As Women’s History Month begins to come to a close, we are going to take a minute to “Remember the Ladies,” as Abigail Adams once wrote to her husband, and reflect on women in U.S. politics whose impacts reverberate into today.|
Julia C. Addington was the first woman elected to public office in Iowa, and possibly the country. In 1869, she became Mitchell County’s Superintendent of Schools, where she oversaw 76 schools with 2,231 students and 122 teachers until 1871.
Hattie Wyatt Caraway was the first woman to be elected to the Senate, serving from 1932 when she was appointed when her husband died, until 1945. She was the first woman to chair a Senate Committee, first woman to preside over the Senate, first senior woman senator, and the first woman to run a Senate hearing.
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to ever be elected to Congress in 1916, before women were even able to vote. She served two terms: one 1917-1919 and the other from 1941-1943. She advocated the creation of and was appointed to the Committee on Woman Suffrage, and opened the first House Floor debate on women’s suffrage. In between her terms, she was an advocate for peace and social welfare programs.
Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a cabinet position at the secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, when she was an architect of the New Deal. She devoted herself to improving working conditions and labor laws in the country. Some of her greatest achievements include the implementation of the Social Security Act of 1935, as well as minimum-wage laws.
Martha W. Griffiths was a Congresswoman from Michigan from 1955 to 1975, and is known as the “Mother of the Equal Rights Amendment." She pursued tax reform as the chair of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Policy, fought to have women included in the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and managed to get the ERA passed in Congress, though it was only ratified by 35 of the 38 needed states, so it did not amend the constitution.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman in Congress. She introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation to fight for racial and gender equality, economic equality and the end of the Vietnam War. She was also a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, and was the first African American woman to run for president.
Patsy Takemoto Mink was the Asian-American woman, and first woman of color elected to Congress. One of her significant accomplishments was her co-sponsorship and support building of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a Supreme Court Justice since 1993. She was just the second of four women to be on the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU in the 1970s, was the first tenured female professor at Columbia, and argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the Supreme Court, winning five.
Other notable individuals include:
These are just a few of many women in our political history that have paved the way for future generations. Though we have come far since Abigail Adams reminded her husband to remember the ladies as he drafted many of the founding principles of our country, it is still important to remember that women make up 24% of the 116th Congress yet the population of the United States is 50.8 percent female. Hopefully, moving into the future, we will be able to move the representation even closer to 50-50.
- Nancy Pelosi (CA), first woman to become speaker of the House, and thus the highest ranking elected female leader in the U.S.
Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be a presidential candidate for a major party.
Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice.
Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be secretary of State.
Cora Belle Reynolds Anderson, the first Native American woman elected to a state legislature.
Tammy Baldwin (WI) was the first openly gay senator.
Rashida Tlalib (MI) and Ilhan Omar (MN), the first Muslim women in Congress
Deb Haaland (NM) and Sharice Davids (KS), the first Native American women in Congress
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