A true-life coal miner’s daughter and descendant of Daniel Boone, Louise McIntosh Slaughter was born at midnight on August 14, 1929 in Lynch, Kentucky. Today, her distinct accent and homespun phraseology are reminiscent of her rearing even after more than 40 years of life in Western New York.
Lynch was a small coal town nestled in the mountains of Harlan County. It was there in the shadow of U.S. Steel that Louise’s parents, Mack and Grace started their family with three daughters, Marjorie, Virginia and little Louise.
Mack worked hard as a coal miner supplementing his income playing baseball and pool on the side. He wanted to build a better life for his family and in those days you didn’t leave U.S. Steel’s Lynch, Kentucky, you had to escape.
It was also in Lynch that tragedy stuck the young McIntosh family when Louise’s sister Virginia was stricken with double pneumonia.
Louise and Marjorie were left in the care of their great grandmother Mary Jay Boone while Mack and Grace took a very ill Virginia to North Carolina for medical treatment. Because of a terrible medical mistake, Virginia would later succumb to the pneumonia leaving the family heartbroken. Years later Louise would pinpoint this moment as her reason for earning degrees in microbiology and public health.
While Grace continued to raise Louise and Marjorie in the shadow of such a sad event, Mack worked hard saving money and eventually securing a loan from friends to move the family from Lynch to Monticello. It was there that Mack really began to prosper going into business for himself.
If young women of her time were disadvantaged because of their gender, Louise certainly didn’t let that stop her. In high school Louise was a cheerleader and editor of the school newspaper. She found a love for music and the arts that has stayed with her for many years.
After graduating from high school, Louise enrolled at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where she studied Microbiology and her passion for music hit full stride as she began singing blues in a band.
A National Honors Society student, Louise recalls the positive influence her father had on her. His encouragement throughout her education propelled her through her Bachelors degree in Microbiology at UK to a Masters Degree in Public Health. He didn’t want his daughter to be dependent on anyone and the education Louise was receiving would make that hope a reality.
After graduate school, Louise went to work for a major chemicals manufacturer doing market research. Traveling from town to town for her work, Louise met Bob Slaughter, a handsome, blond hair, blue-eyed young man in San Antonio, Texas. Over the coming weeks and months they would date and eventually marry.
After marrying, Louise and Bob were off to Fairport, New York, where Bob had been offered a job. The freezing winters and hot summers were strange to say the least for the young Kentucky native but it was there that the happy couple began their family.
It wasn’t long before the Slaughter home was complete with three young daughters. Louise watched in fascination as her three little girls grew, each with their own unique personality, hopes and dreams.
Already involved in community groups like the Girl Scouts and the League of Women Voters, Louise became increasingly concerned with local political and community issues as her daughters grew older and more independent.
The environmental movement was just beginning in the early 1970’s. The white pines lining the roads of New York all the way to New England were dying. The Cuyahoga River had caught fire. New York City residents were suffering from lung and respiratory problems. Louise was ready to take action.
She joined with her neighbors in the fight to save an 18-acre plot of untouched forest land, complete with wetlands, firs and the entire succession of forest. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t save the forest from its eventual destruction by industry.
Armed with an increased passion for community planning and local issues, Louise decided to run for the Monroe County Legislature and though she was not elected on her first or second attempt, her third time proved to be the charm.
One and half terms into her service on the County Legislature, then New York Secretary of State, Mario Cuomo came calling. Leaving the legislature to work for Secretary of State Cuomo, Louise would spend the next 10 years committed to a man who would go on to become a three term Governor of New York as well as one of her dearest friends and mentors.
In 1982 local Democrats approached Louise with a desire to see her run for the State Assembly against a powerful Republican incumbent. Throwing her hat in the public arena for the second time, she knew the deck was stacked against her but after months of grassroots campaigning, Louise was elected to represent Western New York in the State Assembly.
Criminal justice, women’s health and environmental legislation dominated Louise’s work in the State Legislature and in 1986 she set her eyes on representing Western New York in Congress. She would again face off against a Republican incumbent determined to retain his seat and much like her race for the State Assembly in 1982, Louise’s hard work and grassroots campaigning would pay off.
On November 4, 1986, Louise M. Slaughter was elected to represent Western New York in the United States House of Representatives.
Since being elected to Congress in 1986, Louise has achieved a significant level of leadership as the Ranking Member on the influential House Committee on Rules, making her the first woman from either political party to hold the position.
A member of the House Democratic Leadership, Louise serves on the Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. She is the Democratic Chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus and the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Louise also serves as Co-Chair of the Future of American Media Caucus and is former Co-Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus.
Now in her ninth term, her constituents have come to know her as a strong proponent of progressive causes and a fighter for the employment concerns and the economic development of Western New York. She has earned a reputation for her dedication to constituent service.
As ranking member of the Committee on Rules, Louise has fought against the Republican Majority in an effort to curb the current deterioration of the Democratic process. In early March of 2005, she unveiled a Congressional report detailing the unprecedented erosion of the legislative process in the last decade. This report is just one component of Louise’s ongoing effort to restore the integrity of the House of Representatives.
For more than a decade Louise has been a vocal advocate of accountability in the media, striving to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters to provide balanced, truthful coverage on important local and political issues. In early 2005, she authored the Fairness and Accountability in Broadcasting Act, or FAB Act, which would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in an attempt to restore integrity and balance to the media.
A tireless promoter of economic development, Louise is deeply concerned with the job losses suffered in Western New York and throughout America. In Congress, she has introduced legislation to study the effects of international trade agreements like NAFTA on American jobs. To help local employers, she regularly holds conferences to help businesses access capital and federal contracting opportunities.
Louise’s fight to secure funding for local projects was recognized by the Rochester Institute of Technology, when it named its Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies facility, “The Louise M. Slaughter Building.”
Drawing on her experience as a microbiologist with a master’s degree in public health, Louise has been deeply involved in health issues. She is the leading expert in Congress on genetics issues and has authored cutting-edge legislation to protect Americans from discrimination by health insurance providers and employers based on genetic makeup.
A leading advocate for women’s rights, Louise co-authored the historic Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and wrote legislation to make permanent the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Office. She is leading the fight against sexual assault in the military, and organized a hearing on the issue in March 2004 that garnered national attention.
Louise has won historic increases in funding for women’s health. As a member of the House Budget Committee in the early 1990s, she secured the first $500 million earmarked by Congress for breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She fought for legislation guaranteeing that women and minorities are included in all federal health trials and establishing an Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at NIH.
Now gearing up for her tenth campaign for re-election to Congress, Louise remains committed to fighting for the important issues hard working families face each and every day in Western New York and throughout America. Like her first campaign this one will be won the only way Louise knows how; through hard work and a strong grassroots campaign.
Louise and Bob continue to live in Fairport, New York where they started their family nearly 50 years ago. Their three daughters have grown and made them proud grandparents seven times over.