WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — With a victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris became the first woman to be elected to the position. The former Democratic senator from California, who is of Indian and Jamaican descent, is also the first Asian American and first Black American to serve as vice president.
Harris was announced as former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate in the 2020 election on Aug. 11, 2020. Harris had run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination before ending her campaign on Dec. 3, 2019.
During a time marked by political division as well as activism, Harris’ win represents another glass ceiling shattered. Here are 9 women who preceded Harris on that path to political equality.
First presidential candidate
Victoria Woodhull, a stockbroker and newspaper publisher, declared her candidacy for president and earned the 1872 presidential nomination of the short-lived Equal Rights Party. Her nomination came 50 years before U.S. women won the right to vote. She lost the contest to incumbent Ulysses S. Grant.
First member of Congress
Jeannette Rankin, who helped win women in her native Montana the right to vote in 1914, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives two years later. She was also the only member of Congress to have voted against U.S. involvement in both World War I and World War II.
First U.S. senator
Rebecca Felton, of Georgia, was appointed in 1922 to fill her husband’s seat after he died, serving for only two days. It was largely symbolic in honor of her commitment to women’s rights. The first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Caraway, of Arkansas. Caraway was the wife of a senator and also was appointed to his seat upon his death in 1931. However, she subsequently won a special election to carry out her husband’s term and was re-elected to the office twice.
First state governor
Nellie Tayloe Ross, who was elected governor of Wyoming in November 1924, was another woman who replaced her husband in office — just weeks after the death of William Ross. However, she lost her bid for reelection in 1926. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her the first woman director of the U.S. Mint, a position she held for 20 years. It was not until 1974, when Ella Grasso was elected Connecticut’s governor, that a woman rose to the governor’s office without having been preceded in the position by her husband.
First Cabinet member
In 1933, Frances Perkins became Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor. She was one of two cabinet members who served for the entirety of the Roosevelt administration (1933–45). Janet Reno became the first female attorney general, and Madeleine Albright became the first female secretary of state.
First US Supreme Court justice
Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to fill the vacancy left by Potter Stewart’s retirement. The Senate unanimously confirmed O’Connor in 1981, and she served 25 years on the nation’s highest court. She retired in 2006.
First major-party vice presidential candidate
In 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro, a New York congresswoman, as his running mate. After Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan, Ferraro left Congress and never again held elected office.
First Speaker of the US House
Nancy Pelosi, a member of the U.S. House representing California’s 12th Congressional District since 1987, was elected minority leader in 2002, becoming the highest-ranking congresswoman of either party in U.S. history. In 2007, she became the first woman to be elected as House Speaker, holding the position until 2011. She was re-elected to the post in 2019.
First major-party presidential candidate
On July 28, 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential candidate of a major U.S. political party. Her presidential bid was unsuccessful, however, and she lost to Donald Trump despite winning the popular vote.