Milestones for Women in American Politics
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, even though she was not eligible to vote. She ran as an Independent from New York State, receiving 24 votes of 12,000 that were cast.
Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana became the first woman ever elected to Congress. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1917 to 1919 and again from 1941 to 1942; a pacifist, she was the only lawmaker to vote against U.S. entry into both world wars.
Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Georgia Democrat, became the first woman appointed to the Senate, but only served one day.
Representative Mae Ella Nolan (R-CA) became the first woman to chair a congressional committee when, during the 68th Congress, she chaired the Committee on Expenditures in the Post Office Department.
Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), appointed in 1931 to fill a vacancy caused by her husband's death, ran for a full term and became the first woman elected to the Senate, where she served two full terms. She was the first woman to chair a Senate committee – the Committee on Enrolled Bills, a minor post.
Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) became the first woman elected to the Senate without having first been appointed to serve. Smith had first come to Congress when elected to fill her deceased husband's House seat; she went on to be elected to the Senate in her own right. With her election to the Senate, Smith also became the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
Representative Chase G. Woodhouse (D-CT) was the first woman to hold the position of secretary in the House Democratic Caucus.
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.
Shirley Chisholm, a New York Democrat, became the first Black woman to serve in Congress. She remained in the House of Representatives until 1982.
Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH) became the first Arab American woman elected to Congress.
Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) was the first woman to have been elected to the Senate without having previously filled an unexpired Congressional term.
Congresswoman Lynn Morley Martin (R-IL) began the first of two terms as vice chair of the Republican Conference in the House, the first time a woman held an elected position in the congressional party's hierarchy.
Barbara Ann Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, became the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate without previously filling an unexpired Congressional term. Combining her Senate service from 1987-2017 with her service in the US House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, she is the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress.
Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH) became the first woman to serve as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
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.
Representative Barbara Kennelly (D-CT) became the first woman to hold the position of House Democratic chief deputy whip.
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.
Representative Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT) became the first woman to hold the position of secretary in the House Republican Conference during the 103rd Congress (1993-1995).
Olympia Snowe (R-ME) became the first woman (and the ony Republican woman) to have been elected to her State House, State Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) also followed this path to the U.S. Senate, making her the first Democrat to do so.
Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) became the first woman to chair a major Senate committee, the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to Congress as a non-incumbent. She was also Wisconsin's first woman in Congress. In 2012, she became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the US Senate.
Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, the only First Lady ever elected to public office. She won an open seat in a general election.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) became the first woman to serve as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected by her colleagues as House Democratic Whip, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Congress.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) became the first woman to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She also served as House Minority Whip-at-Large.
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became the first woman to head her party in Congress when she was elected by her colleagues as House Democratic Leader.
Washington State became the first state to have both a woman governor (Christine Gregoire, D) and two women serving in the U.S. Senate (Patty Murray, D and Maria Cantwell, D). New Hampshire followed suit in 2013.
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.
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House.
Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian-Pacific Islander woman — and only the second woman of color — elected to the U.S. Senate.
Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) became the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress. In 2018, she became the first openly bisexual person elected to the US Senate.
New Hampshire became the first state to have an all-female Congressional delegation (Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and Representatives Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.)
Mia Love (R-UT) became the first Black Republican woman in Congress.
Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) became the first Native American women elected to Congress.
Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.