List of most senior women in the United States Congress

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Seniority in both houses of the United States Congress is valuable as it confers a number of benefits and is based on length of continuous service, with ties broken by a series of factors. The following lists the most senior women in either or both houses of Congress, sometimes called the "dean of women" in either chamber.

Synopsis[edit]

The longest-serving member of the House of Representatives to date is Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, who has served in the House since 1983. In 2018 she broke the longstanding record set by Edith Nourse Rogers, who, as one of the first women elected to Congress and the first woman to be elected from Massachusetts, served as a member for 35 years from 1925 to her death in 1960.

In the Senate, Margaret Chase Smith, who served for 23 years from 1949 to 1973 as a senator from Maine, was the longest-serving female Senator upon her retirement. Her record was surpassed in 2011 by Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who served for 30 years from 1987 to 2017.

In combined membership of Congress, Barbara Mikulsi is the longest serving member of either house, having held a total of 40 years in Congress (the first 10 being served in the House of Representatives).

  • Maxine Waters is the longest-serving African-American woman (and woman of color) in the House.
  • Patsy Mink, who was the dean of women in the House from 1997 to 2002, was the longest-serving Asian-American woman in the House (and Congress).
  • Carol Moseley-Braun is the longest-serving (and first) African-American woman (and woman of color) in the Senate.
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the longest-serving Hispanic or Latina American woman in the House.
  • Catherine Cortez Masto is the longest-serving Hispanic or Latina American woman in the Senate.
  • Tammy Baldwin is the longest-serving LGBT woman in both the House and Senate.
  • Nita Lowey is the longest-serving Jewish-American woman in the House.
  • Dianne Feinstein is the longest-serving (and first) Jewish-American woman in the Senate.

Women of the House of Representatives[edit]

Image Name
(lifespan)
Party District Took Office Became Mother Left Office Length of Service Notes
Rep. Rankin Jeannette Rankin
(1880–1973)
Republican Montana at-large March 4, 1917 Upon taking office March 4, 1919 2 years, 0 days First woman elected to a national office
Retired to run unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate election in Montana, 1918
Later served another two-year term from January 3, 1941 –January 3, 1943
House vacant of women (March 4, 1919-March 4, 1921)
Rep. Robertson Alice Robertson
(1854–1931)
Republican Oklahoma's 2nd March 4, 1921 Upon taking office March 4, 1923 2 years, 0 days First woman to defeat an incumbent congressman
Lost reelection
Rep. Nolan Mae Nolan
(1886–1973)
Republican California's 5th January 23, 1923 January 23, 1925 March 4, 1925 2 years, 40 days Succeeded her husband
Retired
Rep. Kahn Florence Kahn
(1866–1948)
Republican California's 4th March 4, 1925 1927 January 3, 1937 11 years, 305 days First woman to be reelected
First Jewish woman elected
Succeeded her husband
Lost reelection
Rep. Norton Mary Norton
(1875–1959)
Democratic New Jersey's 12th March 4, 1925 January 3, 1937 March 4, 1933 25 years, 305 days First Democratic woman elected
First woman to chair a standing committee (House District of Columbia Committee)
Redistricted
New Jersey's 13th March 4, 1933 January 3, 1951 Retired
Rep. Rogers Edith Rogers
(1881–1960)
Republican Massachusetts's 5th June 30, 1925 January 3, 1951 September 10, 1960 35 years, 72 days Succeeded her husband
First Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
Second-longest serving woman in the House
Died in office
Rep. Bolton Frances P. Bolton
(1885–1977)
Republican Ohio's 22nd February 27, 1940 September 10, 1960 January 3, 1969 28 years, 311 days Succeeded her husband
Lost reelection
Rep. Sullivan Leonor Sullivan
(1902–1988)
Democratic Missouri's 3rd January 3, 1953 January 3, 1969 January 3, 1977 24 years, 0 days Succeeded her husband (though not immediately)
First woman Chair of the House Merchant Marine Committee
Retired
Rep. Heckler Margaret Heckler
(1931–2018)
Republican Massachusetts's 10th January 3, 1967 January 3, 1977 January 3, 1983 16 years, 0 days Lost reelection
Later became United States Secretary of Health and Human Services and United States Ambassador to Ireland
Rep. Holt Marjorie Holt
(1920–2018)
Republican Maryland's 4th January 3, 1973 January 3, 1983 January 3, 1987 14 years, 0 days Retired
Rep. Schroeder Patricia Schroeder
(born 1940)
Democratic Colorado's 1st January 3, 1973 January 3, 1987 January 3, 1997 24 years, 0 days Retired
Rep. Mink Patsy Mink
(1927–2002)
Democratic Hawaii's at-large January 3, 1965 January 3, 1997 January 3, 1971 24 years, 249 days First woman of color elected
Redistricted
Hawaii's 2nd January 3, 1971 January 3, 1977 Ran for President of the United States in the Democratic Party presidential primaries, 1972 (Oregon only)
First Asian American woman to run for President
Retired to run unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate election in Hawaii, 1976
Later became Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
September 22, 1990 September 28, 2002 First dean of color of women in Congress
Died in office
Rep. Roukema Marge Roukema
(1929–2014)
Republican New Jersey's 7th January 3, 1981 September 28, 2002 January 3, 1983 22 years, 0 days Redistricted
New Jersey's 5th January 3, 1983 January 3, 2003 Retired
Rep. Johnson Nancy Johnson
(born 1935)
Republican Connecticut's 6th January 3, 1983 January 3, 2003 January 3, 2003 24 years, 0 days Redistricted
Connecticut's 5th January 3, 2003 January 3, 2007 Lost reelection
Rep. Kaptur Marcy Kaptur
(born 1946)
Democratic Ohio's 9th January 3, 1983 January 3, 2007 present 36 years, 173 days Current dean of women in Congress
Longest-serving woman in the House

Women of the Senate[edit]

Image Name
(lifespan)
Party State Term start Became Mother Term end Length of
service (days)
Sen. Felton Rebecca Felton
(1835–1930)
Democratic Georgia November 21, 1922 November 21, 1922 November 22, 1922 1
Senate vacant of women (November 22, 1922-December 9, 1931)
Sen. Caraway Hattie Caraway
(1878–1950)
Democratic Arkansas December 9, 1931 December 10, 1931 January 3, 1945 4,774
Senate vacant of women (January 3, 1945-October 6, 1948)
Sen. Bushfield Vera C. Bushfield
(1889–1976)
Republican South Dakota October 6, 1948 October 6, 1948 December 26, 1948 81
Senate vacant of women (December 26, 1948-January 3, 1949)
Sen. Smith Margaret C. Smith
(1897–1995)
Republican Maine January 3, 1949 January 3, 1949 January 3, 1973 8,766
Senate vacant of women (January 3, 1973-January 25, 1978)
Sen. Humphrey Muriel Humphrey
(1912–1998)
Democratic Minnesota January 25, 1978 January 25, 1978 November 7, 1978 286
Sen. Kassebaum Nancy Kassebaum
(born 1932)
Republican Kansas December 23, 1978[1] December 23, 1978 January 3, 1997 6,586
Sen. Mikulski Barbara Mikulski
(born 1936)
Democratic Maryland January 3, 1987 January 3, 1997 January 3, 2017 10,959
Sen. Feinstein Dianne Feinstein
(born 1933)
Democratic California November 10, 1992 January 3, 2017 (incumbent) present 9,723

Most senior by party[edit]

House[edit]

Republican[edit]

Democratic[edit]

Senate[edit]

Republican[edit]

Democratic[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Predecessor resigned early to give successor seniority advantage, so the senator was appointed for the few days prior to the commencement of the elected term