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Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker (née Landon; born July 29, 1932) is an American politician who represented the State of Kansas in the United States Senate from 1978 to 1997. She is the daughter of Alf Landon, who was Governor of Kansas from 1933 to 1937 and the 1936 Republican nominee for president, and the widow of former Senator and diplomat Howard Baker. She was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress.[a]

Nancy Kassebaum
Chair of the Senate Labor Committee
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byTed Kennedy
Succeeded byJim Jeffords
United States Senator
from Kansas
In office
December 23, 1978 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byJames Pearson
Succeeded byPat Roberts
Personal details
Nancy Landon

(1932-07-29) July 29, 1932 (age 87)
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Philip Kassebaum
(m. 1956; div. 1979)

Howard Baker
(m. 1996; died 2014)
Children4, including Bill and Richard
EducationUniversity of Kansas (BA)
University of Michigan (MA)

Early life and educationEdit

Baker was born in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of Theo (née Cobb) and Governor Alf Landon.[1] She attended Topeka High School and graduated in 1950. She graduated from the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 1954, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. In 1956, she received a master's degree in diplomatic history from the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, Philip Kassebaum. They married in 1956. They settled in Maize, Kansas, where they raised four children.[2]

She worked as vice president of Kassebaum Communications, a family-owned company that operated several radio stations. Kassebaum also served on the Maize School Board. In 1975, Kassebaum and her husband were legally separated; their divorce became final in 1979. Kassebaum worked in Washington, D.C., as a caseworker for Senator James B. Pearson of Kansas in 1975, but returned to Kansas the following year.[3]



She was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress, and the second woman elected to a Senate seat without it being held first by her husband (Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was first elected to the House of Representatives to fill her husband's vacancy but later won four Senate elections) or appointed to complete a deceased husband's term. She was also the first woman to represent Kansas in the Senate.

At the time that she entered the race, Kassebaum was legally separated from her husband Philip but not yet divorced. She chose to use the name Nancy Landon Kassebaum to capitalize on the political fame of her father.[4] She defeated eight other Republicans in the 1978 primary elections to replace retiring Republican James B. Pearson and then defeated former Democratic Congressman Bill Roy (who narrowly lost a previous election bid to Kansas's junior senator, Bob Dole, in 1974) in the general election. After her first few years in office, "her maiden name was used less and less as the senator established her own credibility and credentials as a federal lawmaker." For the rest of her political career, she was primarily known as Nancy Kassebaum.[5] She was re-elected to her Senate seat in 1984 and 1990 but did not seek re-election in 1996.


Kassebaum is a moderate-to-liberal Republican who is known for her health care legislation, known as the Kennedy-Kassebaum Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which was co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat. She was also active in foreign policy. She expressed strong support of anti-apartheid measures against South Africa in the 1980s[6] and traveled to Nicaragua as both an election observer and to encourage diplomatic resolutions to the conflict between the Contras and the Sandinistas.

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Nancy Kassebaum answer a reporter's question during a joint press briefing in 1997.

Early in her career, she was tapped to serve as Temporary Chairperson of the 1980 Republican National Convention. Presiding over the first two days of the convention, her appointment to that role was seen by many as a nod from the Reagan campaign to the moderate and liberal wings of the party.

Kassebaum voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991, a vote she would later come to regret, expressing disappointment in his performance.[7] The year after the hearings, she noted, "I was never once asked by anyone at the White House or by any of my colleagues about how I reacted to Anita Hill's public allegations of sexual harassment or how I thought the allegations should be handled."[8]

In 1991, Kassebaum was mentioned by Time magazine as a possible running mate for President George H.W. Bush if Vice President Dan Quayle was not the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 1992 U.S. presidential election.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Kassebaum is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. She is also a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.[10]

In 1996, she married former U.S. Senator Howard Baker, Jr. of Tennessee.[11] He died in 2014.

Her son, William Kassebaum, is a former member of the Kansas House of Representatives.[12] Her other son, filmmaker Richard Kassebaum, died of a brain tumor August 27, 2008, at the age of 47.

As of 2015, she resides at a family ranch near Burdick, Kansas.[13] She is a noted critic of President Donald Trump.[14] In 2018, she, alongside other incumbent and former Republican politicians, endorsed Laura Kelly, the Democratic candidate and eventual victor, in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial election.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Of the female Senators who preceded Kassebaum: Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA), Rose McConnell Long (D-LA), Dixie Bibb Graves (D-AL), Vera C. Bushfield (R-SD), Eva Bowring (R-NE), Elaine S. Edwards (D-LA), Muriel Humphrey (D-MN), Maryon Pittman Allen (D-AL) were all appointed and were never elected; Gladys Pyle (R-SD) and Hazel Abel (R-NE), were elected, but not to full terms (i.e., to complete terms where the previous senator had died or resigned, not to new six-year terms); Hattie Caraway (D-AR) and Maurine Brown Neuberger (D-OR) were both elected to full six-year terms, but their husbands had held the seat previously. Margaret Chase Smith's (R-ME) husband never served in the Senate, but he did serve in the House. When he died, Margaret won the ensuing election. Of the appointed senators, Long, Bushfield, Humphrey, and Allen were all appointed to fill out part of the terms of their deceased husbands, while Graves and Edwards were appointed by their husbands, the Governor of their states at the time. However, Kassebaum's father means that the first woman to be elected without any family connections was Paula Hawkins (R-FL), elected in 1980.


  1. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". 8 December 1996 – via
  2. ^ women in congress: Nancy Landon Kassebaum Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "KASSEBAUM, Nancy Landon - US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives".
  4. ^ "Nancy Landon Kassebaum Intends To Use Dad's Name", The Fort Scott Tribune (March 22, 1978), p. 4.
  5. ^ "Salute To Senator: Her Retirement Came As No Surprise, But Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Still Will Be Missed By Kansans", Lawrence Journal-World (November 21, 1995).
  6. ^ "The Free Lance-Star - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ "Kassebaum regrets vote for Thomas". Knight-Rider News Service. May 27, 1995. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  8. ^ Reported in Wendy Kaminer, "Crashing the Locker Room", The Atlantic (July 1992), Vol, 270, p. 59-60.
  9. ^ "Time Covers - The 90'S - Hosted by Google". 19 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Issue One – ReFormers Caucus".
  11. ^ "Nancy Kassebaum and Howard Baker". The New York Times. 1996-12-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns - Candidate - William A. Kassebaum". Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  13. ^ "Marion County RECORD - Newspaper from Marion KS - September 30, 2015". 1 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Donald Trump draws the ire of Nancy Kassebaum at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  15. ^ Hunter Woodall, "GOP stalwart Nancy Kassebaum picks Democrat Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach," Kansas City Star, September 2018.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
James Pearson
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Kansas
(Class 2)

1978, 1984, 1990
Succeeded by
Pat Roberts
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
James Pearson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Kansas
Served alongside: Bob Dole, Sheila Frahm, Sam Brownback
Succeeded by
Pat Roberts
Preceded by
Ted Kennedy
Chair of the Senate Labor Committee
Succeeded by
Jim Jeffords