Hillary Clinton didn’t break the glass ceiling, but these female lawmakers did

The 115th United States Congress will have the highest percentage of women legislators in its history.


Last night was a historic evening in American politics even though Hillary Clinton did not succeed in her campaign to become the first woman president of the United States.

On Tuesday, the nation elected its first Latina senator, along with its first female Thai American senator, South Asian American senator, and Indian American representative.

The number of female women of color in the U.S. Senate will quadruple in the coming term. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Japanese American legislator representing Hawaii, is currently the only woman of color serving in the Senate. Until last night, Hirono was one of two women of color ever elected.

Although Democratic presidential hopeful Clinton’s campaign to become America’s first woman president was unsuccessful, these female legislators celebrated historic wins.

Catherine Cortez Masto

Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. The race between the Democrat and the Republican opponent Joe Heck was a tight one, with Cortez Masto securing her seat by about 26,000 votes. Throughout the campaign, Cortez Masto battled attacks on her Mexican heritage and authenticity as a Latina because she was born in Nevada and does not speak fluent Spanish. One of Heck’s former aides called Cortez Masto’s assertion of her ethnicity “hispandering at its finest,” while another posted on Twitter that “Catherine is about as Mexican is I am. It’s relevant when applying for scholarships…or running for #nvsen.” Cortez Masto called the comments an “attack on Mexican-Americans” and has vowed to work to empower the Latino community and fight for comprehensive immigration reform.

Tammy Duckworth

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is both the first female double amputee and the first Thai American elected to the U.S. Senate. Duckworth made history in 2012 when she broke those barriers through her election to the U.S. House of Representatives. An Army veteran, Duckworth lost both her legs and partial use of her right arm when her helicopter was shot down in 2004 during the Iraq War. She was awarded the Purple Heart for her service. Duckworth has served as the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and assistant secretary of veteran affairs.

Kamala Harris

The race to represent California in the Senate was set to make history regardless of who won. Kamala Harris, who is Jamaican and Indian, faced off against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, who would have been the first Latina senator. Harris won the seat, making her the first Indian American woman and the second black woman elected to the Senate. Harris has served as California’s attorney general since 2011; during that time she secured $18 billion in mortgage relief for California homeowners and helped repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. She takes the seat of retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer, who was elected in 1992 (called the Year of the Woman because it saw the election of Dianne Feinstein and two other Democrats to the Senate).

Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She will represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District. The 51-year-old Democrat emigrated from India when she was 16 to attend Georgetown University. She has spent much of her career fighting for immigrants’ rights. In 2008 she founded what is now known as OneAmerica, the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington. Jayapal was one of the first congressional candidates to receive an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Honorable Mentions

Though they didn’t win their races this election season, two transgender candidates ran for national office as Democrats. Misty Snow campaigned to represent Utah in the Senate, and Misty Plowright campaigned to represent Colorado’s 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. Neither was expected to win, as both faced off against incumbent Republican candidates in largely conservative areas. Snow’s and Plowright’s candidacies are still historic: They are the first transgender candidates to win major party nominations.

We cannot forget the historic candidacy of Hillary Clinton. She was the first woman in the nation’s history to earn a major party nomination. Polling results at the time of publication indicated that Clinton won 228 electoral votes along with the popular vote.

“This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for, and I’m sorry we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country,” Clinton said during her concession speech Wednesday morning. “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will.”


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