senator Pearson decided to retire in 1978, she decided to try to get his job. She beat eight Republicans in the primaries for the place on the party ticket, and then beat then- Democrat Bill Roy in the election with 55% of the vote. As a freshman senator she served on the Banking, Budget and Commerce Committees.

In 1980 she became a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. This moderate Republican was re-elected in 1984 and 1990. During her terms, she supported the Equal Rights Amendment and legislation which would have made women eligible for the draft. She did not, however, support extending the time table for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and lost the support of the Kansas Women's Political Caucus as a result. She supported freedom of choice in abortions, and gun control measures. She also supported the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty. She supported the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, a stance which irked many, but she fought against the elevation of Admiral Thomas Kelso's rank to four stars because of his knowledge of and failure to act against the Tailhook scandal, a navy gathering where women were abused. Unfortunately she and the others who opposed his elevation to four star Admiral were disappointed when the decision was made to proceed with his promotion.

Kassebaum supported welfare reform and improvements in the federal student loan and financial aid programs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was involved in health care issues and ending apartheid in South Africa.

In 1995 she became the first woman to head a major Senate Committee when she became chair of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. She married former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker in 1996. Her last term ended in 1997 when she did not seek re-election for a fourth term.

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