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California's 40th District

Jan 6, 2021 | In The News, Small Business

One hundred and four years ago, Jeannette Rankin broke the Congressional glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to hold federal office. She was sworn into the 65th Congress. On Sunday her legacy continued as 118 women were sworn into office to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 117th Congress. For most of American history, the color and gender of power has looked white and male. 2021 transforms that picture by ushering in a record-setting number of women, people of color, and members who identify as LGBTQ. 

The 118 women in the incoming House of Representatives class comprise 27% of the chamber’s voting members. That is up from 23.2% of the 116th Congress. 89 incoming Representatives are Democrats and 29 are Republicans, the largest number of new Republican women elected to Congress. A record number of people of color were also elected to Congress, with 121 Representatives of color in the 117th Congress, up from 113 Representatives of color from the 116th. Women of color have reached a record level of representation. As reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University (CAWP), in 2018 there were 43 women of color RepresentativesThis year there are 48: 25 Black (up from 22), 14 Latinx (up from 12), seven Asian American or Pacific Islander (up from six), two Native American, and one Middle Eastern or North African. New Mexico becomes the first state to elect all women of color to the House. In addition, nine members of the House openly identify as LGBTQ, up from eight last year. The numbers are calculated from self-identification, including people who identify as multiracial, and do not include non-voting delegates in the House. 

Here are 10 members redefining what leadership looks like:  

Stephanie Bice (R-OK, 5th District) is the first Iranian-American elected to Congress.

Cori Bush (D-MO, 1st District) is the first Black congresswoman from Missouri.

Madison Cawthorn (R-NC, 11th District) is the youngest House member in modern history at 25 years old. He is the first congressman born in the 1990s.

Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM, 3rd District) is the first woman to represent her district since its creation in 1983 and makes up one-third of the all women of color New Mexico House delegation.

Yvette Herrell (R-NM, 2nd District) is the first Native American Republican woman elected to Congress.

Mondaire Jones (D-NY, 17th District), is the first openly gay Black man elected to Congress sharing the honor with Ritchie Torres.

Young Kim (R-CA, 39th District), together with Michelle Steel and Marilyn Strickland, is the first Korean American woman elected to Congress.

Michelle Steel (R-CA, 48th District), together with Marilyn Strickland and Young Kim, is the first Korean American woman elected to Congress..

Marilyn Strickland (D-WA, 10th District) is the first Black member of Congress from Washington. Together with Michelle Steel and Young Kim, she is also the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. 

Ritchie Torres (D-NY, 15th District) is the first openly gay Black man elected to Congress sharing the honor with Mondaire Jones.

In 1917 Jeannette Rankin was delayed from serving as a congressperson for nearly a month as an all male body of lawmakers debated whether she should be denied her seat into the House of Representatives because of her gender. What would Rankin think of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the first woman, first South Asian, and first Black person in the role, or of Speaker Pelosi as she resumes her role as first woman Speaker of the House? 

This week there was no delay for the 118 women. They join the tradition trail-blazed by Rankin , expanding the possibility of what power can look like. The 117th Congress moves closer to reflecting the people that make up the nation, closer to fulfilling the promise of this country: that no matter who we are, what we look like, or whom we love—we all are America.

(Photo by The Office of Marilyn Strickland)


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