Lindy Boggs, the former Louisiana congresswoman who fought hard for issues of civil rights, died on Saturday from natural causes at her home in Chevy Chase, Md. She was 97.

Boggs ascended to the House in 1973 following the sudden death of her husband Thomas Hale Boggs in a plane accident in Alaska. He had held the post since 1940. After the special election in 1973 saw Boggs take over her husband’s congressional seat, she served until 1990. She later served three years as ambassador to the Vatican during Bill Clinton’s presidency from 1997 to 2001.

Before she entered Congress, Boggs fought for the Civil Rights Acts of 1965 and 1968, and established herself as a champion of minorities, women and the poor. After taking over her husband’s seat, she continued to work for the underrepresented population. In her first year in the house, she managed to get women included in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. Boggs was also the first woman to chair the Democratic National Convention in 1976.

“I’ve seen it time after time,” former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston said, speaking of Boggs. “On difficult issues, powerful men and women are going toe to toe, sometimes civilly, sometimes acrimoniously. Lindy Boggs will come into the room. The debate will change. By the time she leaves the room, she usually has what she came to get.”

Boggs is survived by her two children, eight grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

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