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Facts


Firsts for Women in U.S. Politics

1848 The first women's rights convention in the U.S. took place in Seneca Falls, New York. Convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and others active in the anti-slavery movement, it resulted in a Declaration of Sentiments modeled on the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration demanded a variety of rights for women, including suffrage.
1866 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.
1872 Victoria Woodhull, a stockbroker, publisher, and protégé of Cornelius Vanderbilt, ran for president of the United States on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
1884 Belva Lockwood, the first woman admitted to practice law before the U.S Supreme Court, ran for president on the Equal Rights Party Ticket; she did so again in 1888.
1887 Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas – the first woman mayor in the country.
1894 Three women were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, the first women elected to any state legislature. They were Clara Cressingham, Carrie C. Holly, and Frances Klock.
1896 Martha Hughes Cannon was elected to the Utah State Senate, becoming the first woman state senator.
1900 Frances Warren of Wyoming became the first woman delegate to a Republican National Convention. In the same year, Elizabeth Cohen of Utah was chosen as an alternate to the Democratic National Convention. When another delegate became ill, Cohen became the first woman delegate to a Democratic National Convention.
1917 Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, entered the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman ever elected to Congress. She served 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.
1920 After 72 years of struggle, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
1920 The League of Women Voters was founded by members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association as a means of encouraging informed participation by the new female electorate.
1922 Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Georgia Democrat, became the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. She was appointed to fill a vacant seat temporarily; she served for only two days before giving up her seat to the man who had been elected to it.
1924 Bertha K. Landes, Republican city council president at the time, became acting mayor of Seattle, the first woman to lead a major American city. Two years later she was elected mayor in her own right in a campaign run by women. She lost in her bid for a second full term.
1924 Lena Springs of South Carolina chaired the credentials committee at the Democratic National Convention and received several votes for the Vice Presidential nomination.
1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross, a Wyoming Democrat, became the nation's first woman governor, elected to replace her deceased husband. She served for two years. Later, she became vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and director of the U.S. Mint. At the 1928 Democratic National Convention, she received 31 votes on the first ballot for Vice President.
1925 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.
1931 Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), was appointed to the U.S Senate to succeed her late husband; she was the first of many women to reach the Senate in this way. She subsequently became the first woman ever 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.
1933 With her appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins became the first woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. She served until 1945.
1933 Ruth Bryan Owen, a former congresswoman, became the first woman to hold a major diplomatic post when she was appointed by President Roosevelt as minister to Denmark. She held that post until 1936, when her marriage to a Dane and resulting dual citizenship made her ineligible to serve.
1933 Minnie Davenport Craig (R-ND) became the first woman to hold the position of speaker of the House in a state legislature.
1945 Representative Chase G. Woodhouse (D-CT) was the first woman to hold the position of secretary in the House Democratic Caucus.
1952 Two women – India Edwards and Judge Sarah Hughes were proposed as Democratic Vice Presidential candidates. Both withdrew their names before the balloting so the choice of presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, Senator Estes Kefauver, could be nominated by acclamation.
1955 Consuelo Bailey, a Vermont Republican, became the first woman ever elected lieutenant governor of a state. In that role, she served as president of the state Senate. Since, she had previously served as speaker of the state House of Representatives, she thus became the only woman in the country ever to preside over both chambers of a state legislature.
1963 Justice Lorna Lockwood of Arizona became the first woman in the U.S. to serve as chief justice of a state supreme court.
1964 Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a Maine Republican, was nominated for the presidency by Vermont Senator George Aiken at the Republican national convention. Smith had campaigned briefly for the post, limiting herself to periods when the Senate was not in session. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1940 (to replace her dying husband) and the Senate in 1948, Smith had already made history by becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.
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.
1966 The National Organization for Women was established to combat discrimination against women in every sphere. Its aim was to "bring women into full participation in the main- stream of American Society now."
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.
1971 Center for the American Woman and Politics founded at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
1971 The National Women's Political Caucus was formed at a Washington, D.C. meeting of more than 300 feminists. Its aims were to increase women's access to political power in the major parties and to encourage and support women committed to women's rights who seek elective and appointive office.
1972 Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for president in the Democratic primaries. At the party's national convention, she garnered 151.25 delegate votes before Senator George McGovern clinched the nomination. At the same convention, Frances (Sissy) Farenthold, a former Texas state legislator who twice ran for governor of that state, finished second in the balloting for the Vice Presidential nomination, receiving more than 400 votes.
1972 Jean Westwood was named by presidential nominee George McGovern to chair the Democratic National Committee. The first woman to hold that position, she served until just after the election, when she was replaced by Robert Strauss.
1974 The Women's Campaign Fund was formed for the purpose of "electing qualified progressive women of both parties to public office at every level." It was the first national political action committee with the specific goal of funding women's campaigns.
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.
1978 Nancy Landon Kassebaum, a Kansas Republican, was elected to the United States Senate. Prior to her election, all of the women who served in the Senate had succeeded their husbands in Congress or had first been appointed to fill out unexpired terms.
1980 For the first time, a national party's nominating convention delegates included equal numbers of men and women. At its convention in New York, the Democratic party also added to its charter a requirement that future conventions have equal numbers of female and male delegates.
1981 Sandra Day O'Connor, a former Republican state legislator from Arizona who had served on a state appeals court, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the first woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
1983 Vesta Roy , a Republican from New Hampshire, became the first woman to hold the position of president of a state senate (1983-1986).
1984 Arlene Violet (R-RI), a former nun, became the first woman elected as a state's attorney general, serving from 1985-87.
1984 Congresswoman Lynn Morley Martin (R-IL) is elected to 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.
1984 Third-term Congresswoman Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-NY), secretary of the House Democratic Caucus, became the first woman ever to run on a major party's national ticket when she was selected by Walter F. Mondale as his Vice Presidential running mate. The ticket was decisively defeated, capturing only 13 electoral votes, and few analysts felt that Ferraro's presence had a strong impact - positive or negative – on the outcome.
1985 Madeline Kunin, a Democrat, was elected governor of Vermont. She became the first woman to serve three terms as governor (1985-1991).
1986 Barbara Ann Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, became the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate without previously filling an unexpired Congressional term. She was re-elected in 1992, 1998, and 2004.
1987 Kay Orr, a Republican from Nebraska, was the first Republican woman elected governor of a state, as well as the first woman to defeat another woman in a gubernatorial race.
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.
1990 Joan Finney, a Kansas Democrat, became the first woman to defeat an incumbent governor. She served as governor from 1991-1995.
1991 Representative Barbara Kennelly (D-CT) became the first woman to hold the position of House Democratic chief deputy whip.
1992 Nydia Velasquez, a New York Democrat, was elected in 1992, becoming the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress. She continues to serve.
1992 Carol Moseley Braun, an Illinois Democrat, became the first African- American woman and the first woman of color to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She had also been the first African-American 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.
1993 Janet Reno became the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General. She served in President Bill Clinton's cabinet from 1993-2001. She ran unsuccessfully for governor in the 2002 Florida Democratic primary.
1993 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).
1993 Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) became the first woman to hold the position of secretary to the House Democratic Conference in the 103rd Congress (1993-1995). She later served as assistant to the House Democratic Leader in the 107th Congress.
1995 Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) became the first woman to hold the position of secretary to the Senate Democratic Conference in the 104th Congress (1995-1997).
1995 Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) became the first woman to chair a major Senate committee, the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
1997 Madeleine K. Albright, became the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, serving from 1997-2001. She became the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government but, as a naturalized citizen, she would not have been eligible to become President. She had previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993-1997.
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.
1998 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.
2001 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.
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.
2001 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.
2001 Gale Norton became the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Interior, appointed by President George W. Bush. Norton was the first woman elected as Colorado's Attorney General and served that position for two terms.
2001 Ann Veneman was appointed by President George W. Bush to be the first female Secretary of Agriculture. She had previously been the first woman to serve as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
2001 Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey became the first female former governor to serve in a presidential cabinet-level position when she was appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Bush. She had been the first woman elected governor in New Jersey and served two terms in that position.
2001 Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) became the first woman to hold the position of vice-chair of the Senate Republican Conference during the 107th Congress (2001-2003).  
2001 Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) became the first woman to serve as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
2001 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.
2001 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.
2001 Sila Calderon (Popular Democratic Party), former mayor of San Juan, became the first woman governor of Puerto Rico.
2002 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.
2002 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.
2003 Arizona became the first state where a woman governor succeeded another woman governor. Jane Dee Hull (R) was succeeded by Janet Napolitano (D).
2005 Dr. Condoleezza Rice became the first Republican woman and the first African American woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.
2005 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).
2007 Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House.
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.
2007 Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) becomes the first woman of color to serve as president of a state senate.
2008 Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first woman to win a major party's presidential primary for the purposes of delegate selection when she won the primary in New Hampshire on January 8. She also became the first woman to be a presidential candidate in every primary and caucus in every state.
2008 Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, selected by Senator John McCain as his vice presidential running mate, became the first woman on a national GOP ticket.
2008 Karen Bass (D-CA) becomes the first woman of color to serve as speaker of a state house.
2009 Janet Napolitano, governor of Arizona, was appointed Secretary of Homeland Security by President Barack Obama, the first woman to hold that post since the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003.
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 Two women of color, both Republicans elected in November 2010, took office as governors, the first women 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.