When women gained the right to vote in 1920, politics changed forever. In the 100 years since the 19th Amendment passed, women have flooded the voting booths, run for office and seen people who look like them in Congress. They’ve run for president (Shirley Chisholm), transitioned from first lady to U.S. senator (Hillary Clinton) and broken barriers serving in roles previously only held by men (Condoleezza Rice).
To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th Amendment this month, USA TODAY has put together a list of 100 women who have significantly impacted their communities and country, and have a documented record of success. The women below are our Women of the Century in politics.
Women of the Century: Recognizing the accomplishments of women from the last 100 years
Former secretary of state
As secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 – the first woman to ever hold the position – Madeleine Albright was known for promoting the expansion of NATO into former Soviet nations, as well as the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons from former Soviet nations. She supported the creation of civil societies in developing nations, helped normalize relations with Vietnam and pushed for military intervention under NATO in Kosovo amid a humanitarian crisis. From 1993 to 1997, she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
First female federal judge
While practicing law in Ohio, Florence Allen became the first woman in the U.S. to be elected to judicial office. Two years later, she made history again, becoming the first woman elected to the highest court of a state as a justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. After serving two terms, Allen was nominated and appointed to the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals – both accomplishments a first for women in regard to a federal appeals court.
First Black congresswoman in America
After her groundbreaking 1968 election as the first Black woman in the U.S. House of Representatives, Shirley Chisholm created a legacy of working to get Black people elected to public office. She helped elect the first Black judge in her district and then won a seat in the New York State Assembly in 1964 before being elected to Congress. In 1972, she became the first Black person to run for the nomination of a major party for president. In 2015, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former first lady, senator, U.S. secretary of state
After being first lady of the U.S., Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, the first American first lady to win a public office seat. She went on to serve as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. In 2016, she became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. She led the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, expanded health care for members of the National Guard and worked to improve U.S. relations with foreign nations.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court justice
Long before she was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of women’s rights. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she graduated first in her class from Cornell University and Columbia Law School. She was the first female tenured professor at Columbia, and the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. She is the second of only four women confirmed to the court. Ginsburg litigated sex discrimination cases for the ACLU and was instrumental in creating its Women’s Rights Project in 1971.
Born and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Barbara Jordan was the first woman elected to the Texas Senate. In 1972, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and became the first Black Texan in Congress. Before elected office, Jordan was a lawyer and a civil rights advocate. She continued her advocacy work in Washington, D.C., especially championing women’s rights and encouraging fellow members of Congress to extend federal civil rights protections.
First Latina elected to Congress
Born in Havana, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Latina ever elected to Congress when Florida’s 27th Congressional District sent her to Washington in 1989. In 20 years in the House of Representatives, she became the first congressional Republican to publicly support passage of the Marriage Equality Act. A lifelong champion for education, the former teacher and principal fought to expand federal financial aid and advocated for veterans returning from duty to have access to college. She was also a lead sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act.
First female chief of the Cherokee Nation
Wilma Mankiller fought to improve health care, education and tribal government for the Cherokee Nation when she returned to Oklahoma in the mid-1970s after nearly 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. She improved the Cherokee Nation’s relationship with the federal government, serving as deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation for two years before becoming the tribe’s principal chief – the first woman to hold the position. Outside the Cherokee community, Mankiller was active in civil and women’s rights. In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
First Asian American woman elected to Congress
Just five years after Hawaii became a state, Patsy Mink won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first woman of color in the House and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress. Known as an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, civil rights, education and labor unions, she fought for everyday necessities like affordable health care. She co-sponsored Title IX, legislation that outlawed discrimination based on sex and changed the landscape of American education in 1972.
Former first lady
As first lady from 2009 to 2017, Michelle Obama – the first African American in that role and only the third with a post-graduate degree – advocated for education, physical activity and healthy eating. Previously, Obama, who is a lawyer, worked for the city of Chicago, the nonprofit Public Allies, the University of Chicago and University of Chicago Hospitals. Her memoir, “Becoming,” was released in November 2018 and by March 2019 had sold more than 10 million copies.
Sandra Day O’Connor
First female U.S. Supreme Court justice
The first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, moderate Republican Sandra Day O’Connor was known to be an unpredictable voter, casting the swing vote that affirmed Roe v. Wade in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case. Before serving on the Supreme Court, O’Connor was appointed to the Arizona State Senate, eventually becoming the first female majority leader in any state senate. She enrolled at Stanford University at age 16 and graduated from law school at 22. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Corrections and Clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the line of succession to the presidency.
Despite not running for office for the first time until she was 47, Nancy Pelosi in 2007 became the first (and so far only) woman to serve as speaker of the House, a position that puts her second in line to the presidency. She had five children when she and her husband moved to San Francisco in 1969 but got quickly involved in the state’s Democratic Party. In Congress, she has long championed LGBTQ rights, pushed for stricter gun regulations and supported the Affordable Care Act.
First woman elected to Congress
A suffragist and a lobbyist for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in Congress when she was elected as a Montana representative. In two terms spaced widely apart (she was elected in 1916 and again in 1940), she was known for working toward a constitutional women’s suffrage amendment and addressing social welfare issues, as well as being the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both world wars. A vocal pacifist, she also opposed to the Vietnam War.
Condoleezza ‘Condi’ Rice
Former U.S. secretary of state
The first Black woman to hold titles of national security adviser (2001-05) and secretary of state (2005-09), Condoleezza Rice, a Republican, has been a longtime public servant. Since 1981, she’s been a faculty member at Stanford, where she served as the university’s provost from 1993 to 1999; she was the youngest provost in school history and the first Black woman to hold the position. Now a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, she will take over as director of the Hoover Institute in September.
First Latina Supreme Court justice
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court justice in U.S. history, serving as associate justice since 2009. Sotomayor’s parents moved to New York City from Puerto Rico and settled in the Bronx. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976, receiving its Pyne Prize, the highest general distinction awarded to an undergraduate. She then attended Yale Law School, where she edited the law journal. After graduating in 1979, Sotomayor was an assistant district attorney and in private practice in New York.
Betty Mae Tiger Jumper
First female chief of the Seminole Florida Tribe
The first Seminole to earn a high school diploma, Betty Mae Tiger Jumper was also the first woman to be chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and was one of two women appointed to the National Congress of Indian Opportunity by President Richard Nixon. Jumper is known for working to improve and modernize health care for the Seminole community and becoming the tribe’s first health director. Jumper also co-founded the tribe’s first newspaper.
Contributing: USA TODAY reporters Lindsay Schnell, Jenna Ryu, Elinor Aspegren, Autumn Schoolman, Sarah Elbeshbishi, Ella Lee and Camille Caldera. Illustration: Andrea Brunty.
Sources used in the Women of the Century list project include newspaper articles, state archives, historical websites, encyclopedias and other resources.