Historic First: Five of Six Non-Voting Representatives to Congress will be Women

With the election of Jenniffer Gonzalez as Puerto’s Rico’s first female Resident Commissioner, five of the six non-voting representatives in Congress will be women for the first time in history as the 115th Congress convenes in January.

While each of the 50 states has voting congressional representatives, the territories and the District of Columbia have representatives who can serve on committees and draft legislation, but cannot vote on legislation in Congress.

González, who became one of the nation’s youngest Speakers of a state House at the age of 33, currently serves as Vice President of the pro-statehood PNP political party.  She is also State Chair of Puerto Rico’s Republican Party and holds the post of Minority Leader in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. (While Puerto Rico is not yet a State, the terminology is commonly used for these positions.)

Eleanor Holmes Norton represents Washington, DC, and has done so for 13 terms – 26 years. Norton serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where she is the highest ranking Democrat. Norton is well known for her work on civil rights and free speech. She also supports statehood for D.C., and discussed her lack of voting power in a feisty interchange with Stephen Colbert.

Aumua Amata Radewagen is the representative for American Samoa, and is the first woman of Samoan descent in Congress.  The title “Aumua” is a traditional Samoan title which can be translated into English as “talking Chief” or less literally, “orator.” Radewagen is the highest ranking Republican Asian Pacific elected federal officeholder in the country, and has been the most senior member of the Republican National Committee since 2012.

Madeleine Bordallo has represented Guam in the U.S. Congress for seven terms. She is the first woman elected to the position from Guam. Bordallo serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Ranking Democrat of the Subcommittee on Readiness and a member of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. She also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she sits on the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaskan Affairs and the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans.

Stacey Plaskett represents the U.S. Virgin Islands. Plaskett sits on the Committee on Agriculture, where she serves on both the Subcommittee on Nutrition and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. She is also a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sitting on the Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Subcommittee on Interior.

There are a litany of other historic firsts in the 115th Congress:

  • 1st Latina Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada.
  • 1st Indian-American Senator and 2nd African-American female Senator, Kamala Harris, California.
  • 1st Vietnamese-American Congresswoman, Stephanie Murphy, Florida.
  • 1st Indian-American Congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal, Washington.
  • 1st Congresswoman and 1st African-American Member of Congress from Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware.
  • 1st Muslim refugee and 1st Somali-American Muslim woman elected official, Ilhan Omar, Minnesota.
  • 1st Democratic female combat veteran and 1st Thai-American Senator, Tammy Duckworth, Illinois.
  • 1st Openly LGBT Governor, Kate Brown, Oregon

(list courtesy of Running Start)

This list was updated on November 29, 2016.

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