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Women in the United States Congress: 1917-2005

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Publication Date: June 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL30261

Topic: Population and demographics (Women)

Abstract:

A record 83 women serve in the 109th Congress: 69 in the House (46 Democrats and 23 Republicans) and 14 in the Senate (9 Democrats and 5 Republicans). Representative Jeanette Rankin (R-MT, 1917-1919, 1941-1943) was the first woman elected to Congress. Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA) was the first woman to serve in the Senate. She was appointed in 1922 and served for only one day.

A total of 228 women have served in Congress, 144 Democrats and 84 Republicans. Of these women, 195 have served only in the House; 26 have served only in the Senate; and seven have served in both houses. The figures include one Delegate each from Guam, Hawaii, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Of the 202 women who have served in the House, 36 were elected to fill vacancies caused by the death of their husbands. Fifteen of the 36 were subsequently elected to additional terms. Nineteen women have been elected to fill other vacancies.

Edith Nourse Rogers (R-MA), who served in the House for 35 years, holds the record for length of service by a woman in Congress. Margaret Chase Smith (RME), the first woman elected to the House and Senate, holds the record for Senate service by a woman with 24 years.

Of the 33 women who have served in the Senate, 13 were first appointed, and five were first elected to fill unexpired terms including Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was appointed to the 108th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of her father, Frank Murkowski (R-AK), and then elected in 2004 to her own six-year term. Nine were chosen to fill vacancies caused by the death of their husbands. Of the nine, two were subsequently elected to additional terms. Hattie Caraway (D-AR) was the first spouse to succeed her husband and the first woman elected to a six-year Senate term.

A total of 24 black women have served in Congress, including 14 in the 109th Congress. Seven Hispanic women have been elected to the House; all are serving in the 109th Congress. Three Asian American women have served in the House, including Doris Matsui (D-CA), who was elected to the 109th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband, Robert Matsui.

Ten women Representatives and four women Senators have chaired congressional committees.

This report identifies the names, committee assignments, dates of service, and (for Representatives) districts of the 228 women Members of Congress. It will be updated as events warrant.