Women in the United States Congress: 1917-2011 - Congressional Research Service
Despite increases in the number of women serving in Congress over time, shows that only 2.1% of Members in United States history have been women.
Ninety-three women currently serve in the 112th Congress:
76 in the House (52 Democrats and 24 Republicans)
17 in the Senate (12 Democrats and 5 Republicans)
Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) has the distinction of being the first woman elected to serve in Congress. On November 9, 1916, she was elected to the House of Representatives as Montana’s Representative-at-Large to the 65th Congress (1917-1919)
Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA) was the first woman to serve in the Senate. She was appointed in 1922 to fill the unexpired term of a Senator who had died in office. In addition to being the first female Senator, Mrs. Felton holds two other Senate records. Her tenure in the Senate remains the shortest ever (one day), and, at the age of 87, she is the oldest person ever to begin Senate service.
Hattie Caraway (D-AR, 1931-1945) was the first woman to succeed her spouse in the Senate and also the first female initially elected to a full six-year Senate term. She was first appointed in 1931 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, Thaddeus H. Caraway (D-AR, House, 1913-1921; Senate, 1921-1931), and then was subsequently elected to two six-year terms.
Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) was the first woman elected to the Senate without having first been appointed to serve in that body. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS, 1979-1997) was the first woman elected to the Senate without first having been elected to the House or having been elected or appointed to fill an unexpired Senate term.
As chair of the Senate Enrolled Bills Committee (73rd -78th Congresses), Hattie Caraway was the first woman to chair a Senate as well as any congressional committee. As chair of the House District of Columbia Committee (72nd -74th Congresses), Mary T. Norton was the first woman to chair a House committee.
As Speaker of the House in the 110th and 111th Congresses (2007-2010), Nancy Pelosi held the highest position of leadership ever held by a woman in the United States government.
In 1998, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to an initial term in Congress.
Edith Nourse Rogers (R-MA), who served in the House for 35 years, holds the record for length of service by a woman in Congress.
Currently serving Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) holds the record for Senate service by a woman with 24 years.
A total of 276 women have served in Congress, 176 Democrats and 100 Republicans. Of these women, 237 (151 Democrats, 86 Republicans) have served only in the House of Representatives; 31 (19 Democrats, 12 Republicans) have served only in the Senate; and 8 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans) have served in both houses. These figures include one non-voting Delegate each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Of the 39 women who have served in the Senate, 14 were first appointed, and 5 were first elected to fill unexpired terms. Nine were chosen to fill vacancies caused by the death of their husbands, and one to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of her father.
Of these 10, 3 were subsequently elected to additional terms. Hattie Caraway (D-AR, 1931-1945) was the first Senator to succeed her husband and the first woman elected to a six-year Senate term.
A total of 31 African American or black women have served in Congress (1 in the Senate, 30 in the House), including the 15 serving in the 112th Congress. Eight Hispanic women have been elected to the House; seven serve in the 112th Congress. Six Asian American women have served in the House, including four in the 112th Congress.
Eighteen women in the House, and 10 women in the Senate, have chaired committees. In the 112th Congress, one woman chairs a House committee, and five women chair Senate committees, with one female Senator chairing two committees. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, in the 110th and 111th Congresses.
Between the 65th Congress (1917-1918) and the 103rd Congress, the number of women serving in Congress increased incrementally, and on one occasion, dropped slightly from 20 women (3.7%) in the 95th Congress to 17 women (3.2%) in the 96th Congress
The percentage of voting female representation in Congress (16.6%) is slightly lower than averages of female representation in other countries. Women represent 19.2% of national legislative seats across the entire world.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which maintains a database of worldwide female representation, ranks the United States 72nd worldwide.
The Nordic countries (Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, and Norway) lead the world regionally with 41.6% female representation in national legislatures.
Rwanda has the only national legislature in the world with a majority of women holding seats (56.3%).
The percentage of women comprising Congress also lags behind the number of women holding seats in state legislatures. Of the total 7,382 seats in state legislatures, women currently hold 1,178 (23.3%).
Across the 50 states, this figure ranges from 9.4% in South Carolina to 40.0% in
Colorado. Compared with the legislatures of the 50 states, Congress ties for 41st
In the percentage of women comprising its legislature—tied for the 9th lowest—barely surpassing West Virginia (16.4%) and tying with Pennsylvania (16.6%)
How women enter in Congress
Article I, section 2, clause 4 of the United States Constitution states that “[W]hen vacancies happen in the Representation from any state; the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.”
Therefore, all Representatives enter office through election, even those who enter after a seat becomes open during a Congress.
By contrast, the Seventeenth Amendment gives state legislatures the option to empower governors to fill Senate vacancies by temporary appointment.
The 39 women who have served in the Senate entered initially through three different routes:
20 entered through regular elections,
14 were appointed to unexpired terms,
And 5 were elected during a special election.
Approximately 64% of all women who have served in the Senate initially entered Senate service by winning an election. A little over a third (36%) of women entered the Senate initially through an appointment.
African American Women in Congress
Fifteen African American women serve in the 112th Congress, the same number as in the past two Congresses. A record number of 17 African American women were elected to the House in the 110th Congress, although 14 was the highest number to serve at any one time.
A total of 31 African American women, all Democrats, have served in Congress. The first was Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-NY, 1969-1983). Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL, 1993-1999) is the only black woman to have served in the Senate. The African American women Members of the 112th Congress are Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Corinne Brown (D-FL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Laura Richardson (D-CA),
Terri Sewell (D-AL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL), as well as Delegates Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Donna Christensen (D-VI)
Asian American Women in Congress
Patsy Mink (D-HI) was the first of six Asian Pacific American women to serve in Congress, all in the House. Representative Mink served in the House from 1965 to 1977 and from 1990 to 2002.
The other Asian Pacific American women are Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Colleen
Hanabusa (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Doris O. Matsui (D-CA), all Members of the 112th Congress, and Patricia Saiki (R-HI), who served from 1987 to 1991
Hispanic Women in Congress
Eight Hispanic women have served in Congress, all in the House, and seven of them serve in the 112th Congress. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 1989-present) is the first Cuban American and first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY, 1993-present) is the first Puerto Rican-born woman to serve in Congress. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA, 1993-present) is the first Mexican American woman to serve. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, 1997-present),
Grace Napolitano (D-CA, 1999-present), Linda Sánchez (D-CA, 2003-present), and Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 2011-present) are the other currently serving female Hispanic Members.
Hilda Solis (D-CA) served in the House until her 2009 resignation to become Secretary of Labor. Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Linda Sánchez are sisters.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
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14 September 2011
Women in the United States Congress: 1917-2011 - Congressional Research Service