Skip Content
U.S. Flag

A Senate First

First Female Pages: Paulette Desell and Ellen McConnell

Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate page in the early 19th century. Nearly 150 years later, on May 14, 1971, visitors in the Senate galleries witnessed history when Paulette Desell and Ellen McConnell became the first females appointed to serve as Senate pages. Three more female pages, Julie Price, Mari Iwashita, and Barbara Wheeler, served the Senate later that year. “It is simply a question of fundamental human fairness,” one sponsor, Senator Jacob Javits, explained. “A question of whether half the population shall be deprived of an opportunity without a substantial reason.” Female pages quickly earned reputations as competent and hard working. One later recalled, “[I was] very aware of the privilege of the position. I felt very responsible for doing it well [to] mitigate the risk of women being set aside as incapable.” Since 1971, hundreds of female high school students have served as Senate pages.