Women in Congress

Since 1917, when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress, a total of 298 women have served as U.S. Representatives or Senators. This Web site, based on the book Women in Congress, 1917–2006, contains biographical profiles of former women Members of Congress, links to information about current women Members, essays on the institutional and national events that shaped successive generations of Congresswomen, and images of each woman Member, including rare photos.

Member Profiles

Member Profiles

Read biographical profiles of former women Representatives, Delegates, and Senators that focus on their congressional careers. These profiles also contain suggestions for further reading and references to Members’ manuscript collections.

Women in Congress: An Introduction

Women in Congress: An Introduction

Like all history, the story of women in Congress is defined by change over time: From a complete lack of representation in Congress before 1917, women have advanced to party leadership at the start of the 21st century. At times during the near century that women have served in Congress, change has been almost imperceptible and at other times, change has been bold and dramatic.

"I'm No Lady; I'm a Member of Congress," 1917–1934

"I'm No Lady; I'm a Member of Congress," 1917–1934

Great triumphs and historic firsts highlight women’s initial foray into national political office. Four years after Jeannette Rankin of Montana was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, women won the right to vote nationally, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Rebecca Felton of Georgia became the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1922.

Onto the National Stage, 1935–1954

Onto the National Stage, 1935–1954

Thirty-six women entered Congress between 1935 and 1954, a tumultuous two decades that encompassed the Great Depression, World War II, and the start of the Cold War. Women participated in America’s survival, recovery, and ascent to world power in important and unprecedented ways; they became shapers of the welfare state, workers during wartime, and members of the military.

A Changing of the Guard, 1955–1976

A Changing of the Guard, 1955–1976

The third generation of women in Congress, the 39 individuals who entered the House and the Senate between 1955 and 1976, legislated during an era of upheaval in America, including the civil rights movement, protest against the Vietnam War, the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution, and the Watergate Scandal and efforts to reform Congress in the 1970s.

Assembling, Amplifying, and Ascending, 1977–2006

Assembling, Amplifying, and Ascending, 1977–2006

The fourth wave of women to enter Congress--from 1977 to 2006--was by far the largest and most diverse group. These 134 women accounted for more than half (58 percent) of all the women who have served in the history of Congress. In the House, the women formed a Congresswomen’s Caucus to publicize legislative initiatives that were important to women.

Historical Essays

Read essays that provide historical context about four distinct generations of women in Congress. Among the topics discussed in each essay are institutional developments, legislative agendas, social changes, and national historical events that have shaped each generation of Congresswomen.

Educational Resources

This page features materials designed to help teachers and students use the information presented in Women in Congress in their classrooms. It includes lesson plans as well as activities on photographs, objects, and memorable quotations. An interactive map and a list of online educational resources also are included.

Historical Data

In this section, users can find tables and appendices of historical data about women in Congress, including: women in Congress by Congress; committee leaders; party leadership positions; women of color in Congress; and women who have marriage and familial connections in Congress.

Artifacts

View artifacts from the House Collection related to the history of women in Congress, from portraits to political campaign buttons.

Map

Use the interactive map to compile information on the representation of women in Congress, such as the number of women who served from a particular state or region and when they served.

Teacher Book Request Form

(PDF) Complimentary copies of the Office of the Historian publications Women in Congress and Black Americans in Congress are available for educators, subject to availability.

Glossary

What is the difference between apportionment and realignment? What is a discharge petition? What does the word quorum mean and how does it relate to the House of Representatives? These and other relevant congressional terms are defined in this glossary.