Barbara Vucanovich

Barbara Vucanovich

name=Barbara Vucanovich

term_start = January 3, 1983
term_end = January 3, 1997
preceded= District created, James David Santini in at-large district
succeeded=Jim Gibbons
date of birth= birth date and age|1921|6|22
place of birth=Camp Dix, New Jersey
dead = alive
date of death=
place of death=
spouse=Henry Bugden (divorced), Kenneth Dillon (deceased), George Vucanovich

Barbara Farrell Vucanovich (born June 22, 1921) is a U.S. Republican politician, the first woman to represent Nevada in the United States House of Representatives, where she served from 1983 to 1997.


Vucanovich was born in Camp Dix, New Jersey. Her father was Thomas Farrell, of Irish ancestry from Troy, New York; between the wars he was chief engineer for the New York State Department of Public Works, and during World War II rejoined the Army to become Deputy Commanding General of the Manhattan Project. Her mother, Maria Ynez White, was of English and Hispanic ancestry from Southern California. Barbara grew up in Albany, New York and attended a private, all-girls school. She received her college education from Manhattanville College. She married James Henry Bugden at the age of 18, but became separated when her husband was assigned overseas during the war. She was employed by several New York businesses during the 1940s. In 1949 she moved to Reno, Nevada and obtained a divorce. She married Kenneth Dillon in 1950, a founding partner in the law firm Vargas, Dillon, and Bartlett. She became a widow on Dillon's death in 1964. She married George Vucanovich in 1965; George introduced her to Paul Laxalt.cite book
title=Barbara F. Vucanovich
author=Patricia D. Cafferata
publisher=University of Nevada Press

Political career

In 1974, Vucanovich got her first taste of politics when she was hired as a staff member for Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt.

When Nevada earned a new congressional district after the 1980 Census, Laxalt urged Vucanovich to run. She won handily and served in Congress from 1983 until her retirement in 1997. She only faced serious opposition once, in 1992.

Shortly after starting in office, she was diagnosed and had surgery for breast cancer in early 1983. Vucanovich served as of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, before being promoted to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. She also served on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction. She was a member of the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group led by Newt Gingrich with the goal of achieving Republican control of the House of Representatives, which was accomplished in the 1994 election. She helped draft two of the ten bills that were part of the Contract with America. She served on the Presidential Debate Commission from 1987 to 1997.cite book


Since her retirement, Vucanovich has continued to work in politics, mainly serving on external committees.

Her daughter, Patricia Dillon Cafferata, has served as Nevada State Treasurer and as District Attorney in three Nevada counties, and is also Vucanovich's biographer.


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