Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women

Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women

Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women

Biographical Dictionary of Congressional Women


This comprehensive reference guide to women who have served in Congress provides detailed biographies of each of the 200 women who have held office on Capitol Hill over the past 80 years. Along with statistics on their congressional service, the biographies contain first-hand interviews and personal anecdotes. An introduction outlines women's history in Congress and their slow rise to prominence.


Throughout the history of the United States, a total of 200 women have served in Congress. That's about half the number of men currently sitting in the House and Senate today. It has not been an easy ride for women in federal office. Jeannette Rankin--the very first woman to serve in Congress--was elected before women across the country were even granted the right to vote. Since then, women have been forced to overcome prejudice and stereotyping from the voters as well as their male colleagues in order to represent their country in the halls of Congress.

Currently, women make up only 9 percent of the Senate and 13 percent of the House--an all-time record. One would think their small numbers would make it nearly impossible for them to have any major impact on legislation. Indeed, it was only recently that women were even afforded the same congressional perks granted their male colleagues. It was not until the mid-1980s that the House leadership allowed women lawmakers to use the House gym, which had been a longtime male bastion. The Senate did not build a bathroom for women members until 1993. Previously, women had to walk down a level to reach the nearest facility, while men were within several feet of a bathroom.

Even the artwork in the Capitol building shows the male dominance of Congress. Only seven of the 190 statues and busts in the Capitol are of women. And it was not until 1996 that the Senate added the likeness of one of its female alum to its extensive portrait gallery. It was a painting of Sen. Hattie Caraway (D-Ark.), the second woman to serve in Congress and the first to chair a Senate committee.

Women hold very few of the top leadership or committee assignments in Congress. In fact, only 10 women have ever chaired full committees in the House, and only two have led full committees in the Senate (see Chart 1). A woman has never chaired the House's most powerful com-

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