Familial Connections of Women Members of Congress

Women Who Directly Succeeded Their Late Husbands

As of 2021, 45 women have directly succeeded their late husbands in Congress (38 in the House and eight in the Senate). Seven widows have represented California—more than any other state—including the first two in the House, Mae Ella Nolan (1923–1925) and Florence Prag Kahn (1925–1937). In 1931, Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first widow to succeed her late husband in the Senate. The following charts contain lists of all widows who have served in Congress as well as other family connections pertinent to women in Congress.

First Elected CongressNameStatePartyChamber
67th (1921–1923)Mae Ella NolanCaliforniaRRepresentative
69th (1925–1927)Florence P. KahnCaliforniaRRepresentative
69th (1925–1927)Edith Nourse RogersMassachusettsRRepresentative
70th (1927–1929)Pearl OldfieldArkansasDRepresentative
71st (1929–1931)Effiegene Locke Wingo ArkansasDRepresentative
72nd (1931–1933)Hattie Wyatt Caraway  ArkansasDSenator
72nd (1931–1933)Willa McCord Blake Eslick TennesseeDRepresentative
73rd (1933–1935)Marian Williams Clarke New YorkRRepresentative
74th (1935–1937)Rose McConnell LongLouisianaDSenator
75th (1937–1939)Elizabeth H. GasqueSouth CarolinaDRepresentative
76th (1939–1941)Frances Payne BoltonOhioRRepresentative
76th (1939–1941)Florence Reville GibbsGeorgiaDRepresentative
76th (1939–1941)Clara G. McMillanSouth CarolinaDRepresentative
76th (1939–1941)Margaret Chase Smith1MaineRRepresentative
77th (1941–1943)Veronica Grace Boland PennsylvaniaDRepresentative
77th (1941–1943)Katharine Edgar ByronMarylandDRepresentative
78th (1943–1945)Willa Lybrand FulmerSouth CarolinaDRepresentative
80th (1947–1949)Vera Cahalan BushfieldSouth DakotaRSenator
82nd (1951–1953)Vera Daerr Buchanan PennsylvaniaDRepresentative
82nd (1951–1953)Marguerite Stitt Church IllinoisRRepresentative
82nd (1951–1953)Maude Elizabeth KeeWest VirginiaDRepresentative
83rd (1953–1955)Mary E. (Betty) Farrington2  HawaiiRRepresentative
84th (1955–1957)Kathryn E. GranahanPennsylvaniaDRepresentative
86th (1959–1961)Maurine B. Neuberger3OregonDSenator
86th (1959–1961)Edna O. SimpsonIllinoisRRepresentative
87th (1961–1963)Catherine D. NorrellArkansasDRepresentative
87th (1961–1963)Louise G. ReeceTennesseeRRepresentative
87th (1961–1963)Corinne Boyd RileySouth CarolinaDRepresentative
88th (1963–1965) Irene Bailey BakerTennesseeRRepresentative
89th (1965–1967)Lera Millard ThomasTexasDRepresentative
92nd (1971–1973)Elizabeth Bullock Andrews AlabamaDRepresentative
93rd (1973–1975) Corinne Claiborne (Lindy) BoggsLouisianaDRepresentative
93rd (1973–1975)Cardiss Collins IllinoisDRepresentative
94th (1975–1977)Shirley N. PettisCaliforniaRRepresentative
95th (1977–1979)Maryon Pittman AllenAlabamaDSenator
95th (1977–1979)Beverly Butcher ByronMarylandDRepresentative
95th (1977–1979)Muriel HumphreyMinnesotaDSenator
97th (1981–1983)Jean Spencer AshbrookOhioRRepresentative
98th (1983–1985)Sala Galante Burton CaliforniaDRepresentative
99th (1985–1987)Catherine S. LongLouisianaDRepresentative
102nd (1991–1993)Jocelyn Birch BurdickNorth DakotaDSenator
104th (1995–1997)Jo Ann EmersonMissouriRRepresentative
105th (1997–1999)Mary Bono Mack CaliforniaRRepresentative
105th (1997–1999)Lois CappsCaliforniaDRepresentative
109th (2005–2007)Doris Matsui CaliforniaDRepresentative

Widows Who Directly Succeeded Late Husbands Who Were Nominees or Members-Elect

Dates of ServiceName StateParty Chamber
1963–1971Charlotte T. Reid6  IllinoisRRepresentative
1975–1995Marilyn Lloyd7TennesseeDRepresentative
2001–2002Jean Carnahan4MissouriDSenator
2021–presentJulia Letlow23LouisianaRRepresentative

Women Who Succeeded Living Husbands in Congress

Dates of ServiceName StateParty Chamber
1927–1931Katherine Gudger Langley5KentuckyRRepresentative
2015–presentDebbie Dingell MichiganDRepresentative

Widows Who Followed Their Late Husbands into Congress Without Directly Succeeding Them

 Dates of ServiceNameStatePartyChamber
1929–1931Ruth Hanna McCormick8  IllinoisRRepresentative
1953–1977Leonor K. Sullivan9MissouriDRepresentative
2007–2019Nicola S. (Niki) Tsongas10MassachusettsDRepresentative

Wives Appointed to the Senate by Their Husbands

Dates of ServiceNameStatePartyChamber
1937Dixie Bibb GravesAlabamaDSenator
1972Elaine S. EdwardsLouisianaDSenator

Women Members Married to Other Members of Congress

Dates of Service NameStatePartyChamber
1929–1931Ruth Hanna McCormick11IllinoisRRepresentative
1945–1947Emily Taft Douglas12Illinois Representative
1975–1979Martha Elizabeth Keys13KansasDRepresentative
1978–1997Nancy Landon Kassebaum14KansasRSenator
1979–1995 (House)
1995–2013 (Senate) 
Olympia Jean Snowe15MaineRRepresentative/Senator
1990–1997Susan Molinari16  New YorkRRepresentative
1993–1995Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky17PennsylvaniaDRepresentative
2003–2009Elizabeth Dole18North CarolinaRSenator
2004–2011Stephanie Herseth Sandlin19South DakotaDRepresentative
1998–2013Mary Bono Mack20CaliforniaRRepresentative

Women Who Gave Birth While Serving in Congress

Dates of ServiceNameState PartyChamber
1973–1979Yvonne Brathwaite BurkeCaliforniaDRepresentative
1990–1997Susan Molinari New YorkRRepresentative
1995–1997 (House)
1999–2011 (Senate)
Blanche Lambert LincolnArkansasDRepresentative/Senator
1995–1997Enid Greene WaldholtzUtahRRepresentative
2003–presentLinda T. SánchezCaliforniaDRepresentative
2004–2011Stephanie Herseth SandlinSouth DakotaDRepresentative
2005–presentCathy McMorris RodgersWashingtonRRepresentative
2007–2009 (House)
Kirsten Gillibrand New YorkDRepresentative/Senator
2013–presentJaime Herrera BeutlerWashingtonRRepresentative
2013–2017 (House)
2017–present (Senate)
Tammy Duckworth IllinoisDRepresentative/Senator
2015–presentElise StefanikNew YorkRRepresentative

Daughters Who Directly Succeeded Their Fathers in Congress

Women Members of Congress Whose Fathers Preceded Them as Representatives or Senators

Women Members Whose Children and Grandchildren Have Served in Congress

  • Sen. Rose McConnell Long (D-LA), mother of Senator Russell Long (D-LA, 1948–1987).
  • Rep. Frances Payne Bolton (R-OH), mother of Rep. Oliver Bolton (R-OH, 1953–1957; 1963–1965).21
  • Rep. Katharine Edgar Byron (D-MD), mother of Rep. Goodloe Byron (D-MD, 1971–1978).
  • Rep. Maude Elizabeth Kee (D-WV), mother of Rep. James Kee (D-WV, 1965–1973).22
  • Rep. Irene Bailey Baker (R-TN), stepmother of Senator Howard Baker (R-TN, 1967–1985).
  • Rep. Carrie P. Meek (D-FL), mother of Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 2003–2011).
  • Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-MO), mother of Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO, 2005–2013).
  • Rep. Julia May Carson (D-IN), grandmother of André Carson (D-IN, 2008–present).

Women Members Whose Siblings Have Served in Congress


1Smith served in the House from 1940 to 1949 and then won election to the Senate, where she served from 1949 to 1973.

2Territorial delegate.

3Neuberger was not immediately appointed to succeed her husband Richard Neuberger after he died in early 1960. However, she won the general election in November 1960 to serve the remainder of her husband's unexpired term in the 86th Congress and a full six-year term commencing on January 3, 1961.

4Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before the election for the Missouri Senate seat he was running for. His name remained on the ticket, and he posthumously defeated incumbent John Ashcroft by a narrow margin. Governor Roger Wilson appointed Jean Carnahan to her husband's vacant seat. Carnahan's re-election bid in a special election held in 2002 was unsuccessful.

5Her husband, John Wesley Langley, had won re-election to the House in 1924 for Kentucky's 10th District but was convicted of conspiring to transport and sell liquor in violation of the Volstead Act. He was placed in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta before his term expired. Katherine Langley ran successfully for his seat in 1926 and was re-elected in the 71st Congress in 1928.

6The GOP nominee for Illinois' 15th District, Frank R. Reid, Jr., died in August 1962 while campaigning for the open seat. Republican officials convinced his widow, Charlotte Reid, to replace him on the ticket.

7Just weeks after securing the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent LaMar Baker in Tennessee's 3rd District, Mort Lloyd was killed in a plane crash. Democratic leaders convinced his widow, Marilyn Lloyd, to replace him on the ticket.

8Ruth Hanna McCormick won election in 1928 to one of Illinois' two At-Large House seats. Her husband, Joseph Medill McCormick, had served one term each in the House (1917–1919) and the Senate (1919–1925). He died days before his Senate term expired in February 1925.

9John B. Sullivan died in January 1951, but Leonor Sullivan could not convince Missouri 3rd District Democrat leaders to give her the nomination for the special election. In November 1952, after redistricting merged her husband's old district with another, she defeated GOP incumbent Claude I. Bakewell, who had succeeded John Sullivan in the 82nd Congress.

10Nicola Tsongas was elected to a House seat covering a Massachusetts congressional district once represented by her late husband, Paul Tsongas. Paul Tsongas served in the House from 1975 to 1979 and, later, in the Senate from 1979 to 1985. He died in 1997.

11(See note 8 above.) Ruth Hanna McCormick married Rep. Albert Simms, who had served one term in the House with her in the 71st Congress (1929–1931), in March 1932.

12Married to Sen. Paul Douglas (D-IL, 1949–1967).

13Married Rep. Andrew Jacobs (D-IN, 1965–1973, 1975–1997) in 1975 while both were serving in the House.

14Married Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN, 1967–1985) in 1996 after he left office but while she still was in the Senate. They had served together six years.

15Married Rep. John McKernan, Jr. (R-ME, 1983–1987) in 1989, after he had left the House and was serving as governor of Maine, but while Snowe was still in the House. They had served together four years.

16Married Rep. Bill Paxon (R-NY, 1989–1999) in 1994 while both were serving in the House.

17Preceded in the House by her then husband, Rep. Ed Mezvinsky (D-IA, 1973–1977). The couple divorced in 2007.

18Preceded in the Senate by her husband, Robert J. Dole (R-KS), who served in the House from 1961 to 1969 and the Senate from 1969 to 1996.

19Stephanie Herseth married Rep. Max Sandlin (D-TX, 1997–2005) in 2007. They served together for one year in the House.

20Mary Bono married Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL, 2005–2013) in 2007. She won election under the name Mary Bono Mack in the 111th–112th Congresses (2009–2013).

21They were the only mother–son pair to serve simultaneously.

22James Kee was the first son to directly succeed his mother in Congress.

23Luke Letlow was elected to the House in a runoff election on December 5, 2020; however, he died due to complications from COVID-19 on December 29, 2020, before he could take his seat. Representative Julia Letlow won the special election to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband on March 20, 2021.