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Women in Congress
Women in State Legislatures
Female Governors
Female Mayors
Women in the Obama Administration/The Cabinet
Women in Presidential Elections
Women in the Court
Female Voters
Women in Politics: An International View

Women in Congress

When the 113th United States Congress convenes in January 2013 there will be:

  • 99 female members of Congress overall, out of 535 members. That’s only 18.5% of Congress.
  • 20 female senators, or 20% (16 Democrats, 4 Republicans).
  • 79 female Representatives, or 18.2% (60 Democrats, 19 Republicans).
  • In addition, there are three female delegates, representing Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Washington DC.

The 113th Congress has a record number of females in the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the 113th Congress, New Hampshire became the first state in U.S. history to have an all-female Congressional delegation and a female governor.

Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, and Vermont have never sent a woman to either the US Senate or US House.

In 2002, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was chosen to be Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. With this selection, she became the first woman to lead the Democrats in the U.S. House. In 2007, she became the first female speaker of the House. In 2011, she began serving as the U.S. House Minority Leader and will continue to serve in that role in the 113th Congress beginning in 2013.

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, serving from 1917-1919 and again from 1941-1942.

Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, though she only served temporarily. In 1922, she was appointed to fill a seat for two days and then gave it up to the man who had been elected to it.

The first woman ever elected to the Senate was Hattie Wyatt Caraway in 1933. She was appointed to fill her late husband’s seats, but she later served two full terms. She also became the first woman to chair a Senate committee.

1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Women” due to a surge in the number of female candidates running for elected office.

  • 29 female candidates filed for the U.S Senate elections.
  • 4 of 11 Senatorial candidates won elected office, as well as one incumbent, making this the largest number of female victories in major-party nominations. The victors were: Diane Feinstein (D-CA); Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Carol Moseley- Braun (D- IL); Patty Murray (D-WA); Barbara Mikulski (Incumbent, D- MD).
  • 24 female members were elected to the House: Corrine Brown (D-FL); Leslie Byrne (D-VA); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Eva Clayton (D-NC); Pat Danner (D-MO); Jennifer Dunn (R-WA); Karan English (D-AR); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Tillie Fowler (R-FL); Elizabeth Furse (D-OR); Jane Harman (D-CA); Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR); Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-PA); Cynthia McKinney (D-GA); Carrie Meek (D-FL); Deborah Pryce (R-OH); Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA); Lynn Schenk (D-CA); Karen Shepherd (D-UT); Karen Thurman (D-FL); Nydia Velazquez (D-NY); Lynn Woolsey (D-CA); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
  • 22% of the freshman members of the House in 1992 were women.
  • The 1992 election increased the percentage of women in the House from 6% to 11%.
  • As of 2010, a total of 260 women have served in Congress, 170 Democrats and 90 Republicans. Of these women, 222 (145 Democrats, 77 Republicans) have served only in the House of Representatives; 30 (19 Democrats, 11 Republicans) have served only in the Senate; and 8 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans) have served in both houses.

(* Source: CRS Report, RL30261)

Women in State Legislatures

As of 2013, 1,779, 24.1 percent, of the 7,383 state legislators in the United States are women.

Colorado has the highest percentage of females in state legislative office (41%), while Louisiana has the lowest (11.1%).

The top ten states with the highest percentage of females in the state legislature are:

  1. Colorado (41%)
  2. Vermont (40.6%)
  3. Arizona (35.6%)
  4. Minnesota (33.3%)
  5. New Hampshire (32.5%)
  6. Illinois (32.2%)
  7. Hawaii (31.6%)
  8. Washington (30.6%)
  9. Maryland (30.3%)
  10. Connecticut (29.4%)

Female Governors

In 2013, 71 women hold statewide elective executive offices across the country; women hold 22.4% of the 315 available positions.

To date, women have been elected statewide to executive offices in 49 of the nation’s 50 states (the exception is the state of Maine).

As a result of the 2012 elections, there are five female women governors (1D, 4R). One new woman was elected Governor: Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

Hassan joins four holdover incumbents who were not up for re-election: Jan Brewer (R-AZ), Susanna Martinez (R-NM), Mary Fallin (R-OK) and Nikki Haley (R-SC).

The largest number of women to serve simultaneously as governors was nine, which occurred in 2004 and again in 2007.

Since the founding of our country, only 32 women have been elected state governor.

The first female governor was Nellie Taloe Ross (D-WY) in 1925. She was picked by the Democrats to run after her husband died.

Twenty-four states have never had a female governor. The relatively new governors in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Carolina are the first women to head the government in those states.

Female Mayors

Among the 100 largest cities in the United States, 12 have female mayors.

  1. Houston, TX (5th largest)- Annise D. Parker
  2. Fort Worth, TX (17th largest)- Betsy Price
  3. Baltimore, MD (24th largest)- Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
  4. Las Vegas, NV (31st largest)- Carolyn Goodman
  5. Fresno, CA (42nd largest)- Ashley Swearengin
  6. Raleigh, NC (44th largest)-Nancy McFarlene
  7. Oakland, CA (48th largest)- Jean Ouan
  8. Stockton, CA (68th largest)- Ann Johnston
  9. Chula Vista, CA (80th largest)- Cheryl Cox
  10. Glendale, AZ (91st largest)- Elaine M. Scruggs
  11. North Las Vegas, NV (96th largest)- Shari L. Buck
  12. Irving, TX (97th largest)- Beth Van Duyne

The first female mayor in the country was Susanna Salter in 1887, mayor of Argonia, Kansas.

Women in the Obama Administration/The Cabinet

Two Cabinet positions are filled by women in the Obama Administration:

  • Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Kathleen Sebelius

One other woman holds cabinet level positions within the Obama Administration:

  • U.N Ambassador: Susan E. Rice

Other women in important positions in the Obama Administration include:

  • Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General)
  • Cecilia Muñoz (Director of the Domestic Policy Council)
  • Valerie Jarrett (Senior Adviser to the President)
  • Nancy-Ann DeParle (Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff)>
  • Mary L. Schapiro (Chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission)

The first woman in the cabinet was Francis Perkins in 1933. She was selected to be Secretary of Labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To date, 22 cabinet or cabinet-level posts have been filled by women.

Forty women have held a total of 45 cabinet or cabinet-level appointments in U.S. history.

Seven women have served as Secretary of Labor: Hilda Solis (2009-2013); Elaine Chao (2001-2009); Alexis Herman (1997-2001); Lynn Morley Martin (1991-1993); Elizabeth Hanford Dole (1989-1991); Ann Dore McLaughlin (1987-1989); Frances Perkins (1933-1945).

Four women have served as Secretary of Health and Human Services: Kathleen Sebelius (2009-Present); Donna E. Shalala (1993-2001); Margaret M. Heckler (1983-1985); Patricia R. Harris (1979-1981).

Three women have served as Secretary of State: Hilary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013); Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009); Madeline K. Albright (1997-2001).

Three women have served as UN Ambassador: Susan Rice (2009-Present); Madeline K. Albright (1993-1997); Jeane J. Kirkpatrick (1981-1985).

Three women have served as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Lisa Jackson (2009-2013); Christine Todd Whitman (2001-2003); Carol M. Browner (1993-2001).

Three women have served as Council of Economic Advisers Chair: Christina D. Romer (2009-Present); Janet L. Yellen (1997-1999); Laura D’ Andrea Tyson (1995-1996).

Two women have served as US Trade Representative: Susan Schwab (2006-2009); Charlene Barshefsky (1997-2001).

Two women have served as Secretary of Education: Margaret Spellings (2005-2009); Shirley M. Hufstedler 1979-1981).

Two women have served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Patricia R. Harris (1977-1979); Carla Anderson Hills (1975-1977).

Two women have served as Secretary of Commerce: Barbara H. Franklin (1992-1993); Juanita A. Kreps (1977-1979).

Two women have served as Secretary of Transportation: Mary E. Peters (2006-2009); Elizabeth Hanford Dole (1983-1987).

The following women are the only women to have served in the following cabinet positions:

Secretary of Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano (2009-Present).
Secretary of the Interior: Gale Norton (2001-2006).
Secretary of Agriculture: Ann Veneman (2001-2005).
Director of the Office of Personnel Management: Janice R. Lanchance (1997-2001).
Director of the Office of Management and Budget: Alice M. Rivlin (1994-1996)
Attorney General: Janet Reno (1993-2001)
Secretary of Energy: Hazel R. O’Leary (1993-1997)
Special Trade Representative: Carla Anderson Hills (1989-1993).
Counsellor to the President: Anne Armstrong (1973-1974).
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare: Oveta Culp Hobby (1953-1955).

No woman has held the post of Secretary of Defense, Treasury, or Veterans Affairs.

Women in Presidential Elections

The first woman to run for President of the United States was Victoria Claflin Whoodhull in 1872. She was a candidate for the Equal Rights Party. She ran against Republican Ulysses S. Grant and Democrat Horace Greenley. Ms. Clafin later became the first woman to own a Wall Street Investment Firm.

The first woman to be nominated for President of the United States by a major party was Margaret Chase Smith in 1964. She received Republican primary votes multiple states, including New Hampshire, Illinois, and Massachusetts. However, she removed herself from contention after the first ballot.

Ellen McCormack was the first woman to qualify for federal campaign matching funds and qualified for Secret Service Protection in 1976. She entered 20 state primaries for the Democratic presidential nomination. She ran again in 1980 as the candidate for the Right to Life party.

Women in the Court

Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female Member of the Supreme Court. President Reagan nominated to the court, and then, the U.S. Senate confirmed her.

Currently there are three female justices in the Supreme Court:

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
  • President Barack Obama appointed Justice Sonia Sotamayor to the Supreme Court in 2009.
  • In 2010, Justice Elena Kagan was appointed as the 112th member of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Genevieve Rose Cline was the first female Federal Judge. She was nominated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928 to the United States Customs Court.

Female Voters

Since 1980, in every presidential election, the proportion of eligible female adults who have voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who have voted. Prior to 1980, the voter turnout rate was lower for women than for men.

Female voters have outnumbered male voters in every presidential election since 1964.

In the 2008 presidential election, 60.4% of eligible female adults voted (70.4 million women) while 55.7% of eligible men voted (60.7 million men).

Since 1986, the proportion of eligible female adults who have voted has succeeded the proportion of eligible male adults who have voted in all elections, reversing the historical trend of higher voter turnout rate for men than for women.

In 2006, a nonpresidential election year, 48.6% of eligible females voted (51 million women) whereas 46.9% of eligible men voted (45.1 million men).

Women outnumber men among registered voters. In 2008, there were 78.1 million registered female voters and 68.2 registered male voters.

Women voters shifted Republican in the 2010 midterm election.

*Sources: Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

Women in Politics: An International View

In 2008, the United States ranked 69th in worldwide female leadership.
In 2009, the United States ranked 71st in worldwide female leadership.
In 2010, the United States ranked 72nd in worldwide female leadership.
In 2012, the United States ranked 80th in worldwide female leadership.
In 2013, the United States ranked 77th in worldwide female leadership.
In 2014, the United States ranked 84th in worldwide female leadership.
(Source: Inter-parliamentary Union of Geneva)

Women elected to be heads of state/government in recent years:

  • Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany (Elected 2005)
  • Executive President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia (Elected 2006)
  • Executive President Michelle Bachelet Jeria, Chile (Elected 2006)
  • Minister President Emily de Jongh-Elhage, Nederlandse Antillen (Self-governing Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) (Elected 2006)
  • Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica (Elected 2007)
  • Prime Minister Han Myung-sook, South Korea (Elected 2007)
  • President Pratibha Patil, India (Elected 2007)
  • Executive President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina (Elected 2007)
  • Acting President Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, South Africa (Elected 2008)
  • Leader of the Government Antonella Mularoni, San Marino (Elected 2008)
  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh (Elected 2009)
  • Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland (Elected 2009)
  • Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Croatia (Elected 2009)
  • President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania (Elected 2009)
  • President of the Confederation Doris Leuthard, Switzerland (Elected 2010)
  • President Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan (Elected 2010)
  • President-Elect Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Costa Rica (Elected 2010)
  • Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, Finland (Elected 2010)
  • Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia (Elected 2010)
  • Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, Slovakia (Elected 2010)

*Sources: Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership

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