THE BLOG
12/19/2014 11:52 am ET Updated Feb 18, 2015

Some Leaders Are Born Women

Portraits in Leadership unveiled by Girl Scouts in December, features interviews of sitting members of Congress who discuss their thoughts on leadership. These Senators and Representatives vividly demonstrate that some leaders are born women. Women have not yet reached parity in Congress so our country has not achieved the vision of Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin who said, "We're half the people; we should be half the Congress." Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The first woman to lead a major political party in either house of Congress. She was the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House.

____ 2. The longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate.

____ 3. The first woman elected to the U.S. Congress (in the 1916 election). She represented Montana in the House of Representatives.

____ 4. The first woman elected to both houses of Congress. She served a total of 32 years in the U.S. Congress.

A. Jeannette Rankin
B. Margaret Chase Smith
C. Barbara Mikulski
D. Nancy Pelosi

In 1916 when Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress, women didn't have the right to vote in many states of the U.S. The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment wouldn't occur until August 26, 1920. Women did have the right to vote in Montana, and Rankin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the people of Montana. Rankin was a committed pacifist and one of the few members of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into World War I in 1917. She subsequently ran for Senate and lost that election. She was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940, in time to be the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into World War II (and the only member to vote against entry into both World Wars). Rankin has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Margaret Chase Smith began her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1940, representing Maine. After four terms, she was elected a Senator from Maine; the first woman in the country to be elected to both houses of Congress. In 1960, she achieved another first -- she was challenged for her Senate seat by a woman. This was the first Senate race in which both contenders were women. In yet another first, in 1964, her name was put into nomination for the office of president for a major political party. Smith lost the Republican Party's nomination to Barry Goldwater. A true pioneer, Margaret Chase Smith has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

A strong supporter of women's rights, Barbara Mikulski has served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for three decades. Her Senate service extends back to 1986, making her the longest-serving woman senator. She was the first Democratic woman to win a Senate seat in her own right; others had completed terms started by others. Originally wanting to be a scientist like Marie Curie, Mikulski studied sociology and became a social worker. Her community organizing work led to her running for local politics and then national politics. Mikulski is well known for saying "Let's put on our lipstick and go fight." She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

When Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to lead a major political party in either house of the U.S. Congress, she said:

It's an historic moment for the women of America. It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years to struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting, women were working, never losing faith we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and our granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and granddaughters, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible for them.


This was in 2006, when the Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate and Pelosi became Speaker of the House. She had been an elected Representative since 1987. Pelosi has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. Most of these Congressional women are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We benefit from their hard work and pioneering accomplishments and are proud to stand on their shoulders.