A Woman Was There: Unsung Women Politicians in History

BLFF Team | Mar 29, 2023


Welcome to our new series “A Woman Was There,” where the Gender on the Ballot Team will highlight little known facts about unsung women in politics during monumental moments in history. For our first edition of the series, we’re highlighting women politicians on the federal and state level from the 20th century who were the first in their respective .


Barbara Jordan and President Nixon’s Impeachment

Barbara Jordan was an educator, lawyer, and politician.

Barbara Jordan was first elected to Congress in 1972 when she became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’s 18th District. Upon her election, Jordan became the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first African American woman from the Southern United States elected to the United States House of Representatives.

At the Democratic National Convention of 1976, Jordan delivered the keynote address on the first day, making her the first African American person and woman to do so. Jordan was also highly vocal during the impeachment process against Richard Nixon two years prior in 1974, delivering a 15-minute televised speech in front of members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Later in life, Jordan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Bill Clinton.


Jeannette Rankin and World War I and II

Jeannette Rankin was a women’s rights advocate and politician.

Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to hold federal office in the United States when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing Montana in 1917. Rankin served one term and was elected for a second term in 1940. To date, she is the only woman ever elected to Congress from Montana.

Both of Rankin’s terms overlapped with the beginnings of World War I and World War II. During WWI, Rankin and 49 other state legislators opposed the United States’ participation in the war. Years later, Rankin stood alone as the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Cora Reynolds Anderson and Prohibition and Tuberculosis Crisis

Cora Reynolds Anderson was a politician and prohibition advocate.

Reynolds Anderson was of English, French, and Chippewa ancestry. She was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from the Iron District in 1924 and served in the position for one term.

Reynolds Anderson was the first woman and first Native American elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. During her tenure, she strongly advocated for prohibition in order to fight alcoholism and supported measures taken to combat tuberculosis. When she campaigned for reelection, she urged other women to seek political office.


Martha Wright Griffiths and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Martha Wright Griffiths was a judge, lawyer, and politician.

Wright Griffiths was first elected a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan’s 17th district in 1955. Wright Griffiths was the first woman elected to the United States Congress from Michigan, and the first woman to serve on the House Committee on Ways and Means.

During Wright Griffith’s time in Congress, she was hailed as the “mother of the Equal Rights Amendment” for her sponsorship of this legislation. Additionally, she was instrumental in the addition of women to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, ensuring that sex discrimination would be prohibited. She later became the first woman elected Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, serving from 1983 to 1991.






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