Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday To The First Woman Elected U.S. Senate

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) was born on this day in 1897.

Check out the Margaret Chase Smith Library of Northwood Univeristy.

"Margaret Chase Smith was born in Skowhegan, Maine, on December 14, 1897. Her entry into politics came through the career of Clyde Smith, the man she married in 1930. Clyde was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1936; Margaret served as his secretary. When Clyde died in 1940, Margaret succeeded her husband. After four terms in the House, she won election to the United States Senate in 1948. In so doing, she became the first woman elected to both houses of Congress."

In 1949, there were a total of ten women serving in 81st Congress. Nine women sat in the House of Representatives. Senator Smith was the only woman serving in the Senate. Women accounted for less than two percent of federally elected officials.

Now, women make up 17 percent of the U.S. Congress. If Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley wins the Massachusetts special election on January 19th, there will be 18 women in the Senate of the 111th Congress, all of whom will have been elected (not appointed).

These numbers are disappointing and there is much work that can and must be done to improve upon them.

But progress takes time. So today, rather than lamenting how much further we have to go, let's celebrate how far we've come.