How The Naming Of Two Senate Rooms Marks A First For Women In Washington

It's been exactly 100 years since the first woman was elected into the United States Senate, and over the last century, women have made history by breaking record numbers for occupying positions in the 117th Congress (via Pew Research Center). The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers report that currently 24 women — 16 Democrats and 8 Republicans — sit in the Senate, with just 3.1% of women holding positions in the entirety of U.S. Congress history.

Though these numbers seem absurdly low in the grand scheme of things, we can't deny that representation of female leadership is slowly but steadily making impact into male-dominated legislation. If you didn't know, the more women elected into Congress helps make change into women's issues such as violence against women and family leave, according to a 2017 Vox article. Now, women in the Senate are continuing to make historic strides — this time inside of the place that determines our nation's laws.

U.S. Senate rooms are now named after women

After 230 years of male portraits covering the walls of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., the names of two former female senators now hang proudly in the halls. The Washington Post reported on the detailed process it took to bring the women's Senate representation into fruition. Barbara Mikulski, a retired Democrat from Maryland, and Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine serving both the House and the Senate who died in 1995, are the namesakes of two rooms on the Capitol's first floor. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who was opened up about her former cancer diagnosis in 2021, told the Post that although these rooms are just a granular step in female representation, when young girls and women walk the halls of the Capitol, they'll see older versions of themselves on the walls. This initiative should also be celebrated, because before this gesture became a reality, women only had two other rooms named after fellow Congress members in the House of Representatives. Those two rooms were for retired Democrat of Arizona, Gabby Giffords, and former Democrat of Louisiana, Lindy Boggs, who died in 2013.

Here's hoping the next will be for Tammy Duckworth or even Elizabeth Warren!