Emily Taft Douglas

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Emily Taft Douglas (Representative) (10 April 1899 - 28 January 1994)

Daughter of Laredo Taft, a sculptor, Douglas was graduated with a Ph. B. from the University of Chicago in 1919, after which she worked in the theater and was the star of The Cat and the Canary on Broadway. In 1931 she married University of Chicago economics professor Paul H. Douglas. Concerned by the rise of fascism in Europe and by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, she returned from a trip abroad and in 1935 organized and chaired the Illinois League of Women Voters' department of government and foreign policy, becoming in 1942 the executive secretary of the International Relations Center in Chicago.

A citizen who suppored Franklin Delano Roosevelt's foreign policies, she won the at-large seat in the House of Representative despite being opposed by Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, defeating her opponent by over 191,000 votes.

Douglas opposed the establishment of a standing Committee on Un-American Activities. She also helped rescue former Vice President Henry Wallace's chances to become Secretary of Commerce by acceding to the demands of Wallace's opponents and voting for legislation to withdraw the Reconstruction Finance Corporation's lending bureau from the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department.

During her term in the Seventy-ninth Congress, Douglas served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and was widely recognized as a specialist in the field. She joined several committee colleagues on a visit to Europe in August 1945 to inspect the work of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Along with California Representative Jerry Voorhis, she proposed legislation to put the United Nations in charge of international programs for arms control and the abolition of atomic weaponry. She also called for greater federal support for libraries, particularly those in rural and low-income areas, and cosponsored a public library service demonstration bill. Weary and frustrated by wartime controls and shortages and the strains of demobilization, voters in the midterm elections of 1946 ousted fifty-four House Democrats, among them Douglas who lost to William G. Stratton.

Following her husband's election to the Senate in 1948, she served on the legislative committee of the Unitarian Fellowship for Social Justice and as the Continental Moderator of the American Unitarian Association. Douglas also wrote a book for juveniles, a biography of Margaret Sanger, and a book of biographical essays on famous American women.

A Unitarian, Douglas was a resident of White Plains, New York, until her death on January 28, 1994.

(John Keohane, in Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography, has written an extensive biography and included where archives can be located for further research.)