History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

A Century of Women in Congress

On November 7, 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the United States Congress. “I may be the first woman member of Congress,” she observed upon her election. “But I won’t be the last.”

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Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling

By now, most people are familiar with the metaphorical “breaking the glass ceiling” to depict monumental gains made by women in politics, business, industry, and sports. Iconic images like Rosie the Riveter during World War II illustrated a break from tradition that made it more acceptable for women to leave the sphere of domesticity and move into the workforce. Well before the Second World War, Jeannette Rankin of Montana played her part in shattering gender stereotypes when in 1917, she became the first woman elected to Congress. This milestone paved the way for hundreds of women to follow in her footsteps.

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From Candidate to Congresswoman

Early on November 7, 1916, households with telephones in Montana received a call. “Good morning! Have you voted for Jeannette Rankin?”

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Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11

On the evening of September 11, 2001, congressional leadership prepared to make their first collective response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hours earlier. Members of Congress assembled on the Capitol steps to join leaders in a public demonstration of unity. Broadcast across the country, it became a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation and resolve, ending with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” This gathering became a symbol of national unity in the ensuing weeks and months.

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Categories: Oral History, Institution

Through Her Lens

With a bounce in her step and a camera in hand, Dolly Seelmeyer walked through the halls of the United States Capitol, from 1972 to 2004, as the first female House photographer, ready to prove she could do anything a male photographer could do—“and do it better.”

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"You've Won Your Way Into Our Hearts"

Tucked away in a corner of the L-shaped Republican Cloakroom reserved for Members of Congress, a hard-working, modest woman ran a cramped lunch counter. Part of a world built upon power and influence, Helen Sewell did not use her position for political gain, but focused instead on caring for the people she considered family for more than 70 years.

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