This article was originally published in November 2018, the day after the midterm elections. On Thursday, the first day of the 116th Congress, a historic amount of women will be sworn-in. This article documents the prominent women among the many elected.
November 5, 2018, was one for the HERstory books, with 98 women projected to win House races and 12 women to clinch Senate seats — making for a record number of 111 women who will serve in the Capitol once the new Congress is seated in January. Voters also elected eight female governors, casting their ballots for four incumbent and four non-incumbent women. The historic firsts leaned heavily Democratic, with over 85 percent of newly elected women coming from the Democratic Party.
Among the glass-ceiling shatterers are 40 women of color, Tennessee’s first female senator, the first female governors of South Dakota and Maine and the first Democratic Latina elected to governor, Axios reported. These women will shake up a Congress currently dominated by men, with less than 20 percent of the House and 22 percent of the Senate currently identifying as female. Before Tuesday, only six of the nation’s 50 governors were women.
The midterm election was the first major test of the country’s temperature following Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation among sexual assault allegations.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar: First Muslim women elected to Congress
Rashida Tlaib, won with 88.7 percent of the vote in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, becoming the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress. Tlaib, 42, a Muslim Detroit native and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, will replace Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned after a 53-year career amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Talib joins Ilhan Omar, a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member elected to Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, to serve as the first Muslim women in Congress.
Ilhan Omar swept the district formerly occupied by Keith Ellison, becoming one of the first Muslim women and the first Somali-American member elected to Congress. After coming to the United States over twenty years ago as a refugee, the 36-year-old has said she was motivated to run by President Donald Trump’s “politics of fear.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Youngest woman elected to Congress
After shocking the nation and edging out Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in a fiesty and grassroots primary, Ocasio-Cortez is now congresswoman-elect for New York’s 14th District. As if her progressive, Bernie Sanders-endorsed credentials and viral campaign videos were not enough, the 29-year-old is now the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
“I think we all know deep down—here and across the country—that our deepest challenges are not left and right, they are not red and blue. They are top and bottom, they are right and wrong,” Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday night.
Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland: First Native American women elected to Congress
Once a mixed martial-arts fighter and now a Democratic Congresswoman-elect, Sharice Davids edged out incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder for the House seat. She joins Democrat Deb Haaland, who was victorious Tuesday night in New Mexico’s 1st District, to become the first Native American women elected to Congress. Republican Yvette Herrell may join Davids and Haaland as the third Native American woman in Congress, but the Associated Press had not called Herrell’s race—also in New Mexico—as of Wednesday morning.
Ever since his 19-point margin victory in 2010, Yoder has won the district by double digits. His district, however, narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election — creating what the Kansas City Star has called a “national Democratic wave fueled by anger against President Donald Trump.”
Davids also became Kansas’ first openly LGBTQ member elected to Congress on Tuesday night.
Ayanna Pressley: Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to Congress
Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to Congress Tuesday night, representing Massachusetts 7th Congressional District. Her historic first comes after unseating 10-term incumbent Democrat Mike Capuano in a shocking primary this September.
“In Congress, I will be focused on lifting up the voices of those in community, partnering with activists and residents, and ensuring that those closest to the pain are closest to the power, driving and informing the policy-making,” she said to supporters Tuesday night.
Kim Reynolds: Iowa’s first woman elected for governor
While not new to the position, Reynolds made history Tuesday by becoming Iowa’s first woman elected governor. Reynolds has been Iowa’s governor since 2017—but she was promoted to the job from her position as lieutenant governor when then-governor Terry Branstad became the Trump administration’s ambassador to China.
Reynold’s victory was hard-fought, narrowly edging out Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell, with 50.4 percent of the vote. Her win comes after a campaign featuring a battle over abortion, with Reynolds signing the most restrictive abortion law in the country and Hubbell, a former board member of Planned Parenthood, promising to undo the legislation. The win is especially notable given its backdrop: Iowa supported Barack Obama two times before voting for Trump in 2016.
Marsha Blackburn: Tennessee’s first woman elected to the Senate
Blackburn became Tennessee’s first female elected senator Tuesday night, beating out former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen in a tight race. Blackburn, aligned closely with Trump, proved victorious against the wishes of Taylor Swift, who endorsed Bredesen for the seat.
The Washington Post noted that Bredesen got fewer votes than the number of likes on Swift’s Instagram endorsement, a discrepancy that was not lost on Twitter users.
Wednesday morning, Blackburn dissed Swift on Fox & Friends, remarking “Well I hope Taylor will shake it off.”
Veronica Escobar: First Hispanic woman to represent Texas in Congress
The state where Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the population elected Hispanic women to Congress for the first time Tuesday night. Escobar will replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz Tuesday, in Texas’ 16th Congressional District. Escobar soared to victory in a state where Latinos account for nearly 40 percent of the state.