Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960)

EDITH NOURSE ROGERS Edith Nourse Rogers was born in Saco, Maine, on March 19, 1881.  In 1907 she married John Jacob Rogers her neighbor and childhood sweetheart.  When her husband won a seat in Congress in 1912, they moved to Washington, D.C., and Rogers became politically active too. 

Rogers entered politics as a presidential elector for Calvin Coolidge in 1924.  After her husband’s death in March 1925, Rogers ran for his congressional seat, and in June 1925 she won the special election with 72 percent of the vote.  She was re-elected eighteen times. 

Rogers served on the Committee on Foreign affairs and the Civil Service Committee, however she focused most of her attention to veteran’s affairs. In 1947, she became the ranking Republican member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and served as its chair for two years. Rogers introduced more than 1,200 bills in her long congressional career and more than half of them were concerning veterans and military affairs. For example, she secured pensions for army nurses in 1926, a permanent Nurse Corps in the Veterans Administration (VA), and major appropriations to build VA hospitals. During World War II, she successfully sponsored the legislation that created the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAC) and the Navy Waves.

One of the landmark measures she sponsored and helped to draft was the 1944 G.I. Bill of Rights.  The G.I. Bill gave returning World War II veterans the opportunity to go to college, obtain job training, and receive low-interest loans to buy houses.  Previously, usually only wealthy people could attend college and own a home, so allowing veterans of all social classes to do both changed the nation’s economy from agricultural to managerial and increased the size of the middle class.

Edith died in Boston on September 10, 1960, in the midst of her nineteenth Congressional campaign, three days before the primary, which ended her thirty-five years of service in Congress.

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