Floor Statement Honoring Eleanor Slater
MR REED: Mr. President, I rise today to honor Eleanor Slater, an extraordinary woman and leader who did so much for the State of Rhode Island and the country. Her passing is a great loss to her family and to Rhode Islanders. Not only did I have the privilege of knowing her throughout my political life, she was an ally, a mentor, an exemplar, and trustworthy friend. Born in 1908, Eleanor entered the political arena by winning election to the Rhode Island General Assembly at the spry age of 50. During the career that followed, she was widely known for fighting for the individuals and causes that are so often marginalized by our society. One of her greatest contributions, and there were many in her political career, was passage in the Rhode Island General Assembly of the Nation's very first fair housing legislation. The Slater Act of 1968 made it illegal to discriminate when selling or renting real estate property. This sorely needed law, which she had long championed to help bring greater equality to housing in Rhode Island, set a precedent for the entire country. Her determination remained a key characteristic throughout her political career. As a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Eleanor refused to succumb to the pressures of her peers to support President Johnson's strategy for the Vietnam War. She held steadfastly to her own opposing point of view and never compromised her values or beliefs. Eleanor joined the political fray at a time when women were largely left out of the inner political processes, and she is credited with getting women involved in Democratic politics in Rhode Island. As a standout member of a predominately male legislature, she actively encouraged other woman to run for political office and became the vice chairwoman of the Democratic State Committee in 1958. Upon leaving the Rhode Island State Senate, she served as the first chief of the Division of Aging. Then, recognizing the importance of education, she fulfilled her longtime goal and desire of completing her studies, obtaining a bachelor's degree in political science at age 70 from the University of Rhode Island, URI. She continued to contribute to the community as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer on aging at URI, receiving an honorary Ph.D. in 1980. So today I honor Rhode Islander Eleanor Slater for her lifetime of passion and commitment, and I thank her for her friendship and inspiration. She will be sorely missed by those who knew her and those that have benefited from her unwavering efforts.