During her 26 years in the Senate, Elizabeth Letchworth observed major changes in the institution. In this oral history, she describes the rising prominence of women in positions of power, the introduction of television and its impact on the quality of Senate debate, and technological advances that helped leaders organize and communicate more effectively with members and their staff. Beginning as a page in Hugh Scott’s office, Letchworth worked with Republican leaders Howard Baker, Bob Dole, and Trent Lott, and she describes the ways in which their individual qualities helped shape legislative outcomes during their tenure. The role of party secretary, Letchworth says, is to be the leaders’ “eyes and ears on the floor.” This often meant addressing the concerns of individual members—either related to scheduling conflicts, or objections to legislation—before they became major issues. The demands of the job are many, including earning the trust of members, exercising discretion, and above all, learning the rhythms of an unpredictable institution. Senator Lott once told a staffer, “I have never met anybody who can read the Senate as well as [Elizabeth] can.”
Scholarly citation: "Elizabeth Letchworth: Page, Floor Assistant, Republican Party Secretary (1975-2011)," Oral History Interviews, October 5, 2010 to March 21, 2012, Senate Historical Office, Washington, D.C.