The XX Factor

There Are 100 Women in Congress for the First Time Ever

Alma Adams is hugged by a supporter after learning of her victory for a congressional seat on Nov. 4, 2014, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The gender breakdown of the next Congress is still to be determined, but a major milestone was reached Tuesday night: For the first time in American history, the number of women sitting in Congress will hit triple digits. Democrat Alma Adams of North Carolina won a special election for representative of the 12th Congressional District. Because it was a special election, she will be seated shortly and will not have to wait for January’s swearing-in ceremony, making her the 100th woman currently sitting in Congress, as the graph below shows.

(The source for this graph is a fact sheet from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, which notes that this data shows the “maximum number of women elected or appointed to serve in that Congress at one time. Some filled out unexpired terms and some were never sworn in.”)

It’s hard to deny the historical importance of Emily’s List, the enormous PAC devoted to electing pro-choice female Democrats that was formed in 1985. Since then, 100 female House members and 19 female senators have been elected with its support, which is a major reason that the congressional surge in women has been largely a Democratic one. 

Yes, this may be a temporary historical event. After the votes are tallied and the next Congress is sworn in come January, the number of congresswomen and female senators may fall back below 100. Or it may not. We’ll update this post on Wednesday morning with the latest results. But for now, and for the rest of this year at least, we’re looking at 100 women sitting in Congress, and a general trend in the right direction.