Facts About Women in the House and the Senate

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

Here are some facts about women who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Congress.

  • 313 women have been elected or appointed to the U.S. Congress. Jeannette Rankin, Republican from Montana, was the first woman elected to serve in Congress. On November 9, 1916, she was elected to the House of Representatives as Montana's Representative-at-Large to the 65th Congress; she served from 1917–1919.
  • In the 114th Congress, which began in January 2015, there are 87 women in the House and 20 women in the Senate. New members of the Senate include: Joni Ernst (R), Iowa; Shelly Moore Capito (R), W.Va. and of the House: Aumua Amata (R), American Samoa; Barbara Comstock (R), Va.; Debbie Dingell (D), Mich.; Gwen Graham (D), Fla.; Brenda Lawrence (D), Mich.; Mia Love (R), Utah; Martha McSally (R), Ariz.; Stacey Plaskett (D), V.I.; Kathleen Rice (D), N.Y.; Elise Stefanik (R), N.Y.; Norma Torres (D), Calif.; Mimi Waters (R), Calif.; Bonnie Watson Coleman (D), N.J.
  • Of the women who have served in the House of Representatives and Senate, 46 were elected to fill vacancies caused by their husbands' deaths.
  • 14 congresswomen have also served as Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, and Cabinet Secretaries:
    • Ruth Bryan Owen, Minister to Denmark, (1933-1936)
    • Emily Taft Douglas, Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), (1950)
    • Clare Boothe Luce, Ambassador to Brazil, (1959) she was confirmed to the position but resigned before taking office
    • Kathryn E. Granahan, Secretary of the Treasury, (1963-1967)
    • Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation (1983-1987), and Secretary of Labor (1989-1990)
    • Millicent Fenwick, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, (1983-1985)
    • Margaret M. Heckler, Secretary of Health & Human Services, (1983-1985), and United States Ambassador to Ireland, (1986-1989)
    • Lynn Martin Secretary of Labor, (1991-1993)
    • Corinne Claiborne Boggs, Ambassador to the Vatican, (1997-2001)
    • Carol Moseley-Brau, Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, (1999-2001)
    • Constance A. Morel, Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, (2003-2004) and Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, (2004-2007)
    • Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, (2009-2013)
    • Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor, (2009-2013)
    • Ellen O'Kane Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Department of State, (2009-2012)

EMILY's list (Early Money Is Like Yeast) is a political network to help pro-choice women Democrats get elected to political office in the U.S.

WISH List (Women In the Senate and House) is an organization that supports pro-choice Republican female candidates for Congress and governorships by contributing time or money to their campaigns.

Famous Facts and Firsts

  • Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine, holds the record for the being the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. Originally elected in 1940 to fill the vacancy left by her dying husband, she was then elected to the Senate in 1948.
  • Edith Nourse Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, holds the record for the longest service by a woman in the House of Representatives. Originally elected to fill the vacancy caused by her husband's death, she served from June 25, 1925, until her death on September 10, 1960.
  • Representative Patsy Mink, a Democrat from Hawaii, was the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, in 1965.
  • Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, became the first black woman in Congress when she was elected to the House in 1968.
  • Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen , a Republican from Florida, was first elected in 1989. She is the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban American to serve in Congress.
  • Representative Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York, was elected in 1992 and became the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress.
  • Representative Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, became the first woman to head a political party. In Nov. 2002 she replaced Dick Gephardt of Missouri as House Minority Leader. In Jan. 2007 she became the first woman to be Speaker of the House.
  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, became the longest-serving woman in Congress in March 2012, having been in office for 35 years. She served for 10 years in the House of Representatives and has been a senator for 25 years. Mikulski passed the record previously held by Edith Nourse Rogers.
  • Tammy Baldwin, a seven-term Democratic congresswoman from Wisconsin, prevailed over former governor Tommy Thompson in the race for U.S. Senate and became the first openly gay politician elected to the Senate. "This is a big day for gay women in America, and really, for all communities who aren't the typical straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress," she said.

See also complete list of Women in Congress.

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