Firsts Among Members

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Read about the first generation of African-American Members of Congress, serving from 1870 to 1887, and symbolizing the triumph of the Union in the Civil War.

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Fast Facts

Read about the great triumphs and historic firsts that highlight the first generation of Women in Congress’s foray into national political office from 1917 to 1934.

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Elected in 1870, Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, a former slave, served five terms in the House of Representatives./tiles/non-collection/i/i_firsts_rainey_joseph_hc.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Elected in 1870, Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, a former slave, served five terms in the House of Representatives.
    First Member to represent two states:
    Daniel Hiester served the state of Pennsylvania in the 1st and 4th Congresses (1789–1796) and the state of Maryland during the 7th and 8th Congresses (1801–1804).

    First former Representative to serve as President:
    James Madison of Virginia began his presidential service on March 4, 1809.

First former President to serve as a Representative:
John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts began his House service on March 4, 1831.

First and only incumbent Representative to be elected President:
James A. Garfield of Ohio was elected President on November 2, 1880.

First African-American Representative:
Joseph Rainey of South Carolina began his House service on December 12, 1870.

First Hispanic-American Representative:
Romualdo Pacheco of California began his House service on March 4, 1877.

First officially designated Republican floor leader:
James A. Tawney of Minnesota, 55th Congress (1897–1899).

First officially designated Democratic floor leader:
Oscar Underwood of Alabama, 56th Congress (1899–1901).

First woman Representative:
Jeannette Rankin of Montana began her House service on April 2, 1917.

First Asian-Pacific American Representative:
Dalip Saund of California began his House service on January 3, 1957.

First Known Representative to be elected by a write-in vote:
Charles F. Curry, Jr., of California won election to the 72nd Congress (1931–1933) as a write-in candidate on November 4, 1930.

First Asian-American woman Representative:
Patsy Mink of Hawaii began her House service on January 3, 1965.

First African-American woman Representative:
Shirley Chisholm of New York began her House service on January 3, 1969.

First Hispanic-American woman Representative:
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida began her House service on August 29, 1989.