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  Chapter Ten:
 
POLITICS
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  Presidential Vote
  Senate and House
  Women in Congress
  Black Elected Officials
  Social Attitudes

  

 

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POLITICS

Women in Congress

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After women first entered Congress early in the century, their numbers increased slowly and then rose rapidly.
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The first woman member of Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, was elected in 1916. That was four years before the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution enfranchised women nationally, but Montana and some other states had already done so. 

Congresswoman Rankin served one term when first elected and another when she was elected again in 1940. In her first term, she was the only woman in the House. In 1941, she had eight female colleagues, and together they held less than 2 percent of the seats in the House. By 1991, women held 28 seats. In 1999, they held 56 House seats—13 percent of the total. 

Once elected, congresswomen won reelection as easily as their male colleagues. Forty-one of the 103 women elected to the House between 1916 and 1986 remained for five or more terms. The longest-serving incumbent, Frances Bolton of Ohio, held office for thirty years. 

The first female senator, Rebecca Felton of Georgia, was appointed to fill an unexpired term in 1922. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the first woman senator to be regularly elected, served from 1931 to 1945. Only one other female senator, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, was elected and reelected more than once. Twelve of the 27 women who entered the Senate during the century were appointed to fill out unexpired terms, an honor often bestowed on the widows of deceased senators. Until 1992, there had never been more than three female senators serving at the same time. Nine women held Senate seats in 1999, just under 10 percent of the total.


Chapter 10 chart 3

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Norman J. Ornstein, Thomas E. Mann, and Michael J. Malbin, Vital Statistics on Congress: 1999–2000 (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2000), table 1-18.

 

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