Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

Women in Congress: Each election, there are more

Of the 102 women in the current U.S. House, 89 are Democrats (a jump from 64 in the 2016 election); 13 are Republicans (down from 24 in the previous House).

REUTERS/Erin Scott
Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.
There are 102 women currently serving in the U.S. House. That’s just 23.4 percent of the total House membership of 435. So women, who make up more than half of the U.S. population, are still underrepresented in that sense. But the increase in the number of women in Congress has been steady and gathering momentum.

In fact, the number of women has increased in every national election since 1980. That’s 20 consecutive elections. So, naturally, the current 102 is a record high.

The first election after I was born (1951), the number of women elected to the House was 10. So 102 is slightly more than a 1,000 percent increase in my lifetime.

I’ve written several times about Jeannette Rankin, the first woman ever elected to the House (in 1916). Here’s the latest version of my campaign to make her more famous. But she was defeated after one term, then came back 24 years later and served one more term.

Article continues after advertisement

The number of women in the House stagnated through the 1970s (generally the number was in the teens) and the through the 1980s was generally in the 20s. During most of those decades, the growth of women in Congress was generally bipartisan, and sometimes dominated by Republicans.

The growth since then has been rather sudden, strong and steady to get to the current record high, but there has been a sharp difference in that recent growth across party lines.

Rankin was a Republican, and the growth in the number of women in Congress was quite strongly bipartisan through the 1980s. But since then the growth has happened almost entirely on the Democratic side of the House. The number of women Democrats has risen steadily, while the number of Republican women in the House stagnated and then, last year, collapsed.

The current tally, which I would call fairly shocking: Of the 102 women in the current U.S. House, 89 are Democrats (a jump from 64 in the 2016 election); 13 are Republicans (down from 24 in the previous House).

In percentage terms, the partisan split of women in the House is 87.3 percent Democrats and 12.7 percent Republicans.

The breakdown by gender in Minnesota is quite stark. Of the five DFL members of the U.S. House, three are women. The three Minnesota Republicans in the House are all men.

Both Minnesota U.S. senators are women, and both are DFLers.