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Political Women of the Second Wave

Edith Green


  • Helped pass the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which was designed to ensure that American students kept pace with their Soviet counterparts by improving science and math education

  • In 1963, authored the Higher Education Facilities Act which allocated federal funds for the expansion and improvement of college and university libraries, classrooms, and laboratories

  • In 1965, wrote the Higher Education Act which authorized the first–ever federal financial assistance for undergraduate students

  • Had a significant role in the passage of the Equal Pay Act and Title IX


Constance E. Cook (1919-2009)

  • Became a Republican New York Assemblywoman in 1963

  • Co-authored the 1970 law that legalized abortion in New York state three years before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade

  • Actively fought for a woman’s right to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1976 while serving as Vice President of Cornell University

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March Fong Eu


  • The first American of Asian heritage and first woman to serve on the Alameda County Board of Education

  • First Asian-American woman to represent Oakland and Castro Valley in the California Assembly

  • Worked on behalf of consumers, environmental protection, and the rights of women

  • Elected in 1974 as California’s first female Secretary of State and first Asian-American in statewide office


Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

  • Became the first black woman to serve in the US Congress in 1968

  • Was a strong supporter of women’s rights and argued that women were capable of functioning in many professional fields

  • Became the first major-party black presidential candidate in 1972 by running for the Democratic nomination

  • Continued to serve in the House of Representatives after the election and co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women


Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthold (1926--)

  • Was the only woman serving in the Texas House of Representatives when elected in 1968

  • Co-sponsored the Equal Legal Rights Amendment to the Texas Constitution with Senator Barbara Jordan

  • Was the first woman seriously considered for U.S. Vice President in 1972

  • Was elected as the first national chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1973


Anne Levy Wexler


  • In 1968, led Senator Eugene J. McCarthy’s presidential campaign in Connecticut

  • As a delegate, wrote many of the Rules Committee’s minority reports for the Democratic National Convention in 1968

  • Served as top aide in President Jimmy Carter’s White House

  • Became an influential Washington lobbyist and advised Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Rodham Clinton in their presidential campaigns


Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011)

  • Elected as New York Congresswoman in 1978 and urged for the passage of the ERA

  • Served as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission

  • Was the first woman to run for Vice President on a major political platform

  • Although running mate Walter Mondale lost the ticket, her candidacy reshaped the American political and social landscape


Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)

  • Elected as the first African-American state senator in Texas

  • In 1972, became one of the first African-Americans elected to the U.S. House from the Deep South since the Reconstruction Era

  • Became the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976

  • Was on a seat on the Judiciary Committee during the Watergate Scandal


Angela Davis


  • Worked with several groups including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club in the 1960s

  • From 1975-1977, worked as lecturer of African-American studies at the Claremont College and later went on to teach women’s and ethnic studies at the San Francisco University

  • In 1995, formed the African American Agenda 2000 for black feminists, challenging the exclusion of women from the event


Martha Griffiths (1912-2003)

  • A member of the United States House of Representatives from 1955-1974

  • Was the first woman to serve on the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means

  • Was instrumental in getting the prohibition of sex discrimination added to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Also known for resurrecting the ERA and getting it passed through the House


Bella Abzug


  • Dedicated to helping ethnic minorities, women’s groups, the LGBT community, and the poor

  • Served in the House of Representatives for her home district in New York City from 1971 to 1977

  • Introduced the first gay rights bill in Congress in 1975

  • Worked to implement equal rights legislation across the board

  • Was chair of New York City's Commission on the Status of Women and directed a national campaign to increase the number of women in public office


Dr. Lucy Killea


  • Served on the San Diego City Council, the California State Assembly and the State Senate

  • Was one of the first individuals to "recognize the importance of communication across the California-Mexico border”

  • Helped found Fronteras de las Californias, a nonprofit liaison with Mexico funded by the City of San Diego, UCSD, and private corporations.

  • While serving in the State Assembly, helped to create the bipartisan Women's Caucus

  • Fought for years to implement a licensed midwife program, which was passed in 1993

  • Pro-choice advocate, maintaining her position even in the face of strong opposition and public sanction by the Catholic Church

  • Elected as State Senator in 1989


Patricia Roberts Harris


  • Appointed by President John F. Kennedy to co-chair the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights

  • Became the first African-American US Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1965

  • In 1969, became the first African-American woman appointed Dean to Howard Law School

  • Became the first African-American Woman to head the Housing and Urban Development Department in 1977

  • Was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services


Patsy Mink


  • Became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Hawaiian House in 1956

  • Served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1960 to elect John F. Kennedy for President

  • Elected to the U.S. Congress in 1964 and was outspoken champion of women’s rights

  • Was involved in the writing and passage of Title IX in 1972 which gave considerable growth to women’s athletic programs in American schools and colleges


Yvonne Brathwaite Burke


  • Became the first African-American woman elected to the California Assembly in 1966

  • In 1972, became first African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives

  • As a Representative, served as the first woman chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the vice chair of the Democratic National Convention

  • Was a strong voice for minority interests through her public service


Rose Elizabeth Bird (1936-1999)

  • Was the first woman hired by the Santa Clara County public defender's office in Northern California

  • Named Secretary of Agriculture, a post traditionally held by a grower

  • Drafted a landmark farm labor bill guaranteeing workers’ rights to hold secret ballot union elections, which she shepherded through the legislature

  • Became the first woman appointed Chief Justice of California in 1977


Eleanor Holmes Norton


  • Appointed head of New York City’s Human Rights Commission and held the first hearings in the country on discrimination against women

  • Represented female employees of Newsweek who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), citing Newsweek’s policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters

  • Became the first woman named Chair of the EEOC in 1977

  • Released the EEOC's first set of regulations outlining what constituted sexual harassment and declared that sexual harassment was a form of sexual discrimination that violated federal civil rights laws

  • In 1990, Norton was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Washington, D.C.

  • Is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus


Elaine Noble


  • Was the first openly gay candidate to win a state office in Massachusetts when she was elected to the State Legislature in 1975

  • Fought for LGBT rights within the women’s movement

  • Refused NOW’s speaking invitation until they apologized for attempting to exclude lesbian rights from their cause

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