On Monday, it was announced that former US Representative Jan Meyers had died. Her passing was caused by heart disease three days before. She was in Merriam, Kansas at the time.

Her name might not be a household one. But, her time in Congress was a groundbreaking one.

A pioneer for women in politics

Meyers was originally named Janice Lenore Crilly. She was a native of Nebraska. After attending a college in Missouri, she graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1951. While an employee at an Omaha radio station, she married Louis Meyers in 1953.

They would have two children.

The Meyers family would become settled in Overland Park, Kansas. Louis Meyers would find a career in the business of television. Jan made an unsuccessful attempt at the Kansas House of Representatives in 1966. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Overland Park City Council. In 1972, she was elected to the Kansas Senate.

Meyers' first attempt at federal politics came in 1978. She ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. The incumbent senator, Republican James B. Pearson, was retiring. Another woman, Nancy Kassebaum would win the nomination and later the general election. Kassebaum is the daughter of former Kansas governor and U.S. presidential candidate, Alf Landon.

Meyers continued serving in the Kansas Senate for several more years.

In 1984, longtime Republican U.S. Representative Larry Winn was not running for re-election. Winn represented the 3rd District of Kansas, which was where Jan Meyers resided. Meyers sought and received the Republican nomination and emerged victorious in the general election.

She would be elected another five times to the House of Representatives from the 3rd District. In what would be her final term, she was named chair of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business. As per KMBC, she was the first woman in Congress to chair a major committee.

Meyers decided not to run again in 1996. She supported term limits of members of Congress.

Her son, Phil, ran for the House from Hawaii in 2000. He would lose to incumbent Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who later became governor. Louis Meyers died in 2009. Current Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has order flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Meyers.

Groundbreaker in Kansas politics

Meyers was the first female U.S. Representative from Kansas to hold office for an extended time. Two women had been elected to the House from Kansas before her, both Democrats.

Kathryn O'Laughlin defeated Republican incumbent Charles I. Sparks in 1932. Shortly after, she married State Senator Daniel M. McCarthy and took his name. She was defeated by Republican Frank Carlson in 1934. Carlson later became governor of Kansas and a longtime U.S.


Martha Keys won a seat in 1974. She'd been convinced to run by her brother-in-law, Gary Hart. Hart was a U.S. senator from Colorado and later became an infamous presidential candidate. She won one more term before losing to Republican James Edmund Jeffries.

Nancy Kassebaum was the first women to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate. She was later joined by fellow Republican Sheila Frahm. Frahm had been lieutenant governor and a state senator.