Former Rep. Frances Payne Bolton. (R-Ohio), a Standard Oil heiress who became one of the hardest working members of Congress during her tenure of nearly 29 years, died Wednesday at her home in Lyndhurst, Ohio. She was 91.
Only one woman member of Congress served longer than she - Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers (D-Mass.), who died in 1960, just after she had been nominated for her 19th two-year term.
Mrs. Bolton was defeated in 1968 when she attempted at the age of 83 to win her 15th consecutive term, by Rep. Charles A. Vanik, a Democrat, who challenged her after a shifting of district boundaries.
Marquls Childs in a column in the Washington Post in the 1945, when Mrs. Bolton had been in the House for nine years, characterized this way: "She knows that a Conservative is not someone who merely says no in a loud and angry voice. A conservative must know how to conserve, which does not mean standing in the way of all change."
There was an electic equality about this very rich woman from Cleveland who more than did her job in the legislative halls. She made herself in expert on Africa. She traveled, with the help of her own considerable resources, for hundreds of thousands of miles to see what the world was like.
She could be called the "mother" of the Army Nurse Corps because of forts she made as a civilian during World War I. She interested herself personally and financially in such diverse activities as control of veneral disease, extra-sensory perception, medical education for blacks, basic English, the illegitmate children of American soliders overseas and African art. At 65, she could and did dance the polka with her Slavic constituents.
She asked on special perquisites as a woman in Congress, but was frequently critical of her male colleagues. During the civil rights debates in the 1960s, she said on the floor of the House, while trying to get a federal ban against discrimination against women: "Your bones harden long before our bones do. We live longer and have more endurance."
She tole the National Press Club in 1965, "The Lord after creating the world, put a man in charge. He messed everything up, so the Lord turned everything over to a woman, and he gave her everything He had given man, plus two more things: pain, so that she would understand what creation is, and laughter, so that she could stand that and the man."
Mrs. Bolton, after her 1968 defeat, returned to Cleveland but kept an office in Washington as a base from which to operate the many interests she kept in this area, including the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which maintains the George Washingto estate.
She was president of the Accokeek Foundation, and for it bought more than 400 acres of land across the Potomac from Mount Vernon to protect it from development and preserve the view. The tract and other land has been designated as Piscataway Park, under federal auspices, but has not yet been developed.
Mrs. Bolton retained her home on Wyoming Avenue NW near the Frency Embassy, and used it during her visits here, which might have been as four times a year. She also kept houses in Maine and Palm Beach, Fla., where her father was one of the first people to build a winter vacation home.
Born Frances Payne Bingham on March 29, 1885, she was reared in the style of the newly wealthy society of industrial Cleveland, and in a climate of high-level Republican politics. Her father, Charles W. Bingham, banker and industrialist, was a close friend of William McKinley, Mark Hanna and William Howard Taft.
However, one of her grandfathers, Henry B. Payne, was a Democrat who represented Ohio both as a representative and a senator. One of his sons, Oliver Hazard Payne, was an early associate of John D. Rockefeller Sr., in the formation of the Standard Oil Company. Mrs. Bolton inherited a fortune from this uncle, among whose other heirs was her cousin, Payne Whitney, the New York financier.
Mrs. Bolton attended private school in Cleveland, then Miss Spence's in New York where the daughters of wealthy families living west of the Alleghenies were sent for eastern "finishing." She later studied voice at the Mannes School of Music in New York, and for a time, was said to have considered a singing career.
But she went back to Cleveland, made her debut, and joined a debutante club called the Brownies, which engaged in various good works. Unlike most debutantes of her day, Frances Bingham's encounter with the darker side of Cleveland during duties as an assistant to public health nurses left a lasting imprssion. For the rest of her life, nursing and public health were major preoccupations.
In 1907 she married Chester Castle Bolton, a son of Mark Hanna's business partner.
The Boltons had three sons and a daughter. The infant daughter died a day after her birth during the influenza epidemic of 1919. Mrs. Bolton also nearly died in the epidemic.
Her bout with influenza left Mrs. Bolton a near invalid, but she took up yoga exercises and regained her health and energy.
In 1928, her husband ran for Congress as a Republican from Ohio's 22d District, and won. He served in the House until 1939, except for a two-year hiatus when he was beaten during the Roosevelt landslide in 1936.
When her husband died in 1939, Mrs. Bolton successfully ran in a special election to replace him in the House.
When Mrs. Bolton was elected to Congress in 1939, whe was "vaguely isolationst," as one writer described her. She voted the conventional Republican line of those days - against president Franklin D. Roosevelt's "billions for defense" legislation, Lend-Lease, and other measures. With the coming og Pearl Harbor, like other Republicans', her views changed.
The first significant piece of successful legislation she sponsored was the Bolton Act, which established the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. More than 124,000 nurses were trained under act, and nurses in uniform began receiving pay comparable to that of male officers.
Mrs. Bolton's Cleveland area district became the most populous in the nation, having more than 900,000 people after World War II. In 1952, it was divided, and her son, Oilver P., ran for election as a Republican in the new district. According to one biographical sketch, Mrs. Bolton asked her son if there was anything she could do to help him in his campaign. His reply was, "Sure there is - stay the hell out of my district." He was elected.
The only mother-son combination to serve simultaneously in Congress, they differed many times in their votes. Oliver Bolton suffered a heart attack in 1956, and left the Congress. He died in 1972.
Mrs. Bolton is survived by a son, Kenyon Castle Bolton, of Cleveland, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.