The Green Blog
Maurine Brown Neuberger, Delta Zeta and Pioneer Advocate for Green
Maurine Brown Neuberger, Omega (University of Oregon), Delta Zeta's Woman of the Year for 1961, was notable on many fronts, but at Pink Goes Green, we're especially interested in her work in conservation and on environmental issues.

Elected in 1960 to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of her husband, Richard, she championed consumer protection, was an early opponent of the tobacco industry and in her long retirement years came to be the venerated elder stateswoman of Oregon Democrats. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed her to be a member of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), which was established that same year to advise the President on issues concerning the status of women. The establishment of the PCSW meant that the federal government would consider women's rights and roles as being a serious issue worthy of political debate and public policy-making.


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One of her proudest achievements during her first session in Congress was the passage of her amendment to the federal highway construction bill which gave states additional federal aid money if they restricted billboards along highway rights of way, helping to preserve natural landscapes.

She also co-sponsored a bill to set up a National Wilderness Preservation System to protect virgin areas in the United States. Today, The National Wilderness Preservation System of the United States protects federally managed land areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. It was established by the Wilderness Act (Public Law 88-577) upon the signature of President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964. The National Wilderness Preservation System originally created hundreds of wilderness zones within already protected federally administered property, consisting of over nine million acres. As of August 2008, a total of 704 separate wilderness areas, encompassing 107,514,938 acres, had been set aside. With the passage of the Omnibus Public Lands Act in March 2009, there are now 756 wilderness areas. (Wikipedia).

During her tenure as Senator, Maurine also fought to protect Oregon's fish, wildlife and recreational resources.

A former high school English teacher in Portland, she was the third woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 1960 and the only one to serve in the legislative body from Oregon. She married Richard Neuberger in 1945 after he served in the Army in World War II.

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Maurine and her husband, Richard, in Washington, D.C. in 1957

The Neubergers gained notice in 1951 as the first married couple in U.S. history to serve together in a legislature, he in the Oregon Senate and she in the House. When her husband was elected to the United States Senate, Maurine was again by his side working in his office and championing his causes, many of them environmental. One lasting mark he left as a Senator was the creation of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the Pacific Coast of Oregon. He initially introduced a bill for its creation in 1959. After being defeated 12 years in a row, the bill was finally signed into law in 1972.  The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located on the Oregon Coast, stretching approximately 40 miles north from the Coos River in North Bend, to the Siuslaw River, in Florence. The dunes are a unique area of windswept sand that is the result of millions of years of wind, sun, and rain erosion on the coast. These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Some dunes tower up to 150 meters above sea level.

In 1986, in a newspaper interview, Maurine said she always "kept a finger in politics. During every election I do something, although it may be just campaigning for a candidate for state representative or something like that." At that time, she was working with senators to save the Columbia River gorge. "We're fighting with developers on the Washington side," she said.

Maurine Neuberger was a savvy legislator who understood the importance of conservation and preserving the natural world for future generations. She was truly a pioneer for the environment who would not back down. "I make a fight for my beliefs and I listen to advice, but I will not be unduly swayed," she said. At Pink Goes Green, we're so glad she did just that for the good of the environment.  Thank you, Maurine!

Sources:  Harvard Square Library, Wikipedia: Maurine Brown Neuberger, Wikipedia: Richard L. Neuberger, The LAMP of Delta Zeta, Issues March, 1951; Autumn, 1960; Winter 1960-61.