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100 Years, 100 Women

In 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, there were no women serving in the United States Congress. In 1916 Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was the ranking Republican member of the House’s newly formed Woman Suffrage Committee and two years later opened the floor debate on the amendment. In 1918 she ran and lost a race for the Senate.

One hundred years later, 131 of the 541 senators, representatives, and delegates are women and a woman presides as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

“I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.”

Jeannette Rankin, 1916

Card from Jeannette Rankin’s 1916 congressional race

Card from Jeannette Rankin’s 1916 congressional race

Courtesy of Montana Historical Society Research Center

In 1965 Patsy Mink of Hawaiʻi became the first woman of color elected to Congress. In the thirteen terms she served, she championed women’s equality and coauthored Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.

Patsy Mink campaign pamphlet, 1970

When Nancy Pelosi was elected to congress in 1987, she was one of twenty-five women—two in the Senate and twenty-three in the House. Pelosi was the first woman to serve as a House party whip and minority leader. In 2007 she was the first woman elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Nancy Pelosi with Speaker’s gavel, 2007

Nancy Pelosi with Speaker’s gavel, 2007

Courtesy of Nancy Pelosi and the U.S. House of Representatives

Photograph: Tina M. Agee

January 4, 2007

Gavel, 2007

This wooden gavel, a symbol of power and authority, was presented to Nancy Pelosi in 2007 when she became Speaker of the House.

Gift of the Honorable Nancy Pelosi

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