Whether you love her, hate her, or are just totally indifferent, these days when you think of a Democrat woman senator with a connection to Arkansas, the name that pops to mind is Hillary Clinton. Within the next couple of years we may be considering the possibility of electing a woman to the Presidency. What is remarkable is that the very first woman senator was a Democrat from Arkansas.
This is the day that Ophelia Wyatt Caraway became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Caraway, born near Bakerville, Tennessee, had been appointed to the Senate two months earlier to fill the vacancy in Arkansas left by her late husband, Thaddeus Horatio Caraway. With the support of Huey Long, a powerful senator from Louisiana, Caraway was elected to the seat. In 1938, she was reelected. After failing to win renomination in 1944, she was appointed to the Federal Employees Compensation Commission by President Franklin Roosevelt.
Although she was the first freely elected female senator, Caraway was preceded in the Senate by Rebecca Latimer Felton, who was appointed in 1922 to fill a vacancy but never ran for election in her own right.
Jeannette Rankin, elected to the House of Representatives as a pacifist from Montana in 1917, was the first woman to ever sit in Congress even though women outside of Montana were not allowed to vote until 1920. She is remembered as a profile in courage because as a pacifist she voted against both WWI and WWII.
Over the many years since suffrage was finally approved in the United States, there have been many women from all parties in the House and Senate, some appointed to replace husbands or sons, others who have faced the voting public in their own right. All of them have brought a viewpoint and strength that Congress did not have before their arrival.