Milestones for Women in American Politics
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.
Cora Belle Reynolds Anderson (R) was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives, the first Native American woman in a state legislature.
With her appointment to the West Virginia State House of Representatives, Minnie Buckingham Harper (R) became the first Black woman in a state legislature.
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.
Crystal Dreda Bird Fauset (D) was elected to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, the first Black woman elected to a state legislature.
Charlotta Spears Bass was the first Black woman nominee for vice president in the United States. She ran on the Progressive Party ticket, which received less than one percent of the popular vote in the 1952 presidential election.
Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Democrat from Hawaii, became the first woman of color and the first woman of Asian-Pacific Islander descent in the U.S. 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.
March Fong Eu (D) was elected California's Secretary of State, the first Asian Pacific Islander to hold a statewide elected executive office.
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.
Velvalea "Vel" Phillips (D) was elected Wisconsin's Secretary of State, the first Black woman to hold a statewide elected executive office.
LaDonna Harris appears to be the first Native American woman nominee for vice president in the United States. She ran on the Citizens Party ticket, which received less than one percent of the popular vote in the 1980 presidential election.
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.
Emma Wong Mar appears to be the first Asian American woman nominee for vice president in the United States. She ran on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket as running mate to Sonia Johnson. Together they received less than one percent of the popular vote in the 1984 presidential election.
Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Lottie Shackleford was elected mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, the first Black woman elected mayor of one of the 100 largest cities in the United States.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban American to be elected to Congress.
Apart from single-member House delegations, the first all-woman U.S. House delegation was from Hawaii. Representatives Patricia Saiki (R) and Patsy Mink (D) served from 1990 to 1991. They were also the first all-woman of color House delegation.
Sandy Garrett (D) was elected Oklahoma's Superintendent of Public Instruction, the first Native American woman elected to any statewide executive office in the U.S.
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.
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.
Heather Fargo was elected mayor of Sacramento, CA, the first Latina elected mayor of one of the 100 largest cities in the U.S.
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.
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.
The November 2002 election to Congress of Linda Sanchez (D-CA) meant that for the first time, two sisters served together in the House (beginning in January 2003.) Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) was first elected to the House in 1996.
Condoleezza Rice became the first Republican woman and the first Black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.
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.
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.
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.
Two women of color, both Republicans elected in November 2010, took office as governors, the first women of color chief executives in the country. Susana Martinez, a Latina, became governor of New Mexico, and Nikki Haley, an Asian American, became governor of South Carolina.
Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian-Pacific Islander woman — and only the second woman of color — elected to the U.S. Senate.
Ivy Taylor was elected mayor of San Antonio in a special election by her peers on the city council to fill a vacancy, becoming the first Black woman and first woman of color to serve as mayor of one of the nation's ten largest cities. She was re-elected in a regular election in 2015 and served until 2017.
Loretta Lynch became the first Black woman and the second woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Appointed by President Barack Obama, she served from 2015-2017.
Mia Love (R-UT) became the first Black Republican woman in Congress.
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.
Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is both Black and South Asian, became the first South Asian and second Black woman elected to the US Senate.
Crisanta Duran (D) became speaker of the Colorado General Assembly, the first Latina to lead either house of a state legislature.
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.
Michele Lujan Grisham (NM) became the first Democratic woman of color governor nationwide.
In August 2020, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was selected by former Vice President Joe Biden as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election. Harris is the first woman of color to be selected as the running mate on a major-party ticket, as well as the first multiracial woman, the first South Asian woman, and the first Black woman. Harris joins Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin in becoming the third woman in history tapped as the vice presidential pick, as well as the fourth woman, with Hillary Clinton, on a major-party presidential ticket.
In November 2020, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris was elected Vice President of the United States, becoming the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black woman, and the first South Asian woman elected to this office.
Deb Haaland was appointed by President Joseph Biden to serve as secretary of the Interior, becoming the first Native American person to serve in a presidential cabinet.