Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics

By Cindy Hooper | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
A Look Back

And frankly, being a woman I think gives me a slightly different take on a lot of
issues and on a lot of the solutions to the problems we face
.

—Senator Carol Moseley Braun

The Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) reports that over 12,000 people have served in the U.S. Congress, but only less than 2 percent of these people have been women. The CAWP also reports that the number of women in elective office on the federal level has not changed dramatically in more than 25 years.

Women’s suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time when Stanton ran in 1866, she was not even eligible to vote. She garnered only 12 votes out of the 12,000 that were cast. Citizens during this time period were annoyed by a woman running for an elective office, but they were just as appalled by the mere suggestion that women should be granted the right to vote at all.

The first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate was Georgian Rebecca Latimer Felton in 1922. She served for only 24 hours since she was appointed to fill a vacancy. Hattie Wyatt Caraway was the first woman elected to the Senate in 1932, following a stint as an appointee to the Senate to fill a vacancy caused by the death of her husband Senator Thaddeus Caraway. Hattie Caraway served in the Senate until 1945 but failed to get reelected to her seat. Thirty-five women have since served in the U.S. Senate, with only one being African American, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun.

The first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives was Jeanette Rankin of the state of Montana in 1916. She was the first female member ever in the U.S. Congress. Rankin’s election to the 77th Congress preceded the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, so support from

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