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Women in politics: A timeline
March 2, 2021

(State Dept./D. Thompson)

March is Women’s History Month. Here’s a look at political milestones for U.S. women.

(© Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty images)

1851–1920. Women’s suffrage started out as an anti-slavery movement, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton (right) and Susan B. Anthony leading the way. Women got the vote in 1920.

Getting elected to Congress


Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin is to be presented with the flag that flew at the House of Representatives during the passage of the suffrage amendment.

1916. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress. Representing Montana, she said, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last’’ after her 1916 win.

Serving in the president’s Cabinet


France Perkins, Secretary of Labor, as she addressed the annual convention of the Red Cross in Washington April 10, 1934. (AP Photo)

1933. Frances Perkins, secretary of labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the first woman to serve in the Cabinet. She was a key player in writing the New Deal legislation, including setting minimum-wage laws.

Walking the halls of both chambers of Congress


Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, R-Me., smiles Jan., 5, 1949, as she takes a break from looking over papers in her office in Washington D.C. She was a member of the new 81st Congress. (AP Photo)

1940–1973. Margaret Chase Smith, a Maine Republican who was the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate, was famous for her “Declaration of Conscience’’ speech against the character attacks of Senator Joe McCarthy.

Securing the right to vote for black Americans


Gloria Richardson, left, a leader in the Cambridge, Md., integrationist’s movement, Dr. Rosa L. Gragg of the National Association of Colored Woman’s Clubs and Mrs. Diane Nash Bevel, right, representing the Southern Christian Leadership Committee, are interviewed as they leave the White H

1965. Diane Nash co-founded the student branch of the civil rights movement and worked for voting rights in the South. Using nonviolent strategies, she risked her life to register black women and men to vote, helping gain passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Making a run for the White House


Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) addresses the delegates to the first annual convention of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Houston, Texas, Feb. 9, 1973. The caucus says that this is the first convention of politically active women in half a century. Congresswoman Chisholm, who ran for

1972. Shirley Chisholm was the first black female major-party presidential candidate. She said, “My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency.”

Securing a vice presidential nomination


Geraldine Ferraro at the convention, July 19, 1984 in San Francisco, California. (AP Photo)

Influencing U.S. diplomacy


U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, right, smiles during a meeting with Israel’s President Shimon Peres. not seen at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, Thursday Sept. 20, 2007. Israel overshadowed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s latest Mideast peace mission b

2001–2009. Condoleezza Rice was the first black woman to serve as the U.S. national security adviser (2001) under President George W. Bush and the first black woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state (2005–2009).

Making it on the Republican presidential ticket


Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, left, smiles after introducing his Vice Presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Dayton, Ohio., Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin abruptly announced Friday, July 3, 2009 she is resigning from office at the end o

2008. Sarah Palin was the Republicans’ first female vice presidential nominee in 2008. A self-described “hockey mom,’’ the Alaska-bred Palin also knows how to hunt and field-dress a moose.

Topping the presidential ticket


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves as she arrives to vote at her polling place in Chappaqua, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

2016. Hillary Clinton ran for president as the first female nominee for that office by a major U.S. party. She lost to Donald J. Trump, but inspired a lot of girls and women along the way. Before that, in addition to working as a lawyer, Clinton served as the first lady of Arkansas, the first lady of the U.S., a senator representing New York and the U.S. secretary of state.

Making an impact at the United Nations


Former South Caroline Gov. Nikki Haley smiles before being sworn-in as U.S. Ambassador to the UN by Vice President Mike Pence, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in the Vice Presidential Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vuc

2017: Nikki Haley was elected the first female governor of South Carolina when she was just 38 years old. She became the first Indian American to serve in a Cabinet-level position when President Trump selected her as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Becoming vice president of the United States


Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.(Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

2020-2021: Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California chosen by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate, was elected vice president of the United States in the 2020 election and sworn in on January 20, 2021. Harris is the first woman and the first Southeast Asian and African American to serve as U.S. vice president.