Whitepaper

Women in Congress Guide

It took the United States 128 years to elect the first woman to Congress. When Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, arrived in Washington in 1917, it was still a radical idea.

The 19th amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote, was still two years from passage and three years from ratification. Rankin became known as the “lady of the House” and served only a single term. Yet her election created a pathway. When Rankin returned decades later to win a House seat in 1940, she was one of nine women serving in the chamber.

Today, there are more women in Congress than ever before-and still not nearly enough.

There are 145 women serving as voting members of the 117th, plus four who hold non-voting seats. In the House, 121 members are women. In the Senate, it is 24. Across the political spectrum, women continue to break new ground in almost every election cycle.

Kamala Harris is the first female vice president. Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House. Janet Yellin is America’s first female Treasury Secretary-after serving as the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve.

Of course, the accomplishments of women in politics are not limited to “firsts.” Read through this guide and you’ll find extraordinary experience and achievement. There are lawmakers who served on aircraft carriers and those who studied astrophysics. There are those who owned farms, started businesses and worked as teachers. Some came to Washington with advanced degrees. Others came with leadership experience at companies like General Motors and Microsoft.

Collectively, women make up 27 percent of the 117th Congress. Yet the truth is that women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population. And so, as we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we recognize that there is work ahead. As Rankin herself once said, “We’re half the people. We should be half the Congress.”