10 Female Trailblazers in American Politics on International Women's Day

As we recognize the achievements of women globally on International Women's Day, we celebrate the women who achieved firsts in American politics opening the door to female legislators at nearly every level.

Right now, 106 women (22 Senators and 84 Representatives) serve in the United States Congress. In addition, five female delegates represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the United States House of Representatives.

At the state level, one quarter (1,871) of state legislators are women, six women are governors12 women are lieutenant governors, 286 women serve as mayors of major cities, and dozens of women serve in other executive roles

The path for women in politics has not been easy and there is much more work to do to get women involved in politics.

However, we can thank these 10 women who cleared a path for women in politics:

  1. Susanna Madora Salter – The first woman elected mayor in the U.S. Salter was elected as mayor of ArgoniaKansas in 1887 weeks after Kansas women won the right to vote in city elections. An active member of the Prohibition Party, Salter's candidacy was supported by the temperance movement and local Republican Party.

  2. Jeannette Rankin – The first woman elected to Congress. This Republican from Montana said upon her election in 1916, "I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”

  3. Sandra Day O'Connor - The first female Supreme Court Justice. O'Connor was a two-term Republican state senator from Arizona. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated her to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  4. Nellie Tayloe Ross – The first woman elected governor of a state in the U.S. Ross, a Democrat, became the 14th governor of Wyoming (and first woman governor) in 1925 after winning a special election following the death of her husband.

  5. Frances Perkins – The first woman to serve as cabinet secretary. Perkins, a Democrat, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, is credited with devising and implementing many aspects of the New Deal.

  6. Margaret Madeline Chase Smith – The first women elected to both houses of Congress and the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the U.S. presidency by either of the two major parties. Smith was a Republican from Maine who served in Congress from 1939 to 1973.

  7. Patsy Takemoto Mink – The first Asian-American woman (and woman of color) to be elected to CongressMink was elected in 1965 and served until 1977 and again from 1990-2002.

  8. Shirley Chisholm – The first African-American woman elected to Congress. A Democrat from New York, Chisholm was elected in 1968 and served seven terms. She was also the first black candidate for a major party's nomination for President.

  9. Jeane Kirkpatrick – The first woman appointed to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Kirkpatrick, who started as a Democrat and became a Republican, was appointed by to the U.N. by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

  10. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen - The first Latina elected to Congress. Born in Havana, Cuba, Ros-Lehtinen emigrated to the United States when she was seven years old. After serving in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate, she was elected to represent Florida in 1989.

Missing on this list is the first female president. We'll see what the future holds.

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