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The 1996 American Woman Award
Nancy Kassebaum Baker


Nancy Kassebaum Baker, a Senator from Kansas, was born in Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas on July 29, 1932. She attended the public schools of Topeka and graduated from the University of Kansas in1954 before going on to receive a graduate degree from the University of Michigan in1956.

She worked as a caseworker for Senator James B. Pearson, a member of the Maise, Kansas school board and was vice president of radio station KFH-KLZS in Wichita. She also served as a member of the Kansas governmental ethics commission (1975-1976) and the Kansas committee for the humanities (1975-1979). Elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1978, and serving for the six-year term commencing in 1979, she was subsequently appointed by the Governor in December of 1978, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James B. Pearson, for the term ending in 1979. She was reelected in 1984 and again in 1990 and served from 1978-1997. She was not a candidate for reelection in 1996. Her committee posts included serving as chair of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources (104th Congress). She also held influential seats on the Transportation, Commerce and Science Committees, the Foreign Relations and the Budget Committees.

A Wichita homemaker for many years, Nancy Kassebaum raised her four children there and now has seven grandchildren. She is or has been: president, the Women's Association, Institute of Logopedics; chairman, Women's Division, United Fund of Wichita; member, Mortar Board; chairman, the Senate Military Reform Caucus; and member of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues.

She was cited as a Yale University Chubb Fellow, received the Matrix Award from Women in Communications, and was chosen as Temporary Chairman of the 1980 Republican National Convention and Deputy Permanent Chairman of the 1984 Convention. She has been a leading force in the U.S. Senate and a special friend to the Northwood University Margaret Chase Smith Library in Maine. She was chosen by the National Association of Secretaries of State as the 2000 winner of the Margaret Chase Smith American Democracy Award.

She is currently married to former Speaker Henry Baker, Jr., who has been appointed Ambassador to Japan. She also served on the Presidential Appointee Initiative Advisory Board for President George W. Bush.

Before moving to Japan with her husband, Senator Kassebaum Baker served on the Board of Trustees for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation. She was Chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the George C. Marshall Foundation, and the American-Turkish Council. She was also on the board of directors of the National Committee on US-China Relations, the African Law Institute Council-ABA, the International Medical Corps, and Handgun Control.