When Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood gave birth to a son last weekend almost every local news outlet, including Colorado Public Radio, ran stories saying that she was the first state lawmaker to ever give birth during the annual legislative session.
Turns out we were wrong.
On June 4, 1981, then-Denver Sen. Barbara S. Holme delivered her son, Tim Holme, just two days before the legislative session ended.
“Gov. Dick Lamm sent over a neat little stuffed animal and plant and the Colorado Senate sent pretty pink flowers,” said an old Colorado Statesman article announcing the birth. It also noted the baby was resting comfortably in a swinging cradle lent by Congresswoman Pat Schroeder.
Holme, now in her 70s, said she can’t recall exactly but believes she missed those last days of the session. She said it wouldn’t haven’t mattered too much because her party, the Democrats, were in the minority in the chamber.
A few weeks later in July she had to return to the state capitol for a special legislative session on redistricting. Holme remembered bringing her infant son with her and nursing him on the floor of the Senate.
“Nobody objected. Nobody said anything. I'm sure there were some senators who probably thought it was inappropriate, but you know, I had a blanket covering me.”
Holme, who still lives in Denver, is happy for Pettersen.
“I actually have met her and thought of sending her an email when I saw it in the paper and saying, you know, I nursed my son during Senate sessions and you should feel free to do so if you'd feel comfortable doing it,” she said.
After she left politics, Holme raised her children for 15 years and lobbied the Denver school board to create a program for highly gifted and talented students. She also ran Sue Edwards’ successful campaign for the Board of Education for Denver Public Schools.
Later she worked for a Fortune 500 company on energy conservation.
Even though she said very few women served in the state Senate during her decade in office, she said she never felt it held her back.
“The problem I had getting bills passed was that I was in the minority in the state Senate and it was very difficult for a Democrat to get anything passed in a Republican controlled Senate,” she said.
Holme was 28 when she first won office, which at the time made her the youngest person to ever serve in the legislature. She fondly remembers the support from her colleagues when she gave birth.
“It did seem like when I had my baby that all of the senators were very excited about it. You know, they had a pool and they guessed how much the baby would weigh. One senator won the pool. And there was great excitement.”
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