Women’s History Month: Firsts for Women in Politics

By Deborah O’Rell March is Women’s History Month and this blog will be recognizing an important event, a significant achievement or a special woman each day this month. Because of the nature of our work, I’ve decided to concentrate on women who have worked politically or legally to bring about change and improve the lives of women. For example, Clara Barton was a nurse who, in 1861, left the hospital she was working in, to care for the soldiers on the battlefields during the Civil War. She brought the supplies and care to them where they needed it most. But did you know she also founded the Red Cross? No small feat. She’s definitely someone who deserves mention as significant women’s in history.

Yet, these posts are going to focus on women who changed laws, worked to change laws or created organizations to change the laws. Law is what this country was founded on and by which we live today.

Therefore, for the first day of Women’s History Month, the following are highlights of Firsts for Women in Politics.

1848 The first women’s right convention. It took place in Seneca Falls, NY. It’s founders were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Lucy Stone among others. This convention produced the Declaration of Sentiments that included women’s suffrage as a key element.

1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for president even though she was not allowed to vote. (that took some cahones).

1884 Belva Lockwood was the first woman admitted to practice law before the US Supreme Court. She also ran for president in 1888

1887 Susanna Salter was the first female mayor in Kansas in the country. Actually, the ‘wild west’ recognized women’s rights well before much of the ‘more liberal New England’ did.

1896 Martha Hughes Cannon was the first woman elected as state senator, in Utah. Again, women still did not have the right to vote.

1917 Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress.

1920 FINALLY, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified granting women the right to vote.

1922 Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first woman to serve in US Senate. She was appointed, held the seat for two days and then had to give it up to a man who was elected. Nonetheless, she got herself into a Senate seat and deserves mention.

1933 Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve on a presidential cabinet. She was Secretary of Labor. 1964 Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman nominated for the presidency at the Republican national convention. She is also the woman to have served in the House and the Senate.

1968 Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to serve in Congress where she served for almost 15 years. She also ran for president in 1972 losing the nomination to George McGovern.

1981 Sandra Day O’Conner was appointed to sit on the US Supreme Court.

1984 Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman ever to run on a major ticket as VP to Walter Mondale.

1989 Nydia Velasquez was the first Hispanic and the first Cuban elected to Congress.

1992 Carol Moseley Braun was the first African American woman to be elected to the US Senate.

1993 Janet Reno became the first US Attorney General.

2001 Elaine Chao became the first Asian-American woman to serve on a presidential cabinet.

2007 Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to serve as Speak of the House.

2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to run for president on a major party ticket.

2009 Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic, and third woman, to be appointed to the US Supreme Court.