After seeking treatment for a fall last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter died early Friday morning at George Washington University Hospital. The Democratic politician had been the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee in the '80s.
Slaughter's chief of staff, Liam Fitzsimmons, issued a statement Friday. It reads in part:
To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature. She was a relentless advocate for Western New York whose visionary leadership brought infrastructure upgrades, technology and research investments, and two federal manufacturing institutes to Rochester that will transform the local economy for generations to come.
According to the Democrat & Chronicle, Slaughter was a role model for many young women who entered the political arena after her. As chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party, Jamie Romeo told the Democrat & Chronicle that Slaughter was an "icon." Romero went on to say, "I know many, including myself, would not be where they are today without the support and guidance from Louise." Slaughter was the representative for most of Monroe County.
Slaughter was born in 1929 in Harlan County, Kentucky. After moving to Fairport, New York, following her graduation from the University of Kentucky, Slaughter's first political fight came about in the early 1970s. She and her husband tried to stop bulldozers from tearing apart beech and maple trees in the Hart's Wood forest. They failed in that endeavor, but Slaughter had caught the political bug.
After three unsuccessful runs for the Monroe County Legislature, Slaughter finally won in 1976. She went on to serve two terms in New York's state assembly before running for the House of Representatives in 1986. By winning that election, Slaughter became the first woman to represent Western New York in the House. She was subsequently reelected to her position no less than 15 times.
Several high-profile figures took to Twitter to pay their respects.
The full statement from Slaughter's office includes an overview of her groundbreaking work.
Slaughter was born in Harlan County, Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and a Master of Science degree in Public Health. After graduate school, she and her husband, Robert “Bob” Slaughter, moved to the village of Fairport, New York. She and Bob were married for 57 years, until his passing in 2014. Together they had three daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Slaughter’s full biography is available here and her most recent portrait is available here.
She was elected to Congress in 1986. Prior to that, Slaughter served in the New York State Assembly from 1982 to 1986 and the Monroe County Legislature between 1976 and 1979. While holding elected office, she was regional coordinator to Mario Cuomo from 1976 to 1978 while he served as secretary of state and from 1979 to 1982 while he served as lieutenant governor.
Slaughter delivered results for Monroe County, securing major infrastructure investments, bringing high-tech companies to Eastman Business Park, and working to make Rochester a national leader in advanced manufacturing. She secured two federal manufacturing institutes for Rochester over three years: Slaughter led a more than three-year effort to create the federal photonics institute and to ensure that Rochester became the consortium’s national headquarters. After another vigorous Slaughter lobbying effort, she then announced in 2017 that an RIT-led consortium won a competition by the U.S. Department of Energy to headquarter a new public-private clean energy manufacturing institute.
In 2006, after learning that 80 percent of Americans killed in the Iraq War due to upper body wounds could have survived with adequate body armor, Slaughter started years-long effort to improve body armor safety standards. In 2009, she secured the recall and replacement of 16,000 pieces of unsafe body armor from the front lines. Her effort led to improved armor testing protocols and ended the practice of outsourcing testing to private companies.
Slaughter was given an official portrait at the Capitol in 2015 to honor her work.