Milestones for Women in American Politics

1923

1923

Soledad Chacon (D) was elected Secretary of State in New Mexico, the first Latina and first woman of color to hold a statewide elected executive office.

1924

1924

Cora Belle Reynolds Anderson (R) was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives, the first Native American woman in a state legislature.

1929

1929

With her appointment to the West Virginia State House of Representatives, Minnie Buckingham Harper (R) became the first Black woman in a state legislature.

1930

1930

Two Latinas, Fedelina Lucero Gallegos (R) and Porfirria Hidalgo Saiz (D), were elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives, the first Latina state legislators.

1938

1938

Crystal Dreda Bird Fauset (D) was elected to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, the first Black woman elected to a state legislature.

1965

1965

Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Democrat from Hawaii, became the first woman of color and the first woman of Asian-Pacific Islander descent in the House of Representatives. She served until 1977 and was re-elected in 1990.

1968

1968

Shirley Chisholm, a New York Democrat, became the first Black woman to serve in Congress. She remained in the House of Representatives until 1982.

1975

1975

March Fong Eu (D) was elected California's Secretary of State, the first Asian Pacific Islander to hold a statewide elected executive office.

1977

1977

Patricia Roberts Harris was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during 1977-1979. From 1979-1981, she served as Secretary of Health and Human Services. She was the first Black woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and the first woman to hold two different cabinet positions.

1979

1979

Velvalea "Vel" Phillips (D) was elected Wisconsin's Secretary of State, the first Black woman to hold a statewide elected executive office.

1980

1980

Eunice Sato was the first Asian American woman to serve as mayor of a major American city. She was mayor of Long Beach, CA, from 1980-1982. 

1985

1985

Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation.

1987

1987

Lottie Shackleford was elected mayor of Little Rock, AR, the first Black woman elected mayor of one of the 100 largest cities in the U.S.

1989

1989

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban American to be elected to Congress. She was elected in August 1989 in a special election and continues to serve.

1992

1992

Nydia Velasquez, a New York Democrat, became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. 

Carol Moseley Braun, an Illinois Democrat, became the first Black woman and the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She had also been the first Black woman to win a major party Senate nomination. She defeated the incumbent in the primary and won the resulting open seat in the general election. Her term ended in 1999 when she lost her re-election bid.

1997

1997

Aida Alvarez became the first Hispanic women, as well as the first person of Puerto Rican heritage, to hold a cabinet-level position when she was appointed administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in the Clinton administration.

2001

2001

Condoleezza Rice became the first woman to hold the post of National Security Advisor (formally known as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs) when she was appointed by President George W. Bush.

Elaine Chao became the first Asian American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of Labor by President George W. Bush.

Heather Fargo was elected mayor of Sacramento, CA, the first Latina elected mayor of one of the 100 largest cities in the U.S.

2002

2002

Sanchez sisters

The election to Congress of Linda Sanchez (D-CA) meant that for the first time, two sisters served together in the House. Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) was first elected to the House in 1996.

2005

2005

Condoleezza Rice became the first Republican woman and the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.

2007

2007

Three congresswomen became the first women of color to chair congressional committees: Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Committee on Ethics; Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Committee on House Administration; and Representative Nydia Velasquez (D-NY), Committee on Small Business.

Colleen Hanabusa (D) became president of the Hawaii Senate, the first woman of color and the Asian Pacific Islander woman to hold the top leadership position in a state legislative chamber.

2008

2008

Karen Bass (D) became speaker of the California State Assembly, the first woman of color to serve as speaker of a state house and the first Black woman to lead either house of a state legislature.

Denise Juneau (D) was elected Montana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, the first Native American woman elected to any statewide executive office in the U.S.

2009

2009

Sonia Sotomayor was appointed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, becoming the first Hispanic and third female member of the Court. Sotomayor had previously been appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton.

2011

2011

Two women of color, both Republicans elected in November 2010, took office as governors, the first women of color chief executives in any states. Susana Martinez, a Latina, became governor of New Mexico, and Nikki Haley, an Asian American, became governor of South Carolina.

2012

2012

Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian-Pacific Islander woman — and only the second woman of color — elected to the U.S. Senate.

2015

2015

Mia Love (R-UT) became the first black Republican woman in Congress.

2017

2017

Crisanta Duran (D) became speaker of the Colorado General Assembly, the first Latina to lead either house of a state legislature.