Elections & Government
Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman in Congress, serving during the 65th Congress between 1917 and 1919. Since then, 393 more women have served in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, including as non-voting delegates. That is 3% of the 12,415 people who have served in Congress since 1789.
There are 123 women representatives and delegates in the House in the 117th Congress, which began in January — making up 28% of the chamber. The current Congress also began with 26 female senators, though Kamala Harris of California stepped down to become the first female vice president and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia lost a runoff election that took place during the current term.
While the total share of women in Congress does not match that of the US population (51%), it has increased in recent decades. Today’s Congress has more than double the number of women who served in the 106th Congress of 1999 to 2001.
Since 1916, every state but one — Vermont — has sent a woman to Congress. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, who has been a member of the House since 1982, is the longest-serving woman in Congress.
Female congressional representation since 1916
Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia, the first female Senator, was appointed in 1922 after Senator Thomas Watson died. She served for one day. The first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas, who served two full terms after initially being appointed to a seat in 1931.
Since then, 32 of 50 states have had a woman serve as senator for at least one congressional term. In all, there have been 57 women senators in US history.
The longest-serving female senator is Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who served five full terms between 1987 and 2017. Current California Senator Dianne Feinstein — now in her fifth full term after being appointed in 1992 — will overtake Mikulski if she is reelected in November 2022.
Learn more about government structure in the US.
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