Jocelyn Burdick

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Jocelyn Burdick
United States Senator
from North Dakota
In office
September 12, 1992 – December 14, 1992
Appointed byGeorge Sinner
Preceded byQuentin Burdick
Succeeded byKent Conrad
Personal details
Jocelyn Louise Birch

(1922-02-06)February 6, 1922
Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.
DiedDecember 26, 2019(2019-12-26) (aged 97)
Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Kenneth Peterson
(died 1958)
(m. 1960; died 1992)
EducationPrincipia College
Northwestern University (BA)

Jocelyn Louise Burdick (née Birch; February 6, 1922 – December 26, 2019) was an American politician from North Dakota who briefly served as a Democratic United States senator during 1992. She was the first woman from the state to hold this office. At the age of 97, she was the oldest living former U.S. Senator for the last eight months of her life.

Early life and education[edit]

Burdick was born in Fargo, North Dakota,[1] the daughter of Magdalena Towers (Carpenter) and Albert Birch.[2] Her great-grandmother was suffragist and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage.[3] Burdick was the great-niece, by marriage, of L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz, who was married to her great-aunt, activist Maud Gage Baum.[4] She was educated at Principia College and at Northwestern University.[1]

Early career[edit]

After graduating from Northwestern, Burdick returned to Fargo working as a radio announcer at KVOX radio.[1][2] Burdick was engaged in civics throughout her marriage to Quentin Burdick. She was part of the official U.S. delegation to Russia in 1978 and she was a trustee to the Lake Agassiz Arts Council. Burdick helped to found the Democratic Women Plus in the early 1980s. She also recorded public service announcements against drunk driving and drug use in 1989.[1]

U.S. Senate[edit]

Upon the death of her husband Senator Quentin N. Burdick in September 1992, Jocelyn Burdick was appointed by Governor George Sinner to fill the vacancy in his position until a special election was held. She did not run as a candidate for election to the rest of the term. During her brief tenure in office, Burdick supported legislation on pay equity and women's rights.[1] After Kent Conrad took office in December 1992, Burdick retired to Fargo.[5]

Burdick was the first woman from North Dakota to serve in either house of the U.S. Congress. She lived in Fargo, where she remained active in politics. She was the oldest living former U.S. Senator on April 6, 2019, following the death of Fritz Hollings.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Burdick was a devout Christian Scientist. Burdick's first husband was Kenneth Peterson. She had two children with Peterson. Peterson died in 1958 of a heart attack. Two years later she married Quentin Burdick. With Quentin she had another son, Gage. Gage died in 1978 from an accident with an electric belt sander. Burdick died in Fargo on December 26, 2019 at the age of 97.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Stotts, Ryan (December 27, 2019). "Jocelyn Burdick, North Dakota's first female US Senator, dies at 97". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Urness, Steve (December 28, 2019). "Jocelyn Burdick Passes Away At 97". News Dakota. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  3. ^ preservation, Etats-Unis House of representatives Office of history and; Staff, House (U S. ), Committee on House Administration (2006). Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Government Printing Office. p. 685. ISBN 978-0-16-076753-1. Jocelyn Birch was born to Albert and Magdalena Towers Carpenter Birch.
  4. ^ Carpenter, Harry Gage (October 13, 2016). Unique Adventures: A Memoir. iUniverse. ISBN 9781532002045.
  5. ^ "Senator Burdick's Wife Is Interim Successor". The New York Times. September 13, 1992.
  6. ^ Ashe, Victor (April 29, 2019). "Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Magnolia channel under Knoxville's Allison Page". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved December 31, 2019.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator (Class 1) from North Dakota
Served alongside: Kent Conrad
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Oldest living United States senator
(Sitting or former)

April 6, 2019 – December 26, 2019
Succeeded by