Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Pauline H. Menes (1924-2009)
MSA SC 3520-12270

Biography:

When Delegate Pauline Herkowitz Menes completed her career in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006 she was the longest-serving female member in the history of the General Assembly with 40 years of continuous service and dedication to changing the state.1 Despite lacunching her career in an era ripe with sexism towards woriking women, she managed, through persistence and a strong passion for legislative change, to propel herself into roles of leadership and helped pass over 2000 bills and policy changes throughout the course of her career in the House.2 Delegate Menes is one of many women who paved the way for Maryland women in politics. Now, there are more women serving in the Mqryland legislature than in most jurisdictions throughout the country, and the state currently ranks third in the nation for total number of elected women lawmakers.3 Delegate Menes helped to make this a reality.

Pauline Herkowitz Menes was born in New York City on July 16, 1924.4 She graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in 1941 and went on to earn a B.A. in economics and geography from Hunter College in 1945.5 After graduation, she, bravely, moved to Washington D.C. to help with the World War II effort by working as a government economist in the Office of the Master General from 1945-47.6 At this time it was extremely unusual for young single women to move far away from home, but the young Menes, fearless from early on, wanted to serve her country by becoming a "Government Girl". It was at this job that she met her future husband, Melvin Menes, a World War II veteran who she was assigned to train for the job she held. On September 1, 1946, they married in D.C.

Between 1949-50 the newlywed Menes worked as a geographer for the Army Map Service.7 However, soon after she and Melvin began their family and so she took a hiatus from work until the 1960s to raise their three daughters, Sandra, Robin and Bambi.8 Being a stay-at-home mom did not slow down Delegate Menes but, she began volunteering around her D.C. suburb quickly becoming a political figure among neighbors. She distributed voter registration materials and held her first public office as an elections judge. In addition to volunteering, she became part of the Independent Democratic Organization and was a member-volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women.

At the beginning of the 1960s Pauline Menes, having established her family, launched her political career. Prior to her election as a Legislator, she was already politically active in her Hyattsville, Maryland neighborhood; in fact, she once organized a group of thirty local women to convene in Annapolis to meet with the governor on issues of importance to women.9 In addition to organizing the local constituency, she was a volunteer for a nuber of organziations such as the League of Women Voters, Women's Political Caucus, American Association of University Women and B'nai Brith.10 After much encouragement, Delegate Menes first ran for elective offic in 1962 for Register of Wills in Prince George's County, but lost by 100 votes.

Delegate Menes did not allow this to discourage her though, because she ran again in 1966, this time for the Maryland House of Delegates and won.11 When she arrived in Annapolis for session that January, Delegate Menes was on of 11 women legislators in the Maryland General Assembly.12 Yet, her election was, for the first few years, purely an appearance of diversity and change with no palpable results. She says of her early years in the House, "As a woman you were an outsider, with very little going for you when you got here to be an efective legislator. It was made fairly clear to the few women who were here that we were not expected to accomplish very much, that we were not expected to stay very long".13 An injustice was that, at the time, most legislative decision were made in the afterhours of session in the fraternal atmosphere of the hotels and lounges male legislators frequented during session-- with the female legislators left uninvited and uninformed of their decisions.14 To be sarcastic, Menes and other female delegates rented a house in the historic distric and marked it with a sign that said, "The House of the Silent Women Antiques" as that was how the male legislators expected them to respond in session.15 Despite the sexism, the women recieved daily, Delegate Menes was appointed in 1968, by then Governor Spiro Agnew to chair the Commission on Public Library Laws. As chair, she coordinated the legislation that universalized Maryland's statewide library system.16 Although Delegate Menes had made a breakthrough for women by chairing a commission, she could not help but continually address the House about her concern that no females were on any standing committees and held no pivotal positions in the House leadership.17 Despite her own step forward, she did not rest until all of the women delegates were heard.

Never one to hold her tongue about any issue-- big or small-- that she felt passionately about, in 1971 her most notable incident to date occurred in the House, a potentially embarassing event which allowed her to become a more effective legislator. At the time Menes complained to the House Speaker at this time, Thomas Hunter Lowe, that the female delegates did not have a restroom near the House chamber and had to risk being absent during a vote to walk across the concourse and use a public restroom.18 This was a concern that affected more than just the women Delegates, but their constituency would lose a voice in important matters. Lowe decided to ignore the importance of this issue and jokingly presented the delegate with a fur-covered toilet seat at the rostrum in front of all the delegates and appointed her with the made-up title of "Chairman of the Women's Restroom Committee".19 Menes gracefully accepted this ignorant gift at the rostrum, making history by being the first woman to address the assembly.20 This incident quickly revealed to Marylanders the sexism these women politicians faced and gave Delegate Menes the support she needed in order to change Annapolis politics and dissolve gender inequality. Needless to say, a women's restroom was installed shortly after this incident.

Pauline Menes used his ignorance to promote change, and, by February 1972, she and other female members of the General Assembly cerated the Women's Legislative Caucus of Maryland through collaborations with National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Women's Political Caucs.21 The Women's Legislative Caucus of Maryland was the first women's caucus in the nation, and was born out of a need to respond to the isolation that not only these legislative women, but all Maryland women, felt in Annapolis. The group became a vehicle to advocate for legislation that had a special focus on issues affecting women such as divorce, property rights, and pay equity.22 They resolved to meet regularly and pushed for the recognition of women and their abilities. Soon they became so successful that they were able to expand and gain recognition outside of Maryland, receiving grant money that allowed them the necessary staff and office space from the Ms. Foundation for Women.23 The monetary help of this foundation, in addition to the authority commanded by a united front of intelligent women, helped initiate The Women's Legislative Caucus into a striking and powerful group in Annapolis. Well organized an decisive, the women established a four-level strategy of alternative Caucus action which did the following, "1) issuance of a general written statement of support or opposition to the committee with jurisidiction; 2) testimony in committee by a Caucs member; 3) an all-out lobbying effort; and 4) no formal position, with members free to involve themselves as they wish".24 Because of their zeal and determination to fight for women, the women remain one of the most effective groups in the legislature.

After the establishment of this caucus, Delegate Menes' career took off, and she began sparking a change in the House of Delegates which transformed women's roles until this day. She proposed and saw passage of a number of pieces of legislation. For example, in 1972, she first proposed legislation mandating a written report by a professional person and requiring a verbal report by any other person to the local Department of Social Services concerning any child who they believe has been intentionally injured by a person.25 Likewise, in 1974, she passed similar legislation that covers a child sexually abused by a person and requires prompt investigation and protection of said child.26 These are two of the most enduring and generally succesful pieces of legislation that the Delegate introduced, and ever since these she has become a person of notability and dependability among, not only the House of Delegates, but her district in Prince George's County and the greater Maryland area. Indedd, in 1977, she was elected chair of the Maryland delegation to the first National Women's Conference, which presented an official report to President Jimmy Carter and Congress asking for an investigation and analysis of the barriers against women's full participation in American life.27

In the years since these early successes, Delegate Menese continued to have a thriving and active career. She was elected chair, co-chair, and president of a number of caucuses, committees, and associations, both locally and nationally. In 2006, she recieved accolades from the nation's top animal rights organization, The Humane Society of the United States, for successfully promoting a bill that bans the import of breeding of certain creatures in Maryland.28 Throughout the course of her career, she has worked on and helped pass legislation for : abortion, battered spouses, divorce and annulment and other women's issues.

Despite her retirement in 2007, Delegate Menes remains active in politics staying engaged in different associations and organizations. Most recently, she campaigned in Maryland for Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.29 Delegate Menes still lives in the 21st Legislative District where she served for so long, remaining true to her neighbors who allowed her such an illustrious career by their support.30 During her retirement she has much more time for her hobbies of reading, music and the arts.31

Serving 40 years in the House of Delegates, Pauline is an inspiration to young women through her impact on her community. Her life reflects the importance of facing one's adversity and humiliations; when Delegate Lowe hander her the toilet seat to degrade her in front of the assembly she found refuge in a quote by former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent".32 In that instant the young delegate could have been humiliated and backed away from what he wanted but instead she chose to use his sexism to fuel her determination for change, and thus opening the door for women who aspire to make political change.

Delegate Menes passed away on May 16, 2009, at the age of 84.

Memberships and Affiliations33
1967-2007: Member of House of Delegates
1968-95: Member, Maryland State Arts Council
1975-95: Member, Commission on Aging
1975-1979: Member, Women Legislators of Maryland
1976: Member, Prisoners Aid Association of Maryland
1977-79: President& Founder, Women’s Network, National Conference of State Legislatures
1979-80: President, National Order of Women Legislators
1979-1993, 1995-2007: Member, Rules and Executive Nominations Committee
1979-2007: Member, Judiciary Committee
1983: Member, Domestic Violence Task Force, Prince George’s County
1987-2005: Chair, Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse
1990-1992: Member, State Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
1993-1994: Chair, Prince George’s County Delegation
1993-1996: Correctional Options Advisory Board
1993-1998: Member, Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics
1995-1996: Chair, Bi-County Committee, Prince George’s County Delegation; Transportation Committee, Montgomery County Delegation;
1995-2005: Member, Legislative Policy Committee
1995-2003: Member, Family & Juvenile Law Subcommittee
1995-2007: Member, House Parliamentarian
1996-2007: Member, Maryland Green Caucus
1998-2001: Member, Task Force to Study Increasing the Availability of Substance abuse Programs (effectiveness committee)
2001-2002: Member, Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Legislative Redistricting
2003: Member, Joint Committee on the Selection of the State Treasurer
2003-2007: Member, Criminal Justice Subcommittee
2003-2007: Member, Maryland State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision
2003-2007: Member, Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Caucus; Member, National Conference of State Legislatures (law & criminal justice committee); Prince George’s County Chapter, National Women’s Political Caucus
2004-2007: Member, Maryland State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council
2004: Member, Abatement of Drug-Related Nuisances Work Group
2005: Member, Federal Issues Subcommittee, Anne Arundel County Delegation
Present: Member, League of Women Voters; Member, B’nai B’rith Women of Prince George’s County; Member, College Park Business and Professional Women; Member, Women’s Club of College Park; Member, West College Park Civic Association
 

Awards and Recognition3435
Ann London Scott Award for Legislative Excellence, Maryland Chapter, 1976
National Organization for Women (NOW), 1976
Woman of the Year, College Park Business and Professional Women, 1978
Hall of Fame, Hunter College, 1986
Women’s Hall of Fame, Prince George’s County, 1989
Appreciation Award, Maryland Network against Domestic Violence, 1990, 1994
Favorite Legislator, Maryland Classified Employees Association, 1993
Person of the Year, Certified Addictions Counselors of Maryland, 1993
APEX Award, Maryland Commission for Women, 1993
Appreciation Award, Maryland Underage Drinking Prevention Coalition, 1994
Capitol College President’s Medal, 1994
Maryland’s Top 100 Women, The Daily Record, 2001, 2003
Distinguished Service Award, Maryland Independent College and University Association, 2002
Casper R. Taylor, Jr., Founder’s Award, House of Delegates, 2004
Humane State Legislator Award, Humane Society of the United States, 2006
Presidents Award, Maryland Society of Accountants, 2006
Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, 2008
 
 

Footnotes
1. Greenberg, Jill Moss. “2008 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form”. Maryland Commission for Women, 2007. Return to text
2. “Del. Pauline H. Menes”. Maryland top 100 Women, Daily Record. Accessed June 24, 2008.  <http://www.mddailyrecord.com/top100w/03menes.html> Return to text
3. A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
4. “Pauline Menes.” Maryland commission for Women. Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. Accessed 24 June 2008
    < http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/menes.html> Return to text
5. Ibid. Return to text
6. McCracken, Patricia A. A Guide to the Papers of Pauline H. Menes. Historical Manuscripts and Archives Department, University of Maryland College Park Libraries. May 1988. Return to text
7. Ibid. Return to text
8. Ibid. Return to text
9.A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
    Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
10. Carolyn B. Stegman, Women of Achievement in Maryland History, (University Park, MD: Women of Achievement in Maryland History, Inc., 2002), 397. Return to text
11. Greenberg. Return to text
12. Ibid. Return to text
13. Sudarsan Raghavan, “After 40 years, retiring delegate’s ‘big story’ is still the toilet seat.” The Daily Record, 17 July 2006. Return to text
14. A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
15. Ibid. Return to text
16. “Pauline Menes.” Maryland commission for Women. Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. 24 June 2008
    < http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/menes.html> Return to text
17.A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
18. Raghavan, Sudarsan. “After 40 years, retiring delegate’s ‘big story’ is still the toilet seat”. The Daily Record. July 17, 2006. Return to text
19. Ibid. Return to text
20. A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
21. Greenberg, Jill Moss. “2008 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form”. Maryland Commission for Women, 2007. Return to text
22. A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
23. Ibid. Return to text
24. Ibid. Return to text
25. “Del. Pauline H. Menes”. Maryland top 100 Women. The Daily Record. June 24, 2008.  <http://www.mddailyrecord.com/top100w/03menes.html> Return to text
26. Ibid. Return to text
27. Stegman, Carolyn B. Women of Achievement in Maryland History. Women of Achievement in Maryland History, Inc. University Park, MD: 2002. p.397 Return to text
28. Brody, Alan. "Pet Proud". The Maryland Gazette. August, 2006. Return to text
29. States News Service. "Clinton Campaign Annoucnes Widespread Support Throughout Maryland". States News Service. February, 2008. Return to text
30. Raghavan, Sudarsan. "From Restrooms to Rights, A Career Full of Changes: Pauline Menes Made it Her Agenda to Help Boost Women's Status".
      The Washington Post. July 2006. Return to text
31.A History of the Women Legislators of Maryland, Based on the Experiences of state Delegate Pauline Menes: Founder, Leader, Institution Builder.
     Williams, Karen.<www.Academy.umd.edu/wc> 24 June 2008. Return to text
32. Stegman, Carolyn B. Women of Achievement in Maryland History. Women of Achievement in Maryland History, Inc. University Park, MD: 2002. p. 397 Return to text
33. "Pauline Menes”. House of Delegates: Former Delegates. <http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/06hse/former/html/msa12270.html> 24 June 2008. Return to text
34. Ibid. Return to text
35. “Del. Pauline H. Menes”. Maryland top 100 Women. The Daily Record. June 24, 2008.  <http://www.mddailyrecord.com/top100w/03menes.html> Return to text
 

Written by 2008 summer intern Shannon Shird
 

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