In the current session of the Senate, there are 20 women senators. These 20 women are nearly half of all the 46 women that have served in the United States Senate since its inception.
Both the 114th (current) and the 113th sessions of Congress had 20 women serving, the highest number in Senate history. In the 114th session, there are three states, California, Washington, and New Hampshire, for which both serving senators are women.
Previous to 2001, women were rarely even elected to the Senate. In fact, the most common way for women to reach the Senate was to be appointed in the wake of their serving husband or father’s death. In 2016, though, women are being elected to the senate fair and square and enacting real change. Although only 20 percent of the Senate, women are becoming stronger as a group; a force to be reckoned with in American politics.
The following 6 people are women that you should know about. The presidential election isn’t the only one that matters this November. Brushing up on your knowledge of Congress will make you a much more rounded individual, equipped with the tools you need to make the best decision for you at the polls this fall.
1. Barbara Boxer (D) – California
“More than anything, I think as our country matures, we recognize that women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
Barbara Boxer began her career as a stockbroker in Brooklyn and a journalist in California. She dipped her toe into the political pool as an aide to U.S. Representative John L. Burton and continued to move up the ladder from there. Running with the slogan “Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn,” she was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1982.
Now as a senator, she is a part of the Environment and Public Works Committee and vice-chair of the Select Committee on Ethics. On top of that, she is the Chief Deputy Whip (think Doug Stamper on House of Cards) for the Democratic Party.
She considers herself a fierce advocate for the environment, children, and California.
2. Maria Cantwell (D) – Washington
“Dr. King’s leadership reaffirmed the promise of our democracy: that everyday people, working together, have the power to change our government and our institutions for the better.”
Maria Cantwell is Washington’s second woman senator and has served in the Senate since 2001.
She got her start in politics by moving to Seattle, Washington to work on Senator Alan Cranston’s unsuccessful campaign for the 1984 Democratic Party Nomination. She then spent time in the Washington House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives before taking a leave of absence from politics.
In her four years in the private sector, she worked as vice president of marketing for RealNetworks and became a multimillionaire.
She then returned to politics as a senator in 2001 and continues to serve in the Senate today. As a senator, she focuses her efforts on making the nation more secure, fostering innovation, standing with parents on child care and education, and creating affordable opportunities for consumers, businesses, and families.
3. Joni Ernst (R) – Iowa
“You don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference.”
Joni Ernst is the first woman to represent her state of Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female veteran from any state to become a senator. She served in the Iowa Army National Guard until 2015, serving 23 years between the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
She was the Montgomery, Iowa County Auditor for two terms and a member of the Iowa State Senate until her election to the US Senate.
In her campaign for the seat, she gained national attention for her advertisements which compared her responsibilities as a senator to pig castration.
Other than pigs, Ernst cares about national security, US armed forces, agriculture, and small business.
4. Deb Fischer (R) – Nebraska
“If you truly want to see things change in the direction that our country is headed, you have to stay involved. You can not quit now.”
A Nebraska native, Deb Fischer met her husband at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and raised their three children on a ranch in her home state. She received her degree in education but found her place in the world of politics.
Fischer spent 8 years in the Nebraska State Legislature, in which she presided over the largest district. There, she helped to ban smoking for indoor workplaces and public places.
Once elected to the Senate in 2013, she began to work toward conservative goals such as the opposition of expanded gun control. She also voted to enact the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which put $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.
5. Barbara Mikulski (D) – Maryland
“The world must know that America holds to the highest standards of military conduct and human rights protections. Anything less is unacceptable.”
Barbara Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress. She has served in both the House of Representative and the Senate since 1977. She plans to retire after the current session of Congress.
She began her professional life as a social worker and community organizer, which lead to her election to the Baltimore City Council and ultimately her rise to Congress.
In her time in Congress, she has worked for abortion rights, the bailout to the 2008 recession, and in opposition to predatory lending.
6. Patty Murray (D) – Washington
“Good education means learning to read, write and most importantly learn how to learn so that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”
Rounding up our list of 6 woman senators you should know is Patty Murray of Washington state. Murray began her career as a preschool teacher, teaching parenting classes on the side. From there, she stepped into the world of politics as a citizen-lobbyist for educational and environmental issues. She was then elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988.
As a senator, she continues to focus on the environment and education, as well as healthcare, women’s issues, veteran affairs, and more.