Though this election season has been characterized by rhetoric about the "war on women" (be it economic or social) and the "women's vote," women are poised to make huge strides politically on Tuesday night. Female candidates could win up to 12 races tonight, making women roughly one-fifth of Congress.
Women have been serving in the United States House of Representatives since 1917, and in the Senate since 1922. The first woman to be elected to Congress was Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.) who served from 1917-1919 and again from 1941-1943. She was a leader in the women's suffrage movement and famously voted against the United States entering both World War I and World War II.
The first female Senator was Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-Georgia) who was symbolically appointed on November 21, 1922 for 24 hours. The first elected female Senator was Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-Ark.) who served from 1931-1945. There have now been a total of 277 women in Congress, 93 of whom are current members, and a record number of women seek to be elected today.
Here are the races to follow tonight in the Senate:
Female incumbents: Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Kristen Gillibrand (D-New York), and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) Open seats: Linda McMahon (R-Connecticut), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii), Cynthia Dill (D-Maine), Deb Fisher (R-Nebraska), Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin).
Female challengers: Elizabeth Emken (R-California), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada), and Wendy Long (R-New York).
Two women senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are retiring this year. Also note that in three states —New York, California, and Hawaii —women are running for both sides of the aisle.
The House races feature too many women to list. There are 66 incumbent women running (45 Democrats, 21 Republicans), 26 women running (20 Democrats, 6 Republicans) for open seats in 25 districts, and 74 female challengers (53 Democrats, 21 Republicans). Additionally, there are seven women not returning.
No matter your party, working toward gender equality in Congress is an important issue that will make for a better democracy. And tonight's election will undoubtedly aid in the slow march towards gender parity in government.
UPDATE: As of 9:45 p.m., Debbie Stabenow, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Kristen Gillibrand have all won their Senate races. Linda McMahon and Cynthia Dill have been defeated (as well as Wendy Long, who ran against Gillibrand).
PolicyMic will be live blogging the election tonight. For LIVE updates on all the women running for the House and the Senate, follow along here. Happy Election Day!