New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, 88, Has Died

Updated at 1:21 p.m. Eastern

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a glass ceiling-shattering leader in Congress, died Friday at age 88, while serving her 16th term in the House of Representatives, her chief of staff said in a statement.

She was surrounded by family at George Washington University Hospital at the time of her death, after sustaining an injury at her Washington, D.C., home last week.

In an earlier statement, Chief of Staff Liam Fitzsimmons said Slaughter had fallen and was being treated for a concussion.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Slaughter a “trailblazer,” adding, “It was my great privilege to serve with her and to benefit from her friendship and wise counsel for 30 years. Her loss will be deeply felt.”

Slaughter’s three decades in Congress saw her rise to become the first chairwoman of the powerful House Committee on Rules, a position she held from 2007-2011.

At the time of her death, she remained ranking member.

Pelosi said that Slaughter “used her leadership position to fight for women and working families.”

Among the legislation she co-authored was 1994’s landmark Violence Against Women Act.

She also worked to pass the Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act of 2008, which prevents employers and health ensurers from penalizing people based on family health history or the results of genetic tests.



Slaughter had more than a passing interest in science; she was a microbiologist, the only one in Congress, according to her House biography. She was spurred to pursue the field after the childhood death of her sister from pneumonia.

Slaughter received her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and a Master of Science degree in Public Health from the University of Kentucky.

She and her husband moved to Fairport, N.Y., after she completed graduate school, according to her spokesman’s statement.

Elected in 1986, Slaughter represented the 25th District of New York, an area that includes the city of Rochester, but her Southern origins continued to show.

“Louise never forgot her roots as the daughter of a Kentucky blacksmith,” Pelosi said. “She brought the grace and grit of her Southern background to her leadership in the Congress, building bridges and breaking down barriers all with her beautiful accent.”

Bipartisan tributes for Slaughter poured forth Friday.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said in a statement that while he and Slaughter may have been on opposite sides of the political divide, they nevertheless worked side-by-side for 20 years and he considered her a “partner.”

“As the first female Chairwoman of our Committee she was a force to be reckoned with who always brought her spunk, fire, and dynamic leadership to every meeting,” Sessions wrote.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Slaughter’s death “jarring” and ordered the flags above the Capitol to be flown at half staff Friday.

“She was unrelenting in fighting for her ideas and the people back home in Western New York,” Ryan said in a statement. “But really, the things that I keep coming back to is how she was tough, but unfailingly gracious.”

Slaughter and her husband, Bob, were married for 57 years, until his death in 2014. They had three daughters, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The Washington Post reports that Slaughter was the oldest sitting member of Congress, and yet she had been planning to seek reelection in November.

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