Lindy Boggs (1916-2013), a former ambassador to the Vatican and the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana, was a trailblazer for women in politics. She retired from Congress in 1990 after serving 17 years, and was an original member of the Stennis Center’s Board of Trustees. Mrs. Boggs encouraged the Stennis Center to initiate a program to increase women’s political leadership in the South. Thus was born the Southern Women in Public Service conference in 1991 and subsequent efforts of the Stennis Center to promote women’s leadership.
At 24, she came to Washington, D.C., from Louisiana with her newly elected husband, Congressman Hale Boggs. She emerged as an influential force in American politics--running her husband's congressional campaigns, managing his Capitol Hill office and chairing numerous organizations such as John F. Kennedy's and Lyndon Johnson's inaugural ball committees.
At the same time she raised three children who would come into prominence in their own right. In the words of her youngest child, NPR and ABC-TV's Cokie Roberts, "Politics is our family business."
In 1972, Congressman Boggs disappeared in a small plane over Alaska. His successor of course was Mrs. Boggs, who served in Congress from 1973 to 1990. She spearheaded legislation on issues ranging from civil rights to credit access and government service pay equity for women.
Mrs. Boggs achieved a significant list of firsts: First woman elected to Congress from Louisiana; first woman to chair the Democratic National Convention, which she did in 1976; the only woman to have a room in the Capitol named for her; co-founder of the Women's Congressional Caucus.
Her diplomatic career began in 1997 at the age of 81, when President Bill Clinton asked her to represent the United States at the Vatican.
Mrs. Boggs also was the first woman to serve as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, to receive Tulane University's Distinguished and Outstanding Alumni Award and the Congressional Award of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Among her numerous other honors were the first AMVETS Auxiliary National Humanitarian Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Centennial Award, the National Housing Conference's Housing Person of the Year Award, the National Advertising Research and Education Institute's American Woman of the Year Award, the Distinguished Service Award to the Republic and numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the United States.
In the 1990s, Mrs. Boggs took an office at Tulane and worked on a national jazz preservation commission, which worked with the Library of Congress, and scores of other projects. A hospital in New Orleans was named in her honor in 2004, and she received the Congressional Distinguished Service Award in 2006.
In 1994, Mrs. Boggs published her autobiography, Washington Through a Purple Veil: Memoirs of a Southern Woman. She died at age 97 in 2013.