Catherine Dean May Bedell, 90, the first woman to be elected to Congress from Washington state, died of cardiorespiratory arrest May 28 in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where she lived.
Known as Catherine Dean May when she was elected to the House in 1958, she was a Republican and served six terms before losing to Democrat Mike McCormack in 1970.
As an elected congresswoman not following in a husband's footsteps, she was a rarity at the time. Mrs. Bedell served six years in the state House before her election to Congress. She supported the Equal Rights Amendment and worked to include a prohibition against discrimination based on gender into the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but never identified herself as a women's rights activist. She was appointed to the U.S. International Trade Commission by President Richard M. Nixon and served for 10 years, until 1981. She also was appointed special consultant to the president on the 50 States Project in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan.
She was president of Bedell Associates, a trade consulting firm, in Palm Desert, Calif.
Born in Yakima, Wash., she graduated from Yakima Valley Junior College and the University of Washington. She taught high school English for three years, then studied speech at the University of Southern California. She returned to the Northwest to work at KMO Radio in Tacoma, Wash. She went to work for NBC in New York in 1944, where she was credited as producer of the first Betty Crocker radio show.
She returned to Washington state as the women's editor at KIT radio from 1948 through 1957. She lived in the District while a member of Congress and while working in the area.
Her 25-year marriage to James Otis May ended in divorce.
She remarried in 1970 to Donald W. Bedell, who has since died.
Survivors include two children from her first marriage, James C. May of the District and Melinda May Mazzetti of San Francisco.