Celebrating Women's History Month
In 1981 Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Representative (now Senator) Barbara Mikulski of Maryland introduced resolutions to designate the week of March 8th as Women's History Week. Six years later, Congress declared March to be National Women's History Month. Each year, a presidential proclamation launches the month-long celebration.
Women have become increasingly active in the Senate community since Rebecca Latimer Felton became the first woman to serve as senator in 1922. In 1932 Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the Senate. Maine's Margaret Chase Smith, who first served four terms in the House of Representatives, won election to the Senate in 1948, becoming the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. Smith served four terms in the Senate, and for 15 of her 24 years of service she was the only female senator. Kansas’ Nancy Kassebaum chaired the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources in the 104th Congress, the first female senator to hold that top position on a modern standing committee. In 1999 Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois took the oath of office as the first African American woman senator. To date 46 women have served in the Senate, including 20 current female members.
These distinguished individuals have enriched the history of the Senate, but the role of women in Senate history is not limited to those who have served in elective office.