Just the Tip of the Iceberg: 7 Amazing AAUW Members Who Were Elected to Congress

November 05, 2013

Black and white portrait photos of six of the women
A recent poll presents a depressing statistic: Only 43 percent of Americans believe it would be a good thing if more women were in Congress. So, on this Election Day, I am presenting a short list of some of my favorite AAUW members who were elected to Congress. This is to say thanks to these women for paving the way for so many others who run for office. And let’s hope we can get some of the 57 percent to read this list, too!

  1. Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-MT), 1917–19; 1941–43
  2. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman ever elected to Congress. She was elected for the first time in 1916 and again in 1940. After her election in 1916, she stated, “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” And boy, was she right!
    (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

  3. Rep. Florence Prag Kahn (R-CA), 1925–37
  4. Florence Prag Kahn was the first Jewish woman to serve in Congress. She won a special election after the death of her husband, Rep. Julius Kahn. She went on to win five subsequent elections on her own. She is quoted as saying, “There is no sex in citizenship, and there should be none in politics.” Go, Florence!
    (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

  5. Rep. Willa McCord Blake Eslick (D-TN), 1932–33
  6. Willa McCord Blake Eslick entered Congress in 1932 to finish out the term of her deceased husband, Rep. Edward Eslick. She devoted her short time there to measures that would alleviate the painful effects of the Great Depression on farmers in her hard-hit home state of Tennessee. One such measure was a plan to reduce the number of farm foreclosures. It’s inspiring what Eslick accomplished in just the few months she held office!
    (Image courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives)

    Women who aspire to change the world are AAUW members. Join them »

  7. Rep. Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy (D-KS), 1933–35
  8. By all accounts, Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy was going to lose the congressional election in 1932. A single woman, a New Deal Democrat in a largely Republican district, and a Catholic in a mostly Protestant district, the odds were stacked against her. Yet she defeated her opponent by a large margin. On being a woman in Congress, she said, “I soon discovered that when I proved to the people that I knew what I was talking about and was better informed than the average man, they gradually dropped their prejudices.”
    (Image courtesy of Ellis County Historical Society)

  9. Rep. Chase Going Woodhouse (D-CT) 1945–47; 1949–51
  10. Chase Going Woodhouse was an AAUW board member on the Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women. In the late 1920s, Woodhouse ran AAUW’s Institute for Women’s Professional Relations, a project designed to improve professional opportunities for college women. Before becoming a member of Congress, Woodhouse got her feet wet in politics as Connecticut secretary of state (1941–42). And of course AAUW was so proud when Woodhouse introduced the first federal pay equity legislation into the House of Representatives in 1945.
    (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

  11. Edith Green, Democrat for Congress poster


    Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-MI), 1955–74
  12. Martha Griffiths is known as the “Mother of the Equal Rights Amendment” for her strong sponsorship of the ERA. She was the first woman ever to serve on the House Committee on Ways and Means. After her retirement from Congress, did she rest? No, she became lieutenant governor of Michigan!
    (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

  13. Rep. Edith Green (D-OR), 1955–74
  14. Known as the “Mother of Title IX,” Edith Green served in Congress for nearly 20 years. An educator by profession, she worked to ensure the inclusion of Title IX in the education reauthorization bill of 1972 and is quoted as saying, “Let us not deceive ourselves. Our educational institutions have proven to be no bastions of democracy.”

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