The 113th Congress that was sworn in Thursday (Jan. 3) will have a record number of women, with 78 in the House of Representatives and 20 in the U.S. Senate.
Here’s a look at some of our new congresswomen:
REP. GRACE MENG, 37, D-N.Y.: Meng is the first Asian-American elected to Congress from New York. Meng has served in the State Assembly since 2009, and is a Queens native. New York City Councilman Mark Weprin says Meng “has the ability to reach across party lines, across state lines, across ethnic lines to really unite people … I think we’re going to see that in Washington.”
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, 63, D-MASS.: A Harvard Law professor and consumer rights advocate. She is also Massachusetts’ first female senator, and has gotten a seat on the Senate Banking Committee. So Warren, who was key in building President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will help oversee banking, insurance, financial markets, securities, housing, urban development and mass transit, international trade and finance, and economic policy in the Senate — a huge undertaking. Warren is in line to become Massachusetts’ senior senator if Sen. John Kerry is confirmed as the next secretary of State after Hillary Rodham Clinton leaves the post.
SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN, 50, D-WIS.: She makes history as the country’s first openly gay senator, along with being the first woman from Wisconsin to be elected to the Senate. Baldwin will have a seat on the Senate Budget Committee. Some, including her fellow Wisconsin senator, Republican Ron Johnson, have voiced uncertainty about her ability to handle such an important seat. But as a U.S. representative, she served on the House Budget Committee for six years. And that sounds like she should have a good grasp on what goes into the federal budget.
REP. TULSI GABBARD, 31, D-HAWAII: Gabbard brings a number of firsts: She is the first Hindu ever elected to Congress, the first American-Samoan and she (with Rep. Tammy Duckworth) is among the first female military veterans in Congress. Gabbard served a yearlong tour in Iraq and was a company commander with the Hawaii National Guard and is one of the youngest people on Capitol Hill.
REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, 44, D-ILL.: Duckworth is an Iraq War vet who lost both legs and part of an arm in a 2004 attack while co-piloting a Black Hawk helicopter. One of the labels bestowed on her is: the first disabled woman in the U.S. Congress. But once you see this dynamo at work, that moniker is quickly forgotten. She was also assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs after heading Illinois’ Department of Veterans Affairs. As a fellow air-winger, I’ve followed Duckworth’s political career and am very glad to see her take the congressional oath. Among the first women to fly combat missions in the war, Duckworth vows to continue to be a voice for veterans. Her background makes her an ideal Congress member to be on the House Armed Services Committee. It is rarely mentioned in the recent ethnicity breakdowns of the 113th Congress that Duckworth is Thai, having been born in Bangkok. On top of it all, Duckworth is still a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois National Guard — a big Marine Corps OOH RAH to her!
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA, 36, D-ARIZ.: She will be the first openly bisexual member of Congress. The former state senator won the new 9th Congressional District seat. This marathon runner and former social worker has been described as “an unfiltered talker” and “precocious achiever.” If all of that boils down to her being open and honest in the U.S. House, then that’s just what that chamber needs. Sinema will sit on the House Financial Services Committee. While on the campaign trail, she often spoke of how her family persevered through poverty. With economic times still being tough in the U.S., I hope that she can draw on her personal experiences while serving and see what average Americans are going through.