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More women than ever before were elected to Congress — Here are their historic 'firsts'

The 2020 election cycle has proven that the future for women in politics is brighter than ever before.
Image: Cori Bush
Cori Bush celebrates at an election watch party outside her campaign headquarters at North Oaks Plaza, in St. Louis.Laurie Skrivan / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

The outcome of the 2020 election has made one thing crystal clear: women on both sides of the political aisle have won big.

So far, women candidates have secured 134 Congressional seats, including 102 Democrats and 32 Republicans, which is an all-time record.

The number of women in Congress has steadily climbed since 1981, when just 17 women served in both the House and Senate. In the 2018 midterms, an impressive 127 women were elected. Experts thought that spike may have been an anomaly, but the latest results demonstrate otherwise, according to experts.

“While the 2018 gains were larger, we’re not seeing a backslide,” said Kelly Dittmar, director of Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics. “In order to get to gender parity in congress, we need women both to run and win on both sides of the aisle.”

In addition to women winning a historic number of seats, there are many other “firsts,” including:

Cori Bush is Missouri's first Black congresswoman

Democrat Cori Bush won a seat in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, making her the first Black woman to serve in the state’s congress. Her battle to win the seat was detailed in “Knock Down the House,” a Netflix documentary that premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival.

New Mexico is the first state to elect all women of color to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Three women of color, Deb Haaland (D), Yvette Herrell (R), and Teresa Leger Fernandez (D) were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in New Mexico, making it the first state to feature a House exclusively made up of women of color.

Yvette Herrell is the first Republican Native American woman elected to Congress.

Yvette Herrell won the 2nd District House seat in New Mexico, making her the first Republican Native American woman to be elected to Congress. Herrell is a career politician and a member of the Cherokee nation.

Kesha Ram is the first woman of color elected to Vermont’s Senate.

Democrat Kesha Ram was elected as the first woman of color to serve in the historically-white Vermont Senate on Tuesday. Ram, who is Indian and Jewish, previously began serving in the state’s House of Representatives when she was only 22.

Sarah McBride is the first out transperson senator in U.S. history.

Representing Delaware, Democrat Sarah McBride became the first out transperson senator in the country’s history. She is currently National Press Secretary at the LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign.

Transgender activist Sarah McBride, who hopes to win a seat in the Delaware Senate, campaigns at the Claymont Boys & Girls Club in Claymont, Del., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.Jason Minto / AP

Republican women in Congress have reached an all-time high.

A record 32 Republican women were elected to congress, including 13 new candidates. The number represents a spike since the 2018 election, when 22 Republican women served. This election is a historic gain for a party that has historically underrepresented women, according to Dittmar.

Stephanie Byers is the first out trans person of color ever elected to a state legislature.

Stephanie Byers conducts a band class at Wichita North High in Wichita, Kansas on April 23, 2018.Jaime Green / The Wichita Eagle via AP file

Democrat Stephanie Byers landed many “firsts” in this election. She is the first out trans person of color to be elected to a state legislature. She is also the first Native American transgender person to be elected to a state legislature, and the first out trans person to be elected to Kansas’ congress.

Marilyn Strickland is the first Korean-American Woman to be elected to Congress and the first Black woman to serve in Washington state.

Marilyn Strickland was born in Seoul to a South Korean mother and an African-American father. After serving as the first Asian-born mayor of Tacoma, Washington, she was elected to the state’s House in the 10th Congressional district on Tuesday. She is the first Korean-American Woman to be elected to U.S. Congress and the first Black woman to serve in Washington on a federal level.

Cynthia Lummis is the first woman to serve in the Wyoming Senate.

No woman has ever served on the Wyoming Senate, but Republican Cynthia Lumis changed that forever when she was elected on Tuesday. She has served as a state representative since 2017.

All four members of the Democrat's progressive "squad" have won reelection to Congress.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have all secured second terms in the House.⁠⁠The "squad," hugely popular among progressive Democrats, have championed causes including Medicare for all, action against climate change, racial justice and more.

Taylor Small is the first out trans person elected to the Vermont state legislature.

Taylor Small, 26, is not only a newcomer, she’s also the first out trans person ever to be elected to the Vermont state legislature. She will serve as a representative for the state’s two-seat district.

Mauree Turner is the first nonbinary state legislator.

Mauree Turner has created many “firsts” this election, becoming the first nonbinary state legislator ever, and the first Muslim state representative in Oklahoma. The Democrat will be representing District 88 in the House.