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There have been 38 women in the United States Senate since the establishment of that body in 1789. Women were first elected in number in 1992. Today, 17 of the 100 U.S. Senators are women. Thirteen of the women who have served were appointed; seven of those were appointed to succeed their deceased husbands.



Throughout most of the Senate's history, the body was almost entirely male. Until 1920, few women ran for the Senate. Until the 1990s, very few were elected. This is 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 may still play 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 became the first woman to win election to the Senate in 1930. 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.

This began to change in the wake of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, with the election of the 103rd Congress in 1992, which commentators dubbed the "Year of the Woman". In addition to Sen. 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." Since then, many more women in both the Democratic and Republican parties have campaigned for the Senate, and several have been elected. Of the twenty-five women who have ever been elected (rather than only appointed) to the Senate, sixteen are currently serving.

Twenty-five female senators have been Democrats while thirteen have been Republicans. Of the seventeen female senators currently serving, thirteen are Democrats and four are Republicans.


The 17 female senators of the 111th Congress. Left to right:
Top row: Murkowski, Lincoln, McCaskill, Stabenow, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Hutchison, Mikulski, Murray, Landrieu, Boxer, Snowe
Bottom row: Hagan, Feinstein, Shaheen, Collins, Klobuchar

As of the 111th Congress, there are 17 women serving in the 100-person body (an all-time high), including freshmen senators . For three states, California, Washington and Maine, both senators are women. California's current two senators (Boxer and Feinstein) are the first two women to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the same election (in 1992) from the same state. Seven female senators previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives—a distinction once held by only Margaret Chase Smith—Mikulski, Boxer, Snowe, Lincoln, Stabenow, Cantwell, and Gillibrand.

Class End of Term
1 2013
2 2015
3 2011

Class State Name Party Prior Experience Education First took
3 Alaska Lisa Murkowski Republican Alaska House of Representatives Georgetown, Willamette 2002 1957
3 Arkansas Blanche Lincoln Democratic United States House of Representatives Randolph-Macon Women's College, Arkansas 1999 1960
1 California Dianne Feinstein Democratic President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mayor of San Francisco Stanford University 1992 1933
3 California Barbara Boxer Democratic Marin County Board of Supervisors, United States House of Representatives Brooklyn College 1993 1940
2 Louisiana Mary Landrieu Democratic Louisiana House of Representatives, Louisiana State Treasurer Louisiana State 1997 1955
1 Maine Olympia Snowe Republican Maine House of Representatives, Maine State Senate, United States House of Representatives Maine 1995 1947
2 Maine Susan Collins Republican Deputy Maine Treasurer; gubernatorial nominee St. Lawrence 1997 1952
3 Maryland Barbara Mikulski Democratic Baltimore City Council, United States House of Representatives Mount Saint Agnes, Maryland 1987 1936
1 Michigan Debbie Stabenow Democratic Michigan House of Representatives, Michigan State Senate, United States House of Representatives Michigan State 2001 1950
1 Minnesota Amy Klobuchar Democratic-Farmer-Labor Hennepin County Attorney Yale, Chicago 2007 1960
1 Missouri Claire McCaskill Democratic Missouri House of Representatives, Jackson County Legislature, Jackson County, Missouri Prosecutor, State Auditor of Missouri Missouri 2007 1953
2 New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen Democratic New Hampshire Senate, Governor of New Hampshire Shippensburg University, Mississippi 2009 1947
1[1] New York Kirsten Gillibrand Democratic United States House of Representatives Dartmouth College, UCLA 2009 1966
2 North Carolina Kay Hagan Democratic North Carolina State Senate Florida State University, Wake Forest University 2009 1953
1 Texas Kay Bailey Hutchison Republican Texas House of Representatives, Texas State Treasurer Texas 1993 1943
3 Washington Patty Murray Democratic Washington State Senate Washington State 1993 1950
1 Washington Maria Cantwell Democratic Washington House of Representatives, United States House of Representatives Miami University 2001 1958
  1. ^ appointed; election to be held in November 2010

Election, selection and family

Prior to 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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, served as Secretary of Labor under President George H. W. Bush, and later ran a losing bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. The other, former Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), is a former First Lady of the United States, former First Lady of Arkansas, and the former Chair of the National Legal Services Corporation and of the Children's Defense Fund. Clinton became President Barack Obama's Secretary of State in 2009.

Another famous name is Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, better known by her married name from her first marriage (Kassebaum). She is 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 Senator to be elected to the Senate with no previous Congressional experience who had not succeeded a dead husband in his seat. Her three terms in the Senate mark her time there as the third-longest tenure for a woman in the Senate after Margaret Chase Smith and Barbara Mikulski.

Firsts and Onlys

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) holds several distinctions for women in the U.S. Congress: She served the Senate (to date) longer than any woman has (24 years); 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 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.

Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire holds the distinction of being the first woman elected both governor and senator of a state.


Houses served

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.

Defeated incumbents

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 2006, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) became the third by defeating Senator Jim Talent. In 2008, Kay Hagan became the first woman to unseat a female incumbent, Elizabeth Dole.

Concurrent service

The first female U.S. Senators from a single state to serve 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. In Kansas, 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. In Maine, Senators Olympia Snowe (R) and Susan Collins (R) have served concurrently since 1997, when Collins entered office. Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have also served concurrently since 2001, when Cantwell entered office. To date no state has ever had two women of different political parties serving concurrently.

List of states represented by women

States that have been represented by female Senators.
     Democrat(s)      Republican(s)      Both a Democrat and a Republican

Twenty-three states have been represented by female Senators. As of 2009, North Carolina is the only state to have been represented by female senators of both parties.

State Current Previous Total
Louisiana 1 2 3
Maine 2 1 3
Alabama 0 2 2
Arkansas 1 1 2
California 2 0 2
Kansas 0 2 2
Minnesota 1 1 2
Missouri 1 1 2
Nebraska 0 2 2
New York 1 1 2
North Carolina 1 1 2
South Dakota 0 2 2
Washington 2 0 2
Alaska 1 0 1
Florida 0 1 1
Georgia 0 1 1
Illinois 0 1 1
Maryland 1 0 1
Michigan 1 0 1
New Hampshire 1 0 1
North Dakota 0 1 1
Oregon 0 1 1
Texas 1 0 1

List of female U.S. Senators

Eight of the 11 Democratic female Senators then in office gesture to the crowd following their individual speeches during the second day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. From left to right are Blanche Lincoln, Maria Cantwell, Mary Landrieu, Barbara Boxer, Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, Debbie Stabenow, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Name State From To Party
Rebecca Latimer Felton Georgia 1922 1922 Democratic
Hattie Caraway Arkansas 1931 1945 Democratic
Rose McConnell Long Louisiana 1935 1937 Democratic
Dixie Bibb Graves Alabama 1937 1938 Democratic
Gladys Pyle South Dakota 1938 1939 Republican
Vera Calahan Bushfield South Dakota 1948 1948 Republican
Margaret Chase Smith Maine 1949 1973 Republican
Eva Kelly Bowring Nebraska 1954 1954 Republican
Hazel Hempel Abel Nebraska 1954 1954 Republican
Maurine Brown Neuberger Oregon 1960 1967 Democratic
Elaine Edwards Louisiana 1972 1972 Democratic
Muriel Humphrey Minnesota 1978 1978 Democratic
Maryon Pittman Allen Alabama 1978 1978 Democratic
Nancy Kassebaum Kansas 1978 1997 Republican
Paula Hawkins Florida 1981 1987 Republican
Barbara Mikulski Maryland 1987 Present Democratic
Jocelyn Burdick North Dakota 1992 1992 Democratic
Dianne Feinstein California 1992 Present Democratic
Barbara Boxer California 1993 Present Democratic
Carol Moseley Braun Illinois 1993 1999 Democratic
Patty Murray Washington 1993 Present Democratic
Kay Bailey Hutchison Texas 1993 Present Republican
Olympia Snowe Maine 1995 Present Republican
Sheila Frahm Kansas 1996 1996 Republican
Susan Collins Maine 1997 Present Republican
Mary Landrieu Louisiana 1997 Present Democratic
Blanche Lincoln Arkansas 1999 Present Democratic
Maria Cantwell Washington 2001 Present Democratic
Jean Carnahan Missouri 2001 2002 Democratic
Hillary Rodham Clinton New York 2001 2009 Democratic
Debbie Stabenow Michigan 2001 Present Democratic
Lisa Murkowski Alaska 2002 Present Republican
Elizabeth Dole North Carolina 2003 2009 Republican
Amy Klobuchar Minnesota 2007 Present Democratic
Claire McCaskill Missouri 2007 Present Democratic
Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire 2009 Present Democratic
Kay Hagan North Carolina 2009 Present Democratic
Kirsten Gillibrand New York 2009 Present Democratic

Timeline of female U.S. Senators (1922-present)

See also


  1. ^ appointed; election to be held in November 2010

External links


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