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Women in Politics Who Broke a Glass Ceiling

On Jan. 20, we all watched a big glass ceiling shatter as Kamala Harris became Vice President of the United States. Harris is not only the first woman to hold the role, but the first Black and South Asian American to do so. It was a historic day for women everywhere. Her path to victory has been paved by many other brave women before her: here are some of these women that history remembers for being trailblazers in the United States.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Justice O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by President Reagan, she served from 1981 to 2006, ruling in famous cases like Bush v. Gore. President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the highest civilian honor.

Representative Patsy Mink

Representative Mink was the first woman of color to serve in the House of Representatives. She served from 1965 to 1977 for the state of Hawaii and was the first Asian Pacific Islander woman to serve in Congress.

Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Illhan Omar

Representatives Tlaib and Omar were elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, from Michigan and Minnesota, respectively. They are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress and are part of the infamous “squad” along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Speaker Pelosi is the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Pelosi became a representative in 1987 for the state of California. She served as speaker from 2004 to 2011, then again from 2018 to the present.

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Most of us remember that Secretary Clinton was the first woman to be a major party’s nominee for President of the United States. However, she was also the first woman senator from New York, and one of three women to serve as Secretary of State.

Representative Shirley Chisholm

Representative Chisholm was the first Black woman to serve in the House of Representatives. She ran for president in 1972, and while her campaign was unsuccessful, she was the first African American to run for a major party’s nomination. Chisholm was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, ten years after her death.

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senator Baldwin is the first openly gay woman elected to Congress. She was also the first woman to be elected to Congress from the state of Wisconsin. She proposed legalizing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships in Wisconsin in the early 1990s, long before many of her colleagues agreed with her openly.

Representative Deb Haaland

Representative Haaland has just been appointed by President Biden as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Interior Department. Haaland is the first indigenous woman to hold this title. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna and was one of the first indigenous women to serve in Congress.

Governor Nellie Ross

Governor Ross was the first woman to serve as governor of any U.S. State. She won the governorship in Wyoming after her husband, who had been governor previously, passed away. Ross continued her husband’s policies, which included tax cuts and laws protecting women and children.

Representative Stacey Abrams

Representative Abrams was the first African American woman to run for governor in any state. While she ultimately lost that race, she turned her efforts to getting Georgia citizens registered to vote and fighting voter suppression. Because of her efforts, Georgia flipped from red to blue in the 2020 presidential election and elected two Democratic senators.

Kamala Harris has stated repeatedly over the past few months, “While I might be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” All of these women did their part to break the glass ceiling, and it’s up to the rest of us to crawl through and show the world that the sky’s the limit.

Jordyn is a senior at CU Boulder and the Editor-in-Chief of HCCU. She loves hiking, reading, and playing with her silver lab puppy, and can usually be found exploring restaurants and bookstores around Boulder.
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