Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway, born in Bakerville, Tennessee, was the first woman elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate. Following her marriage to Thaddeus H. Caraway in 1902, she settled in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where her husband became a U.S. congressman and later a U.S. senator. Upon her husband's death in 1931, Hattie Caraway was appointed to take his place in the Senate as a Democrat from Arkansas. She subsequently won a January 1932 special election to finish her late husband's term. She ran for reelection to a full term later that same year, with Louisiana Senator Huey Long stumping Arkansas on her behalf. The 1932 campaign was one of the most colorful in modern American history. Long's effort worked: Caraway became the first woman ever to be elected to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
Caraway initially spoke so infrequently in the Senate that she became known as "Silent Hattie." As she grew more comfortable in her role, Caraway emerged as a fiercely partisan supporter of New Deal legislation, seconding the nomination of President Franklin Roosevelt for reelection at the 1936 Democratic National Convention. She was the first woman to preside over the Senate–-on May 9, 1932–-and the first to chair a Senate committee (Committee on Enrolled Bills, 1933-44). Although she was reelected in 1938, she failed to win renomination in 1944. After leaving the Senate, Caraway served on the United States Employees' Compensation Commission from 1945 to 1946 and on the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board from 1946 until her death in 1950 in Virginia.