Celebrating a century of trailblazing women in U.S. government (1916 - 2016)

November 25, 2016

100 years ago, Montana's Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives. It was 1916, four years before the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote.

On election day 2016, women who voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton placed "I voted" stickers on the graves of dozens of suffragettes and trailblazing women in government. And although Clinton did not win the Presidency, she became the first woman to win a major party's Presidential nomination and the first to win the popular vote.

No, it's not a win, but please, don't burn those pantsuits. Clinton has placed another crack in that final glass ceiling and someday, that ceiling, too, will fall. In the meantime, let's take a moment to celebrate her historic accomplishment, and those of so many other trailblazing women in U.S. government. 

1916

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Jeannette Rankin (R-MT) became the first woman elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

1920

The 19th amendment was ratified, giving American women the right to vote.

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1925

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Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-WY) became the first woman elected to serve as governor of a U.S. state.

 

1927

Suffragist Charlotte Mary Conover Jones (MMA '27) became the Ford School's first alumna. As field secretary of the Dayton Ohio League of Women Voters, Conover Jones coordinated citizenship schools for women and municipal research projects for local leaders.

 

1931

Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR) succeeded her husband in the U.S. Senate, and later became the first woman elected to serve in the Senate.

 

1933

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President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins to serve as U.S. secretary of labor; she became the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet.

 

1948

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Margaret Madeline Chase Smith (R-ME) became the first woman elected to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress.

 

1964

Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink (D-HI) became the first Asian American woman elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

1965

Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to combat widespread and unrelenting race-based discrimination at the polls; African American women at last won the right to vote.

In the same year, President Johnson appointed Patricia Roberts Harris as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg; she became the first African American woman to serve as a U.S. ambassador.

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1968

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Shirley Anita Chisholm (D-NY) became the first African American woman elected to serve in Congress; in 1972, she also became the first African American woman to seek the presidency.

 

1977

President Jimmy Carter appointed Patricia Roberts Harris U.S. secretary of housing and urban development; she became the first African American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet.

 

1978

U-M alumna Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-KS) (MA ‘56) became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate who didn’t succeed her husband.

 

1981

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President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court; she became the first woman to hold the position of Supreme Court justice.

 

1984

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Presidential hopeful Walter F. Mondale chose U.S. Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-NY) as his vice presidential running mate; she became the first woman to run on a major party’s presidential ticket.

 

1989

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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) became the first Hispanic woman and Cuban American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; she continues to represent Florida’s 27th district.

 

1992

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Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

 

1993

President Bill Clinton nominated Janet Reno as U.S. Attorney General; she became the first woman to serve in the position.

 

1997

Madeleine K. Albright became the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

 

1998

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Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; in 2012, she also became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate.

 

2005

President George W. Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice to serve as U.S. secretary of state; she became the first African American woman to hold the post.

 

2007

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became the first woman elected to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

2016

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This year, Presidential Hopeful Hillary Clinton--the first woman to win a major party's Presidential nomination--lost the electoral college in key swing states, but won the popular vote.  

"[T]o all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion," Clinton told supporters the day after the election.

Clinton, who championed diversity and inclusiveness throughout her campaign, will inspire women for generations to come.