Maurine B. Neuberger, 93, a Democrat from Oregon who was the third woman elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate, died of a bone marrow disorder Feb. 22 at a Portland, Ore., nursing home.
During her single term, from 1961 to 1967, she became a proponent of progressive causes in the mold of her popular husband, Sen. Richard L. Neuberger. Beating five opponents, she won election to her husband's seat in 1960 after he died of a cerebral hemorrhage that year at age 47.
Maurine Neuberger joined the only other female senator at that time, Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine), who served from 1948 to 1973. The first woman elected to a full Senate term was Arkansas Democrat Hattie W. Caraway, in office from 1932 to 1945.
It was in a pre-feminist era that Sen. Neuberger decided to pursue a political career. Not only did her colleagues have their notions of a woman's place, but image-makers like The Washington Post, in an editorial promoting her arrival, asserted that "she's prettier by a considerable margin than most Senators."
Health, education and consumer reforms became Sen. Neuberger's major issues. She sponsored one of the first bills to mandate health warning labels on cigarette packages and advocated a cigarette tax in her 1963 book published by Prentiss-Hall, "Screen: Tobacco and the Public Welfare."
Fighting the billboard lobby and the Teamsters union, she persuaded the Senate to extend a beautification effort first inserted by her husband into the Interstate Highway Act of 1956. The anti-billboard section of the 1956 act financially rewarded states for keeping billboards at a distance from highways.
"The question," she said from the Senate floor, "is whether the view from the highway will be 'purple mountain majesties' or ads for cigarettes."
She did not seek reelection, saying she did not like the amount of time devoted to fund-raising. A tough challenge had been mounted by her eventual successor, then-Gov. Mark O. Hatfield, a Republican.
Maurine Brown was born in Cloverdale, Ore., and graduated in 1929 from the University of Oregon. Active in the League of Women Voters, she also taught in Oregon schools before marrying Richard Neuberger in 1945. She joined her husband, then a state senator, in politics as a state representative from 1951 to 1955.
"I decided that I might as well be speaking for my sex in the House of Representatives as knitting socks and sweaters while I watched Dick from the Senate gallery," she told an interviewer at the time.
In 1954, they co-wrote "Adventures in Politics: We Go to the Legislature," published by Oxford Press.
Among the notable tales of her tenure in the state House was successfully battling the influential dairy industry's efforts to ban yellow margarine, fearing it posed a challenge to butter. Donning a kitchen apron and holding a mixing bowl, she demonstrated before her mostly male colleagues the hard task of mixing food coloring into white butter substitute to make it look like butter.
"She did have a reputation for knowing how to dramatize an issue," said Irwin N. Gertzog, the author of "Congressional Women."
Sen. Neuberger married Philip Solomon in 1964. After their divorce in 1967, she taught American government at Boston University and the Radcliffe Institute. She also chaired the Citizens Advisory Council of the President's Committee on the Status of Women and was a consultant to the Food and Drug Administration.
By the 1970s she returned to Oregon, where she was looked upon as the eminence grise among aspiring female politicians.
"In politics," she once counseled, "the woman intruder is most effective when she is seen but rarely heard. This does not mean she must be a cipher, but she must make every verbal missile count."
She leaves no immediate survivors.