Hattie Caraway is first female elected to the US Senate
Women’s history in Congress began in 1917 when Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, was elected to the House of Representatives. It wasn’t until 1932, however, when Ophelia “Hattie” Wyatt Caraway won a Senate election in her own right, that a woman was freely and publicly elected to the Senate. Hattie came on to the political scene when her husband, Thaddeus Horatio Caraway, became Senator of Arkansas. Well-loved by his constituents, Hattie became a public face in her own right. After Horatio died in office, Hattie filled his seat before winning her own election. In her twelve years with Congress, Hattie made a remarkable impression on the Senate as a staunch advocate of Roosevelt’sNew Deal. She also set a slew of “firsts:” the first woman to chair a Senate committee, the first woman to oversee a senatorial session, and the first woman to advocate the Equal Rights Amendment. Hattie served as a Senator until she lost her 1944 reelection campaign. President Roosevelt then appointed her to the Federal Employee’s Compensation Committee, and she also served on the Employee’s Compensation Appeals Board. Retiring in 1950, she died that December. In total, 274 women have served in the US Congress.
What do you think Hattie’s biggest challenges were in rising up to a Senate position? Do you think she would have been prepared to serve as Senator when her husband died? Why or why not?