The Women’s Congressional Policy Institute (WCPI) Board of Directors, Emeritus Board, staff, and current and former congressional fellows mourn the passing of Susan Scanlan, longtime president of the Women’s Education and Research Institute (WREI) and past chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, on Friday, July 16, 2021.
In 1980, Susan wrote the proposal to establish the Congressional Fellowships on Women and Public Policy at WREI, a unique opportunity for a select number of students pursuing a graduate degree or those who recently completed a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree with a proven commitment to equity for women. Fellows gain practical policymaking experience and graduate credit as they work from January to July in congressional offices. More than 300 Fellows have come to Congress since 1980, the majority of whom teach, lobby, practice law or medicine, or continue their policy work on Capitol Hill.
For much of the fellowship’s history, Susan directed the program. WCPI always will be grateful for her decision to move her beloved Fellows program to WCPI in January of 2014 following her retirement. A congressional fellowship was established in Susan’s name in 2014 and continues today, thanks to the support of contributions made by the Kahn Education Foundation and former WCPI and WREI fellows.
Susan helped found the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues in 1977, and WREI, established to provide policy support for the Caucus. In 1977, only 18 women served in the House of Representatives and one woman in the Senate. As an organization that works closely with the Caucus, we are grateful for Susan’s work in its early years and her leadership on a wide range of women’s issues over her career at WREI.
After 12 years with the Caucus and WREI, Susan pursued career opportunities in Asia with her husband, Jared Cameron, returning to WREI in January 1999 and becoming president of the organization in 2000. Because of WREI’s Women in the Military project, Susan was named by President Bill Clinton to the Advisory Committee on Employment and Training for Veterans at the Department of Labor. In 2003, she received the Women’s Leadership Award from the International Women’s Democracy Center, along with then-Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. In November 2005, Susan was elected chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, a coalition of over 200 women’s groups.
Susan began her career as legislative director for Rep. Charles Wilson, where she helped author legislation that admitted women to the U.S. military academies and established Women’s History Month in March. Susan was a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Sweet Briar College, and earned a Master’s degree in modern languages from Tulane University. She served on the boards of the National Women’s History Museum and the Kahn Education Foundation.
We are very grateful to Susan for her long career on behalf of women in this country and globally, and her legacy developing young women leaders. Susan was a larger-than-life personality who inspired so many women throughout their careers. She was a dear friend, mentor, sister, and second mother to decades of fellows and colleagues. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and many friends.