Linda J. Melconian made history as the first woman to serve as majority leader of the Massachusetts State Senate.
In 1982, Melconian—a Democrat—was elected as a state senator from a district that included her native Springfield. In 1999, the nine-term senator became majority leader; she was the first woman in either legislative branch in Massachusetts to hold that title.
Melconian, who majored in history at Mount Holyoke, says she entered public service thanks to the legendary D.C. internship program created by the late MHC politics professor Victoria Schuck. That led to an appointment as assistant counsel to Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill in his position as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. As such, Melconian became the first woman to have access to the floor of the House as a professional member of the leadership staff.
While serving in the Massachusetts Senate, she was recognized for her pioneering and successful effort to create a law that was the most comprehensive and far reaching in the nation in terms of right of privacy and anti-discrimination in genetic testing. She fought for and won many new laws that increased access to health care and insurance coverage for women and children generally, and particularly achieved insurance coverage for women in small businesses and third-party insurance benefits for women who practiced in traditionally female health care professions.
During her years on Capitol Hill, Melconian earned both a master’s degree from George Washington University and a law degree from George Mason University. Prior to her election to the Massachusetts State Senate, she was the Hampden County Prosecuting Attorney. During her tenures as a prosecutor and as a politician, Melconian was a fierce advocate for women’s issues.
Melconian retired from politics in 2005 and joined the faculty of Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School. She teaches courses on public policy development, administrative law, and business law and ethics.