Nancy Landon Kassebaum

former U.S. senator from Kansas
Born: 7/29/1932
Birthplace: Topeka, Kansas

Kassebaum has politics in her blood. Her father, Alfred M. Landon, served as governor of Kansas from 1932 to 1937, and was the Republican presidential nominee in 1936. She was elected to the U.S. senate in 1978, becoming the only woman in the Senate. She defeated eight other Republican candidates in the primary and Democrat Bill Roy in the general election.

As a senator, Kassebaum was known for building coalitions and her practical approach to fiscal issues. She initially supported the Equal Rights Amendment, but later did not vote for an extension to the ratification deadline. She endorsed welfare reform and sought to improve the health care system. She served on the Foreign Relations, Budget, and Labor and Human Resources committees. She won reelection in 1984 and again in 1990. She retired from the Senate in 1996 and married Howard Baker, a former senator from Tennessee.

Kassebaum graduated from the University of Kansas in 1954, with a degree in political science. She received a master's degree in diplomatic history from the University of Michigan in 1956. She married businessman George Kassebaum that year and became vice president of Kassebaum Communications, a firm that owned two radio stations. While she was raising her four children, she kept her hand in politics, serving on the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission and Kansas Committee on the Humanities. She was also a member of the Maize, Kansas, school board (1972–1975). Kassebaum and her husband divorced in 1975, and she moved to Washington DC for a job as an aide to Kansas senator James B. Pearson. She won his Senate seat in 1978.