Women in Politics

Women Make a Difference

“Women not only see things differently from men, but they see different things. That only adds strength to an organization.” - Retired Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, the first female to reach the rank of three-star general in the U.S. Army.

A record number of women won seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of the 111th Congress as well as in state legislatures and elected executive offices in the 2008 elections. (For specific information about your state, go to the Center for American Women and Politics.)

Gains in state legislative seats are particularly important because candidates for Governor and Congress often come from state legislatures. According to Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, “The more women we get in the pipeline, the better.”

It is important to note, however, that according to The White House Project, a nonprofit organization that is committed to advancing “women's leadership in all communities and sectors, including the U.S. presidency, by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women,” at this rate it will be 2063 before women gain parity in Congress.

See related story…(from Huffington Post Click Here)

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In the 111th Congress, of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, 17 are held by women, two of whom who are graduates of women's colleges:

Sen. Blanche L. Lincoln, AR (Randolph Macon Woman's College, which became a coeducational institution in 2007)
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, MD (Mount Saint Agnes College, which merged with Loyola College in Baltimore, MD in 1971)

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Of the 441 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 77 are held by women, 12 of whom are graduates of women's colleges:

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, WI (Smith College)
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, FL (Russell Sage College graduate degree)
Del. Donna M. Christensen, VI (Saint Mary's College)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, CT (Marymount College, which consolidated with Fordham University in 2002)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, AR (Scripps College)
Rep. Jane Harman, CA (Smith College)
Rep. Barbara Lee, CA (Mills College)
Rep. Nita M. Lowey, NY (Mount Holyoke College)

Rep. Betty McCollum, MN (College of St. Catherine)


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, CA, (Trinity Washington University)

Related Links:
Trinity Graduate Makes History
Madame Speaker

Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, PA (Bryn Mawr College undergraduate degree and Simmons College graduate degree)
Rep. Niki Tsongas, MA (Smith College)

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Women now serve as Governor of eight states. Until she was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services on April 28, 2009, Kathleen Sebelius, a graduate of Trinity Washington University, was Governor of Kansas:

Kathleen Sebelius, former Governor of Kansas, is a graduate of Trinity Washington University

Sebelius, delivered the Democratic party's response to President Bush's 2008 State of the Union Address.
Related Links:
Sebelius Goes to the Polls

Sebelius Featured in Vogue

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President Obama has appointed women to many cabinet, cabinet level and other top positions in his administration, including women's college alumnae:

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State (Wellesley College)
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health & Human Services (Trinity Washington University) Related Links:

Sebelius' Democratic party's response to President Bush's 2008 State of the Union Address.
Sebelius Confirmed as HHS Secretary
Sebelius Goes to the Polls
Sebelius Featured in Vogue

Didem Nisanci, Securities Exchange Commission, Chief of Staff (Smith College).
Mona Sutphen, Deputy White House Chief of Staff (Mount Holyoke College)
Katie Johnson, Personal Secretary to President Obama (Wellesley College).

Stephanie Cutter, counselor and spokeswoman for Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary (Smith College, '90)

Smith Grad Assumes Role in White House

Kristen Jarvis, Special Assistant for Scheduling and Traveling Aide for the First Lady (Spelman College )


Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities (Smith College )


Susan Flood Burk, Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador (Trinity Washington University ’76)


and MORE »

Julie Anna Potts, Chief Counsel to Senate Agriculture Committee (Bryn Mawr College ’91)


M. Patricia Smith

M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor (Trinity Washington University ’74)


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at this time



Ellen Gloninger Murray, Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Trinity Washington University ’74)


Bryn Mawr Alumna Alice Rivlin

Alice Rivlin, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility (Bryn Mawr College ’52)


Simmons College gaduate Ann Fudge

Ann Fudge, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility (Simmons College ’73)


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Other Women's College Alumnae:

Moriah Silver
Mount Holyoke College ‘09

Internship in the Office of the Vice President in the White House; Moriah works for Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden, in a national Violence Against Women Prevention program. Silver, who was named a Truman Scholar during her junior year, is among a handful of students selected from some 3,000 applicants for the coveted White House internships.

» More on Truman Scholars

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The Institute for Women's Policy Research has conducted research on how women's representation in elected office leads to women-friendly policies, including violence against women, child support, welfare, employment and unemployment benefits, and reproductive rights.  For more information about issues affecting women and girls, go to the National Council for Research on Women.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only 18.4% of heads of national parliaments worldwide are women. In 2002, the IPU ranked the United States 52nd out of 179 countries in the world for its percentage of women in the national legislature, placing the United States near the bottom of Western Industrialized democracies.

For more information about preparing women for leadership and advocacy, click here.


Women in Politics Bibliographic Database
This database contains bibliographic references on books and articles dealing with women in politics.

The White House Project
The White House Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that aims to advance women's leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women.

Women in National Parliaments
The data in the tables below has been compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of information provided by National Parliaments by 30 November 2008.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research
The Institute conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.

The National Council for Research on Women
The National Council for Research on Women, with its network of 115 research, policy and advocacy centers and more than 2,000 experts, invites you to help spread awareness of what's at stake for women, girls and the nation during these critical times.