Margaret Heckler, an eight-term congresswoman, who lost her re-election bid last November, begins her political comeback with her nomination of Health and Human Services secretary.
President Reagan formally designated Mrs. Heckler as Richard Schweiker's replacement as HHS secretary Wednesday.
Until Mrs. Heckler ran into Reaganomics and Democrat Barney Frank in the November elections, she was regarded as a rarity -- a stalwart Republican with distinctly liberal tendencies.
Her down-the-line backing of President Reagan's budget proposals and Frank's impeccable liberal credentials and glib tongue ousted her from a seat she has held without serious challenge since 1966.
Despite election rhetoric, Mrs. Heckler, 51, red haired and freckled, spent most of her time in Congress working on issues more often identified with Democrats, recently getting a 67 percent rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action for votes against draft registration, cuts in Social Security, the MX missile and a cap on food stamps.
The Wellesley, Mass., resident, one of only two Republicans in her state's 12-member House delegation in 1982, has pushed for stricter enforcement of fair housing laws laws, hospital cost controls, and creation of the Department of Education.
Although she was one of the staunchest feminists on Capitol Hill, she broke with the feminist movement on the question of abortion, which she opposes. She made a valiant but unsuccessful effort to avoid an anti-Equal Rights Amendment plank in the 1980 Republican platform.
Until her defeat, she was the ranking woman in the House, and the ranking minority member of the Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Education, Training, and Employment. In 1981 she switched from the Agriculture Committee to the Committee on Science and Technology.
Her interest in politics stems from her days at college at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Conn., and a decade ago told she interviewers for the Ralph Nader Congress Project she had intended to practice law after getting law degree in 1956 but found herself involved in political races. She said she could not fit collecting fees into her concept of being a lawyer so 'running for public office just seemed to be the natural thing to do.
'It may be my naive belief, but I believe in the people. They should decide. They're what turns me on -- people.'
Mrs. Heckler waged a fiesty and expensive campaign against Frank, a first-term representative who repeatedly criticized Mrs. Heckler for her support of Reaganomics, a tactic which won him a sizeable victory in the redrawn district that thrust two incumbents together. The district is heavily Democratic and contained some of the state's highest unemployment.
Mrs. Heckler lost the backing of a number of powerful labor groups that had traditionally backed her. Perhaps even more damaging, the National Organization for Women threw its support behind Frank.
And she developed a reputation during the campaign of being uncommunicative with the news media. Her campaign workers often failed to inform reporters of what she was doing, or switched plans at the last moment without notifying anyone.
She married John M. Heckler on Aug. 29, 1953. They have three children: Belinda, Alison, and John.