Kennelly, Barabara B.

Alternative names

Biographical notes:

Barbara Bailey Kennelly represented Connecticut in Congress for 17 years, leaving in 1999 as the highest ranking woman member in the history of the House of Representatives at that time. Her extensive career is the epitome of what a public servant should be, as she exhibited an unwavering dedication to helping those in need, most notably children, the elderly, and working families, not only in Connecticut but around the world. Throughout her political career, Ms. Kennelly fought for benevolent causes with strong conviction, and continues to do so today as the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare in Washington, D.C. .

Barbara Bailey was born into a politically active family 10 July 1936 in Hartford, Connecticut, where she was also raised. She received her B.A. in economics from Trinity College ( Washington, D.C. ) in 1958; a certificate in business administration from the Harvard Business School in 1959; and her M.A. in government from Trinity College ( Hartford, Connecticut ) in 1971. Over her career, she has also received several honorary doctorates from schools including Mount Holyoke College ( South Hadley, Massachusetts ); the University of Hartford ( Hartford, Connecticut ); Sacred Heart University ( Bridgeport, Connecticut ; and Saint Mary's College ( South Bend, Indiana ). She was married to the late James J. Kennelly, who worked as an attorney and served as a Connecticut State Representative and Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives, with whom she has three daughters and a son.

Heiress to the political legacy of her father, John Bailey, a longtime leader of the Connecticut Democratic Party and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Barbara Kennelly entered politics in 1975 as a member of the Hartford Court of Common Council, a position she held until 1979 when she was elected Secretary of State for Connecticut . She served as Secretary until 1982, when she was elected to the 97th Congress by special election to fill the seat vacated upon the death of First District Representative William R. Cotter .

Kennelly served as Connecticut's First District Representative for the 97th through the 105th Congresses. She sat on many influential committees including Ways and Means, Budget, Administration, and Select Intelligence. Barbara Kennelly was only the third woman in history to serve on the 200-year-old House Ways and Means Committee and the first woman to chair one of the subcommittees of the House Intelligence Committee. In 1991, Kennelly was the first woman in United States history to be appointed Chief Deputy Majority Whip, where she served until her election as Caucus Vice Chair in 1994, the fourth ranking and the only woman in the elected leadership. She did not seek re-election for the 106th Congress, instead pursuing an unsuccessful campaign for the governorship of Connecticut.

Her legislative record reflects a deep commitment to working families, the elderly, children, and women. She championed legislation to enforce child support collection, give the working poor a tax break, and extend health care coverage to 10 million uninsured children. She was a strong advocate of Medicare and Social Security in addition to working to reform the Welfare system. Kennelly's career also included work for social justice with her repeated efforts to battle hate crimes.

Her legacy is one of a dedicated public servant, respected by Democrats and Republicans alike for her willingness to compromise while remaining true to those she represented. Barbara B. Kennelly currently resides in Hartford, Connecticut .

From the guide to the Barbara B. Kennelly Papers., undated, 1977-1998., (Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center .)



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