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Senate Voices: Female Pages

First Female Pages: Paulette Desell and Ellen McConnell

Oral History Project | First Female Senate Pages

In the 1830s Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster appointed a Senate page for the first time--Grafton Hanson, the nine-year-old grandson of the Senate sergeant at arms. Though no Senate rule explicitly forbid the appointment of girls, the practice of appointing male pages persisted well into the 20th century. In the 1960s, senators began to challenge the tradition of “boys only” page appointments. After long debate and delay, the Senate broke a 150-year-old tradition when it accepted female appointments to the Senate page program on May 13, 1971. Soon thereafter, Paulette Desell, Ellen McConnell, and Julie Price made Senate history when they were sworn in as the Senate’s first female pages. In these interviews, the three women remember what it was like to break the gender barrier—the long waiting period between being selected by their sponsoring members until the Senate formally approved their appointment; the media attention; and their reception by the boy pages and the senators. They recall the members, staff, and other pages they got to know, as well as some of the political and policy debates which defined the era. They reflect on how their experiences as Senate pages shaped their lives.

Table of Contents:


1) A First for Illinois: Interview with Ellen Blakeman McConnell, 1-36

2) A First for New York: Interview with Paulette Desell-Lund, 37-56

3) A First for Oklahoma: Interview with Julie Price, 57-90


Full Transcript

Scholarly citation: "First Female Senate Pages: Ellen McConnell Blakeman, Paulette Desell-Lund, and Julie Price," Oral History Interviews, December 5, 2012, to April 15, 2014, Senate Historical Office, Washington, D.C.