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Hattie Caraway Presides


Image of Hattie W. Caraway with gavel as the Senate's acting president pro tempore.

On October 19, 1943, a woman formally took up the gavel as presiding officer, when the duties of the chair were assigned to Senator Hattie Caraway. Caraway had presided once before. In 1932 she briefly filled in for Vice President Charles Curtis, but there was no official recognition of the event. Caraway took note. “Made history,” she wrote in her diary. Other precedents followed – she became the first woman to chair a committee and the first woman to stand in for the floor leader. By 1943 Caraway had grown accustomed to breaking the Senate's gender barriers.