Breaking Barriers: Women in Congress

Explore these sample topics of women breaking barriers in Congress. For more, visit the Women in Congress exhibition.

This 1878 petition for woman suffrage asked the House and Senate to amend the Constitution and allow women to vote. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
About this record
This 1878 petition for woman suffrage asked the House and Senate to amend the Constitution and allow women to vote.

Featured Topics

Women's Suffrage

"Women Must Be Empowered": The U.S. House of Representatives and the Nineteenth Amendment
An essay exploring how the House passed the Nineteenth Amendment.

Suffrage Records
Records regarding the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Congress and the Women’s Suffrage Movement
A blog showing the slow progress of suffrage, through the institutional perspective of congressional records and how citizens and advocacy groups interacted with Congress.

Suffragette City
A blog about Victoria Woodhull's testimony on women's suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee in 1871.

Suffragist Susan B. Anthony's Petition to the 43rd Congress
A historical highlight describing Susan B. Anthony's petition to the 43rd Congress (1873-1875) regarding a fine she received for illegal voting.

Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan was a key figure in bringing women's rights legislation to successful passage in Congress. Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan was a key figure in bringing women's rights legislation to successful passage in Congress.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

“A Changing of the Guard: Legislative Interests, 1955-1976”
An essay discussing the Equal Rights Amendment and the unique bond of cooperation that formed between women Members.

The Equal Rights Amendment
A historical highlight showcasing the successful discharge petition Representative Martha Griffiths used to release the ERA from the Judiciary Committee.

Equal Rights Amendment Records
House Records concerning the Equal Rights Amendment.

Oral History: Equal Rights Amendment

Representative Connie Morella discussing the ERA as her inspiration to run for Congress.

Oral History: Working Together for the ERA
Representative Elizabeth Holtzman describing the process of building congressional support to extend the ratification deadline for the ERA.

Oral History: The Equal Rights Act Discharge Petition: Part One and Part Two
House staffer Pat Kelly recalling her memories of Representative Martha Griffiths gathering signatures to move the ERA out of committee.

Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii and her staff met in their Longworth Building office. Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii and her staff met in their Longworth Building office.

Featured U.S. Representatives

Jeannette Rankin of Montana
Representative Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress, one of the few suffragists elected to Congress, and the only Member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II.

Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts
Representative Rogers was a nursing volunteer and advocate for veterans across the country; elected after her husband, Representative John Jacob Rogers, died in 1925.

Patsy Mink of Hawaii
Representative Mink was the first woman of color and the second woman from Hawaii to serve in Congress.

Shirley Chisholm of New York
Representative Chisholm was the first African-American woman in Congress.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida
Representative Ros-Lehtinen was the first Hispanic woman in Congress and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Featured Objects and Records

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana
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Unveiled in 2005, Jeannette Rankin’s portrait communicates both the cultural importance and the loneliness of her position as the first woman elected to Congress. Read more about this object.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Shirley Anita Chisholm of New York
<i>Representative Shirley Anita Chisholm of New York</i>/tiles/non-collection/n/nhd_chisholm.xml
Shirley Chisholm’s boldness is emphasized in the portrait commemorating her service in the House. Read more about this object.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Bella Savitzky Abzug of New York Supersisters Trading Card
<i>Representative Bella Savitzky Abzug of New York Supersisters Trading Card</i>/tiles/non-collection/n/nhd_abzug-supersister.xml
Bella Abzug and other notable Congresswomen were included in a series of trading cards called Supersisters, created to provide an alternative to all-male sports trading cards. See all Supersisters Trading Cards in the collection or read more about this object.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Cardiss Collins of Illinois Lapel Pin
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Cardiss Collins was elected to 12 consecutive terms in the House and became one of Congress’ longest-serving women of color. Read more about this object.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Women’s Suffrage Amendment Tally Sheet
<i>Women’s Suffrage Amendment Tally Sheet</i>/tiles/non-collection/n/nhd_suffrage-tally.xml
This tally sheet shows the results of the May 21, 1919, House vote on the constitutional amendment to grant women suffrage. Read more about this record.
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration