A Woman First
The Impact of Jennifer Dunn

You could hastily make assumptions about Jennifer Blackburn Dunn. Born in the Emerald City at the brink of World War II, Dunn wore pink dresses and braided her blond hair. Eventually, she attracted a bevy of male suitors. "It was very funny, because at one time I was dating four Larrys, four Jerrys and two Johns."

But the same Jennifer Dunn could effortlessly shoot a .22 rifle and once yanked 11 flopping trout from Issaquah Creek in 20 minutes, outfishing her brother and 100 other boys. Dunn graduated from Stanford in 1963, when men outnumbered women two to one. She worked at IBM, when most women stayed at home. She married and divorced, becoming the very single mother she would one day represent in Congress.

More than 130 years after the first women’s rights convention, Dunn blazed trails and built an uncommon resume. She made history as the first woman to chair the state Republican Party. She secured a seat in Congress during 1992’s Year of the Woman. Dunn was the fifth woman to sit on the prestigious Ways & Means Committee, third woman in history to serve as vice chair of the House Republican Conference and first woman to run for House majority leader. Three times Dunn engaged in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a summit dedicated to women’s rights. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Dunn co-chaired the Iraqi Women’s Caucus and helped inspire a new beginning for Iraqi women. None of it came easily. “Jen had to prove herself at every step of her life,” her brother, John Blackburn, said. “She felt she had to prove herself to Mother growing up. She had to prove herself to her teachers and professors at college. She proved herself to IBM. She proved she could raise money for the Republican Party to the heads of Boeing and several Seattle banks. She proved that she was electable both for the state of Washington Republican Party and to the U.S. House of Representatives. She proved she was more than a pretty face.”

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