Women in the United States Senate
There have been 50 total women in the United States Senate since its establishment in 1789. The first woman senator, Rebecca Felton, served in 1922 (for a single day), but the first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Caraway in 1932. Fourteen of the women who have served were appointed; seven of those were appointed to succeed their deceased husbands. Currently, the 115th Congress has 21 female senators out of 100, one more than both the 113th and 114th congresses.
- 1 History
- 2 Women senators for the 114th Congress
- 3 Women senators for the 115th Congress
- 4 Election, selection and family
- 5 Firsts and onlies
- 6 List of states represented by women
- 7 List of female senators
- 8 Graphs
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Throughout most of the Senate's history, that legislative chamber has been almost entirely male. Until 1920, few women ran for the Senate. Until the 1990s, very few were elected. This paucity of women was due to many factors, including the lack of women's suffrage in many states until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, women's limited access to higher education until the mid-1900s, public perceptions of gender roles, and barriers to women's advancement such as sex discrimination, which still plays a factor in their limited numbers today.
The first woman in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton who served for only one day in 1922. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman to win election to the Senate, in 1932. No women served from 1922 to 1931, 1945 to 1947, and 1973 to 1978. Since 1978, there has always been at least one woman in the Senate.
There were still few women in the Senate near the end of the 20th century, long after women began to make up a significant portion of the membership of the House. In fact, the first time there were three women in the Senate simultaneously was in 1992, when Jocelyn Burdick of North Dakota joined Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. The number increased to four in November, when Dianne Feinstein won a special election in California.
This trend began to change in the wake of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings, and the subsequent election of the 103rd Congress in 1992, which was dubbed the "Year of the Woman." In addition to Mikulski, who was reelected that year, four women were elected to the Senate, all Democrats. They were Patty Murray of Washington, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of California. In June 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison won a special election in Texas, and joined Kassebaum as a fellow female Republican senator. These additions significantly diminished the popular perception of the Senate as an exclusive "boys' club."
In 2012, there was a second "Year of the Woman" with the election of five women and the re-election of six women. This beat the record of four new female senators from 1992 and set the record of five new women and eleven female senators in one Senate class. The five new women were Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Republican Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The driving force behind the addition of four of the senators elected was one of the original senators from 1992, Patty Murray, who led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which recruited Baldwin, Heitkamp, Hirono, and Warren, along with several other candidates who did not win.
Since then, many more women in both the Democratic and Republican parties have campaigned for the Senate, and several have been elected. Twenty are currently serving in the 114th Congress (2015–16).
In 2016, a record 15 women were their party's nominee for Senate, with 12 being truly competitive. Louisiana also had a female senatorial candidate, but she did not make the run-off.
Cumulatively, 34 female senators have been Democrats, while 17 have been Republicans. Of the 21 female senators serving in the 115th Congress starting January 2017, 16 are Democrats and 5 are Republicans.
Women senators for the 114th Congress
In January 2013, the number of serving women senators increased to 20: 14 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) did not seek re-election in 2012, while five new women senators were elected: Republican Deb Fischer (Nebraska) and Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts). In the 2014 election the total number of women in the Senate remained at 20, but the partisan makeup changed, as Democratic Senators Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) were defeated for re-election while Republicans Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) were newly elected. The 114th Congress marked the first time that women constituted exactly 1/5th of the body.
For three states, California, Washington, and New Hampshire, both senators are women. California's two senators in the 114th Congress (Boxer and Feinstein) were the first two women to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the same election (in 1992) from the same state. Eight female senators had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives – a distinction long held by only Margaret Chase Smith – Sens. Mikulski, Boxer, Stabenow, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Baldwin, Hirono and Capito.
Women senators for the 115th Congress
In January 2017, the number of serving women senators increased to 21: 16 Democrats and 5 Republicans. Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski and Barbara Boxer did not seek re-election in 2016, while four new Democratic senators were elected: Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), Kamala Harris (California), and Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire). Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire) lost to Maggie Hassan.
Of the two seats that changed hands from Republican to Democrat both were won by women, Duckworth and Hassan.
For three states, California, Washington, and New Hampshire, both senators are women. Seven female senators had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives – a distinction long held by only Margaret Chase Smith – Sens. Stabenow, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Baldwin, Hirono, Capito, and Duckworth.
Election, selection and family
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Before 2001, numerically speaking, the most common way for a woman to ascend to the U.S. Senate was to have been appointed there following the death or resignation of a husband or father who previously held the seat. An example is Muriel Humphrey (D-MN), the widow of former senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey; she was appointed to fill his seat until a special election was held (in which she did not run). However, with the election of three women in 2000, the balance shifted: More women have now entered service as a senator by winning their seats outright than by being appointed to the body.
Recent examples of selection include Jean Carnahan and Lisa Murkowski. In 2000, Jean Carnahan (D-MO) was appointed to fill the Senate seat won by her recently deceased husband, Mel Carnahan. Carnahan—even though dead—defeated the incumbent senator, John Ashcroft. Carnahan's widow was named to fill his seat by Missouri Governor Roger Wilson until a special election was held. However, she lost the subsequent 2002 election to fill out the rest of the six-year term. In 2002, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was appointed by her father Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, who had resigned from the Senate to become governor, to serve the remaining two years of his term. Lisa Murkowski defeated former governor Tony Knowles in her reelection bid in 2004.
Two recent members of the Senate brought with them a combination of name recognition resulting from the political careers of their famous husbands and their own substantial experience in public affairs. The first, former Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), is married to former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and served as Secretary of Transportation under President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Labor under President George H. W. Bush; she later ran a losing bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. The other, former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), wife of former President Bill Clinton, was First Lady of the United States and First Lady of Arkansas before taking her seat in 2000. She too ran an unsuccessful campaign for her party's presidential nomination in 2008; she resigned in 2009 to become the secretary of state for the eventual victor of that election, Barack Obama. In 2016, she ran a successful campaign for her party's presidential nomination, and, although gaining a plurality in the popular vote, failed to obtain a majority in the electoral college, losing to Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Another famous name is Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the daughter of former Kansas governor and one-time presidential candidate Alf Landon. After retiring from the Senate, she married former Senator Howard Baker (R-TN). Kassebaum has the distinction of being the first female elected senator who did not succeed her husband in Congress (Margaret Chase Smith was only elected to the Senate after succeeding her husband to his House seat). At the time of her retirement in 1997, Kassebaum was the second longest serving female senator, after Smith (though now that five other women senators have since served longer tenures, she is now seventh).
Firsts and onlies
Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) holds several distinctions for women in the U.S. Congress: She served in the Senate for 24 years, longer than any other female senator until Barbara Mikulski eclipsed her record in 2011; she was the first woman ever elected to both the U.S. House and Senate (she was first elected to the House in 1940 after the unexpected death of her husband, who himself was a member of the House of Representatives, and she served there for eight years before winning the Senate seat by a landslide); she was the first woman to hold a Senate Leadership position; and she also won her 1960 race for Senate in the nation's first ever race pitting two women against each other for a Senate seat.
As of 2017, Dianne Feinstein and Patty Murray have also surpassed Smith's longevity record. Mikulski, who as the longest-serving sitting senator was considered the "dean" of the women in the Senate, will relinquish that title to Feinstein when the former retires in January 2017.
Joni Ernst (R-IA) is the first female veteran to serve in the Senate. Two years later Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Ernst as a fellow veteran and also as the first female Double Amputee in the Senate.
Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire hold the distinction of being the first and second women elected both governor and senator of a state, both served as Governor of New Hampshire and served together starting in 2017.
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) arrived in the Senate in 1995, having previously served in the House of Representatives and both houses of the Maine state legislature. She and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are the only women to have served in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of the federal legislature.
In 1992, Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) became the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator when she toppled Senator Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary. Later that year, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator from a different party when she defeated appointed Senator John Seymour in a special election. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) duplicated Feinstein's feat in 1993, toppling appointed Senator Bob Krueger in a special election. In 2000, Stabenow (D-MI) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) became the first women to defeat incumbent elected senators in a general election, unseating Senators Spencer Abraham and Slade Gorton respectively. In 2008, Kay Hagan became the first woman to unseat a female incumbent, Elizabeth Dole. In 2016, Maggie Hassan repeated Hagan's feat and unseated Kelly Ayotte. In 2016, Kamala Harris was the first woman to defeat another woman from the same party, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in a General Election.
Senators from the same state
The first time two female senators from the same state served concurrently were Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-CA), both elected in 1992, with Feinstein taking office that same year (as the result of a special election) and Boxer taking office in 1993 until 2016 when Boxer retired and Feinstein was joined by Kamala Harris. For a brief time, there were two female senators from Kansas serving concurrently, when Nancy Kassebaum and Sheila Frahm briefly served together after Frahm's appointment in 1996; Frahm did not win election to the seat and left office later the same year. Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins served concurrently from 1997, when Collins entered office, to 2013, when Snowe retired. In Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have also served concurrently since 2001, when Cantwell entered office. Upon the opening of the 112th Congress, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen was joined by newly elected Republican Kelly Ayotte, making the first female tandem senators that do not belong to the same party. In 2016 Maggie Hassan defeated Kelly Ayotte to make the sixth pair of female senators with Jeanne Shaheen in two pairs.
List of states represented by women
Twenty-nine states have been represented by female senators. In 2009, North Carolina became the first state to have been represented by female senators of both parties, and the first to have a female senator succeeded by a female senator from the other party. In 2011, New Hampshire became the second state to be represented by female senators from both parties, and the first to have female senators of both parties serving concurrently.
List of female senators
|State||Term start||Term end||Length of
|Entered by||Left for||Party|
|Felton, RebeccaRebecca Felton
|Georgia||November 21, 1922||November 22, 1922||1||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Caraway, HattieHattie Caraway
|Arkansas||December 9, 1931||January 3, 1945||4,774||Appointment||Lost renomination||Democratic|
|Long, RoseRose Long
|Louisiana||January 31, 1936||January 3, 1937||337||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Graves, DixieDixie Graves
|Alabama||August 20, 1937||January 10, 1938||143||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Pyle, GladysGladys Pyle
|South Dakota||November 9, 1938||January 3, 1939||55||Special election||Retired||Republican|
|Bushfield, Vera C.Vera C. Bushfield
|South Dakota||October 6, 1948||December 26, 1948||81||Appointment||Appointment ended||Republican|
|Smith, Margaret C.Margaret C. Smith
|Maine||January 3, 1949||January 3, 1973||8,766||Election||Lost reelection||Republican|
|Bowring, EvaEva Bowring
|Nebraska||April 16, 1954||November 7, 1954||205||Appointment||Appointment ended||Republican|
|Abel, HazelHazel Abel
|Nebraska||November 8, 1954||December 31, 1954||53||Special election||Retired and resigned early[n 1]||Republican|
|Neuberger, MaurineMaurine Neuberger
|Oregon||November 9, 1960||January 3, 1967||2,246||Special election||Retired||Democratic|
|Edwards, ElaineElaine Edwards
|Louisiana||August 1, 1972||November 13, 1972||104||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Humphrey, MurielMuriel Humphrey
|Minnesota||January 25, 1978||November 7, 1978||286||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Allen, MaryonMaryon Allen
|Alabama||June 8, 1978||November 7, 1978||152||Appointment||Lost nomination to finish term||Democratic|
|Kassebaum, NancyNancy Kassebaum
|Kansas||December 23, 1978||January 3, 1997||6,586||Appointment
(won election to full term prior to lame-duck appointment)
|Hawkins, PaulaPaula Hawkins
|Florida||January 1, 1981||January 3, 1987||2,193||Appointment
(won election to full term prior to lame-duck appointment)
|Mikulski, BarbaraBarbara Mikulski
|Maryland||January 3, 1987||January 3, 2017||10,959||Election||Retired||Democratic|
|Burdick, JocelynJocelyn Burdick
|North Dakota||September 16, 1992||December 14, 1992||89||Appointment||Appointment ended||Democratic|
|Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein
|California||November 10, 1992||present||8,875||Special election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Boxer, BarbaraBarbara Boxer
|California||January 3, 1993||January 3, 2017||8,767||Election||Retired||Democratic|
|Moseley-Braun, CarolCarol Moseley-Braun
|Illinois||January 3, 1993||January 3, 1999||2,191||Election||Lost reelection||Democratic|
|Murray, PattyPatty Murray
|Washington||January 3, 1993||present||8,821||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Hutchison, KayKay Hutchison
|Texas||June 14, 1993||January 3, 2013||7,143||Special election||Retired||Republican|
|Snowe, OlympiaOlympia Snowe
|Maine||January 3, 1995||January 3, 2013||6,576||Election||Retired||Republican|
|Frahm, SheilaSheila Frahm
|Kansas||June 11, 1996||November 6, 1996||148||Appointment||Lost nomination to finish term||Republican|
|Collins, SusanSusan Collins
|Maine||January 3, 1997||present||7,360||Election||Incumbent||Republican|
|Landrieu, MaryMary Landrieu
|Louisiana||January 3, 1997||January 3, 2015||6,575||Election||Lost reelection||Democratic|
|Lincoln, BlancheBlanche Lincoln
|Arkansas||January 3, 1999||January 3, 2011||4,383||Election||Lost reelection||Democratic|
|Cantwell, MariaMaria Cantwell
|Washington||January 3, 2001||present||5,899||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Carnahan, JeanJean Carnahan
|Missouri||January 3, 2001||November 25, 2002||691||Appointment||Lost election to finish term||Democratic|
|Clinton, HillaryHillary Clinton
|New York||January 3, 2001||January 21, 2009||2,940||Election||Resigned to become United States Secretary of State||Democratic|
|Stabenow, DebbieDebbie Stabenow
|Michigan||January 3, 2001||present||5,899||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Murkowski, LisaLisa Murkowski
|Alaska||December 20, 2002||present||5,183||Appointment||Incumbent||Republican|
|Dole, ElizabethElizabeth Dole
|North Carolina||January 3, 2003||January 3, 2009||2,192||Election||Lost reelection||Republican|
|Klobuchar, AmyAmy Klobuchar
|Minnesota||January 3, 2007||present||3,708||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|McCaskill, ClaireClaire McCaskill
|Missouri||January 3, 2007||present||3,708||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen
|New Hampshire||January 3, 2009||present||2,977||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Hagan, KayKay Hagan
|North Carolina||January 3, 2009||January 3, 2015||2,191||Election||Lost reelection||Democratic|
|Gillibrand, KirstenKirsten Gillibrand
|New York||January 26, 2009||present||2,954||Appointment||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Ayotte, KellyKelly Ayotte
|New Hampshire||January 3, 2011||January 3, 2017||2,192||Election||Lost reelection||Republican|
|Baldwin, TammyTammy Baldwin
|Wisconsin||January 3, 2013||present||1,516||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Fischer, DebDeb Fischer
|Nebraska||January 3, 2013||present||1,516||Election||Incumbent||Republican|
|Heitkamp, HeidiHeidi Heitkamp
|North Dakota||January 3, 2013||present||1,516||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Hirono, MazieMazie Hirono
|Hawaii||January 3, 2013||present||1,516||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Warren, ElizabethElizabeth Warren
|Massachusetts||January 3, 2013||present||1,516||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Ernst, JoniJoni Ernst
|Iowa||January 3, 2015||present||786||Election||Incumbent||Republican|
|Moore Capito, ShelleyShelley Moore Capito
|West Virginia||January 3, 2015||present||786||Election||Incumbent||Republican|
|Cortez Masto, CatherineCatherine Cortez Masto
|Nevada||January 3, 2017||present||55||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Duckworth, TammyTammy Duckworth
|Illinois||January 3, 2017||present||55||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Harris, KamalaKamala Harris
|California||January 3, 2017||present||55||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|Hassan, MaggieMaggie Hassan
|New Hampshire||January 3, 2017||present||55||Election||Incumbent||Democratic|
|March 4, 1789||0|
|November 21, 1922||1||*|
|November 23, 1922||0|
|December 9, 1931||1||*|
|January 31, 1936||2||**|
|January 3, 1937||1||*|
|August 20, 1937||2||**|
|January 11, 1938||1||*|
|November 9, 1938||2||**|
|January 3, 1939||1||*|
|January 3, 1945||0|
|October 6, 1948||1||*|
|December 27, 1948||0|
|January 3, 1949||1||*|
|April 16, 1954||2||**|
|January 1, 1955||1||*|
|November 9, 1960||2||**|
|January 3, 1967||1||*|
|August 1, 1972||2||**|
|November 14, 1972||1||*|
|January 3, 1973||0|
|January 25, 1978||1||*|
|June 8, 1978||2||**|
|November 8, 1978||0|
|December 23, 1978||1||*|
|January 1, 1981||2||**|
|September 16, 1992||3||***|
|November 10, 1992||4||****|
|December 15, 1992||3||***|
|January 3, 1993||6||******|
|June 14, 1993||7||*******|
|January 3, 1995||8||********|
|June 11, 1996||9||*********|
|November 7, 1996||8||********|
|January 3, 1997||9||*********|
|January 3, 2001||13||*************|
|November 26, 2002||12||************|
|December 20, 2002||13||*************|
|January 3, 2003||14||**************|
|January 3, 2007||16||****************|
|January 3, 2009||17||*****************|
|January 22, 2009||16||****************|
|January 26, 2009||17||*****************|
|January 3, 2013||20||********************|
|January 3, 2017||21||*********************|
- Abel resigned 3 days before the end of her term, a common practice to give her successor seniority advantage.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- "Women in the U.S. Senate 1922–2015" (PDF). Center for American Women and Politics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-03.
- "U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1964 – Present > "Year of the Woman"".
- Amanda Terkel (November 7, 2012). "Women In Senate: 2012 Election Ushers In Historic Number Of Female Senators". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
- Mundy, Liza. "Who Will Be the Next Dean of the Senate Women?" Politico. 2015-03-04. Retrieved 2016-12-12.
- U.S. Senate History: Women in the Senate
- "Women in the U.S. Senate 1922–2010" Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
- Steinhauer, Jennifer (March 21, 2013). "Once Few, Women Hold More Power in Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2013.