Jim Cameron

Posts by Jim Cameron

For us East Coasters, our recent experience with an earthquake was an unusual one. Of course, they’re comparatively rare here and not as strong as the ones that plague the West Coast, but it still makes you think about what would happen to your house (and you) if a really big one hit.

What about my house? Even aside from how it would stand up structurally, I’ve got a lot of books and bookcases – maybe an avalanche waiting to happen. Then there are the china cabinets – it really wouldn’t do to have grandma’s best strewn across the room in shards, would it? Keep reading →

As I sit here writing this, it’s raining. It’s been raining for days, as a result of the remnants of Hurricane Lee. Before that, we got rain from Hurricane Irene, although thankfully not what Vermont and Upstate New York received. Before that, innumerable August thunderstorms had dumped inches of precipitation on us. The forecast for the next few days? More rain.

Earlier this summer I read that our area was in a “moderate drought” state. Ha! I was just bemoaning our saturated state with a co-worker, in the course of which I said “I’ve been blogging about earthquakes and hurricanes, so I guess I’ll have to dig out a Government publication on floods.” Aha! Keep reading →

It’s hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is almost here. It was one of those events, like Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination, which remains in the memory with startling clarity.

From where I was working in the Government Printing Office (GPO), we could see the column of smoke from the strike on the Pentagon. Later, after Federal Government facilities in the DC area closed down, I walked from GPO to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (I still remember a woman telling a Smithsonian guard that she had seen someone on the building’s roof – and who could tell what that meant in a world spinning out of control?) to meet my wife, who by some miracle got into the District and picked me up. Keep reading →

When I was a kid, I would read from an old set of encyclopedias – just randomly, but with a predilection for famous and not-so-famous people. As a result, I still remember at least something about the lives of the Roman-era scholar-king Juba II of Mauretania, the Seneca chief and orator Red Jacket, the World War I field marshal August von Mackensen, and scads of other people. It’s useless knowledge, I suppose, but it entertains me and is tolerated (mostly) by friends and family members.

Given my fondness for small-scale biographies, a hefty reference work like Women in Congress, 1917-2006 could put me out of action for days. These meticulously researched biographies, including sources for further reading and a photograph of each Senate or House member discussed, are a treasure trove for fans of American politics and history and trivia buffs alike.

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a life-long pacifist, voted against going to war with Germany in 1917, didn’t get elected again until 1940, and promptly voted her conscience again by opposing the declaration of war against Japan after Pearl Harbor. Like the others in this book, Rankin was more than just a source for a Jeopardy question – in the 1960s, she was still marching for the causes she held dear.

Although many of those discussed in Women in Congress, especially prior to the 1960s, arrived via the “widow’s mandate” – succeeding their deceased husbands in office – many of them stayed to make significant careers on their own. Take Edith Nourse Rogers, for example. After being elected to her husband’s seat in the House of Representatives, this self-proclaimed “Republican by inheritance and by conviction” served 18 terms, noted for her advocacy on behalf of veterans, steadfast opposition to fascism in Nazi Germany andItaly, and dedicated anticommunism during the Cold War.

After World War II, Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former movie actress, was labeled “The Pink Lady” by an opponent targeting her liberal political views. She, in turn, enriched the language of American politics by dubbing her final opponent, Richard M. Nixon, “Tricky Dick.”

Millicent Fenwick, a fiscally conservative but independent Republican of the 1970s and 1980s, was the inspiration for the Lacey Davenport character in Garry Trudeau’s long-running Doonesbury comic strip)

Okay, I’d better stop or this post will never end. Every one of the entries in Women in Congress is worthy of mention, and I know a lot of you have your own favorites, but I just can’t do it all. Happily, you can browse as much as you want right here, get your own copy, or find it in a library.

Oh, and did you know that King Juba II of Mauretania married Cleopatra’s daughter?

Jim Cameron is editorial and social media consultant for the Government Printing Office and writes regularly on books about government topics.