Widows Who Succeeded Their Husbands in Congress

A total of 48 women have been elected or appointed to fill congressional vacancies created by the deaths of their husbands, 8 to the U.S. Senate and 40 to the U. S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Senate - 8*
Name (Party) Year(s) Served State
Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D) 1931-1945 Arkansas
Rose McConnell Long (D) 1936-1937 Louisiana
Vera Cahalan Bushfield 1948 South Dakota
Maurine Brown Neuberger (D) 1960-1967 Oregon
Muriel Buck Humphrey (D) 1978-1979 Minnesota
Maryon Pittman Allen (D) 1978-1979 Alabama
Jocelyn Birch Burdick (D) 1992 North Dakota
Jean Carnahan (D) 2001-2002 Missouri
U.S. House of Representatives – 40**
Name (Party) Year(s) Served State Notes
Mae Ella Nolan (R) 1923-1925 California
Florence Prag Kahn (R) 1925-1937 California
Edith Nourse Rogers (R) 1925-1960 Massachusetts
Pearl Peden Oldfield (D) 1929-1931 Arizona
Effiegene Locke Wingo (D) 1930-1933 Arkansas
Willa McCord Blake Eslick (D) 1932-1933 Tennessee
Marian Williams Clarke (R) 1934-1935 New York
Elizabeth Hawley Gasque (D) 1938 South Carolina
Florence Reville Gibbs (D) 1940-1941 Georgia
Clara Gooding McMillan (D) 1940-1941 South Carolina
Margaret Chase Smith (R) 1940-1949 Maine Smith also served in the U.S. Senate 1949-1973.
Frances Bolton (R) 1940-1969 Ohio
Katharine Edgar Byron (D) 1941-1943 Maryland
Veronica Grace Boland (D) 1942-1943 Pennsylvania
Willa Lybrand Fulmer (D) 1944-1945 South Carolina
Vera Daerr Buchanan (D) 1951-1955 Pennsylvania
Marguerite Stitt Church (R) 1951-1963 Illinois
Maude Elizabeth Kee (D) 1951-1965 West Virginia
Leonor K. Sullivan (D) 1952-1975 Missouri Leonor Sullivan did not succeed her husband directly, having lost the special election primary. She won the subsequent general election for the seat he had held.
Mary Elizabeth Pruett Farrington (R) 1954-1957 Hawaii Farrington was a non-voting delegate to U.S. House of Representatives because Hawaii was not yet a state.
Kathryn Elizabeth Granahan (D) 1957-1963 Pennsylvania
Edna Oakes Simpson (R) 1958-1961 Illinois
Catherine Dorris Norrell (D) 1961-1963 Arkansas
Louise Goff Reece (R) 1961-1963 Tennessee
Corinne Boyd Riley (D) 1962-1963 South Carolina
Irene Bailey Baker (R) 1964-1965 Tennessee
Lera Millard Thomas (D) 1966-1967 Texas
Elizabeth B. Andrews (D) 1972-1973 Alabama
Corinne "Lindy" Boggs (D) 1973-1991 Louisiana
Cardiss Collins (D) 1973-1997 Illinois
Shirley N. Pettis (R) 1975-1979 California
Beverly Barton Butcher Byron (D) 1979-1993 Maryland
Jean Ashbrook (R) 1982-1983 Ohio
Sala Burton (D) 1983-1987 California
Catherine S. Long (D) 1985-1987 Louisiana
Jo Ann Emerson (R) 1996-2013 Missouri
Mary Bono (R) 1998-2013 California
Lois Capps (D) 1998-2017 California
Doris Matsui (D) 2005-present California
Julia Letlow (R) 2021-present Louisiana Letlow won a special election to replace her husband who died days before officially swearing in.

*Of the 8 women who took Senate seats after the death of their husbands, six were appointed to their deceased husband’s seats and one won a special election. In addition, Jean Carnahan was appointed to the Senate seat won posthumously by her husband.

**Of the 40 women who filled vacancies caused by the deaths of their husbands, 39 won special elections; the exception is Leonor Sullivan (see above). Also, Elizabeth Hawley Gasque (D-SC) was never sworn in or seated since Congress was not in session between her special election and the expiration of her term.

In addition to the 40 widows in the House, Debbie Dingell (D-MI, 2015 – present) succeeded her living husband after his retirement, the only woman to date to do so.

Sources: Women in the United States Congress, Congressional Research Service and the Center for American Women and Politics fact sheet, Women in the U.S. House of Representatives 2005.