There are more than 430 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, but only 73 of them are women. Many of these women left behind family and friends to represent their districts in the U.S. Congress. The congresswomen who live together share not only a high-powered career in politics, but also family and motherhood.
It's eight in the evening and the end of a hectic day at the house of Carolyn Maloney, Melissa Bean and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all Democrats, in a neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol. For five years, the three women have shared a house and their lives while serving in one of the most prominent and fast-paced careers in Washington. Carolyn Maloney, a congresswoman since 1993 owns the home they share. She bought it after living alone in an apartment for more than a decade.
"When I bought this house I thought I would like to be like the Founding Fathers. When they first were elected they lived in rooming houses and got together for dinner and shared ideas. So I looked for two roommates that were compatible and found Debbie Wasserman Shultz from Florida, from the South, and Melissa Bean from the West, from Illinois, and I am from the East, New York, so we are from different sections of the country, but we were all mothers and had been elected officials and have a great deal in common," said Maloney.
The roommates work and live in Washington during the week and commute to their home states and families on weekends. Melissa Bean and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are married and still have children at home. Carolyn Maloney has grown children. Wasserman Schultz says the greatest bonus of having roommates is the friendship - and a warm environment to go back to at the end of the day.
"This is a rough-and-tumble place and it's nice to come back to two people who care about me, who care about my success, who care about the difficulties I might be having either at work or at home and just to have two friends who are a sounding board," said Wasserman Shultz.
In 2007, Wasserman Schultz learned how important it was to have a support group, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went public with her diagnosis last year, and is cancer-free today. Carolyn Maloney's own tragedy struck last September, when she learned that her husband of 31 years had died on a mountain trail, during an expedition to the Himalayas.
"My roommates were a source of great comfort and support to me during this time of great loss," said Maloney. "We are all moms; we are all working moms so we share the challenges of balancing work and family and being there for our children. We share and support each other."
And if last year was an important year in their relationship, this year is crucial for their political careers. All three roommates are up for reelection in the fall, but Melissa Bean says even if one or more of them were to lose, that would not affect their friendship.
"All of us, whenever that happens will have lives beyond Congress and our friendships will endure," said Bean. "And what's a little surprising about that is that you don't come to Congress to make friends because if you do, you're not coming to be independent and have your own mind and so what a great surprise it has been to make such great friends."
At the end of July, the roommates said goodbye, as they started summer recess and headed back to their home states to gear up for the fall re-election campaign. They'll come back at the beginning of September and hope to share not only their summer experiences, but also another term in Congress, and another year rooming together.