WASHINGTON – A record number of women, 126, took the oath of office in the Thursday swearing-in of the 116th U.S. Congress. It is the most diverse group of lawmakers to assemble on Capitol Hill, with the first two Muslim American women, the first two Native American women, the first two Latinas from Texas, the first Black woman from Massachusetts and the first lesbian from Minnesota.
A record 43 women of color took the oath of office Thursday.
The first two Muslim American women to take the oath are Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D, MN)
Omar’s tweet went viral Monday when she posted a photo with her father.
“23 years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC.,” she wrote. “Today, we return to that same airport on the eve of my swearing in as the first Somali-American in Congress.”
As part of the new rules package for the upcoming Congress, religious headwear is now permitted on the floor, allowing Omar to wear her traditional head scarf.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at age 29. Ocasio-Cortez is just 10 month older than Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) who turned 30 Dec. 27. There are 21 new millennial legislators in the group, a 420 percent increase from the 115th Congress.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) are the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Davids is the first openly lesbian congresswoman from Kansas.
Angie Craig is the first openly lesbian congresswoman from Minnesota. Rep. Chris Pappas is the first openly gay congressman from New Hampshire. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is the first openly bisexual senator in the institution’s history. Sinema had served in the House since 2013.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley is the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts. Rep. Veronica Escobar and Rep. Sylvia Garcia are the first two Latinas elected from Texas. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) are the first women to represent their states in that chamber.
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), a Cuban American, is the only non-White freshman Republican.
The new Congress makes clear an increasing gender gap between the parties. There were 13 Republican women and 16 Democratic women in the U.S. House of representatives in 1989. Thirty years later, the House class consists of 13 Republican women and 89 Democratic women.
“We must do better,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the youngest GOP woman elected to Congress, said in a tweet Thursday. “Our nation’s commitment to electing more women must be bipartisan.”