ITHACA, N.Y. — Following the news of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s death, representatives locally and nationally on both sides of the political spectrum have praised Slaughter as fierce advocate, a pioneer for women and a politician who always cared about her community.

Slaughter died Friday at age 88. She was a Democrat who represented the Rochester area and was the oldest sitting member of Congress. She was serving her 16th term in the House of Representatives.

Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson offered condolences and said Slaughter was a pioneer for women.

“Known to her constituents simply as ‘Louise,’ her voice was always strong and in support of our region and working families across America,” Robertson said in a statement. “Representing the hometown of Susan B. Anthony, Congresswoman Slaughter has inspired New York women and girls for decades. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, and her community.”

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the passing of Slaughter was a tremendous loss for Rochester and all of New York.

“Born the daughter of a blacksmith, she never lost her Kentucky accent, but she rose to become an icon in Western New York. She got her political start as an activist trying to protect the Hart’s Woods from development, and although she wasn’t successful in that endeavor, she never gave up fighting for what she believed in, from the County Legislature, to the State Assembly to the halls of Congress,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

When Slaughter began her career — first running for Monroe County Legislature in the early 1970s and then being elected to the New York State Assembly in 1983— it was relatively rare for a woman to hold elected office.  Slaughter faced sexism while running for office as a woman and mother of young children, Schneiderman said, but she fought on and became the first woman chair of the powerful House Rules Committee.

“In my own experience working with Representative Slaughter to protect the Great Lakes from pollution and combat the opioid epidemic, her deep knowledge of policy and profound commitment to her community always shined through,” Schneiderman said.

Throughout her life, Slaughter has been an influential voice for women and co-authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which is credited with reducing cases of domestic violence by 67 percent since 1994. As the U.S. Department of Justice noted in a 2016 report, the bill was “designed to equip the justice system with resources, training, and policies to deal with a crime that historically was treated as a private matter between a husband and wife.”

In her biography online, it said despite her long list of accomplishments in Washington, Slaughter could be found just as often in the aisles of Wegmans as the halls of Congress. It further said she cared for her neighbors and would advocate for them even if it meant going against her colleagues or party.

Senator Chuck Schumer said Slaughter was a fierce advocate with deep convictions.

“Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was a giant. She had deep convictions — on both issues important to the people of Rochester, and for the integrity and honesty of the political system. Throughout her entire career, Louise worked with people from so many different philosophies and backgrounds, because she was such a genuine human spirit. The ferocity of her advocacy was matched only by the depth of her compassion and humanity. Her passing will leave a gaping hole in our hearts and our nation. My sincere condolences go out to her daughters and grandchildren and to the legions of people who loved and admired her,” Schumer said in a statement.

Congressman Tom Reed also acknowledged Slaughter’s passing, saying she “worked tirelessly to help improve the lives of those in the Rochester region and Western New York. It was an honor to serve in the House with her over the years. My deepest sympathies go out to her family. She will be missed.”

Featured image: Provided.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.