The 113th US Congress will have 20 women senators, the highest ever in the country's history. Put that in your binder and smoke it! (Or you could say all of their terms synced up, JUST LIKE PERIODS.) Here's a primer on who's new, who's sticking around, and who's making history.
Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin; Democrat):
Baldwin's victory is a double whammy of groundbreaking delight: she's the first female senator from Wisconsin but also the first openly gay senator in the country. That's huge! Baldwin's voted against the invasion of Iraq, introduced the Paying a Fair Share Act in the House (aka the Buffet Rule) and has fought tirelessly to not only defend but promote women's rights. She's a hero. You can read more about her here.
Mazie Hirono (Hawaii; Democrat):
Hirono will be the first Asian American woman (and Buddhist) to serve in the Senate, as well as Hawaii's first female Senator. She's said that growing up an immigrant (she was born in Japan) and being raised by a single mother in hard financial times made her a "feisty and focused" lawmaker. Exactly what we need!
Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts; Democrat):
Most lefties first fell in love with the Harvard law professor when she was appointed to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee TARP in 2008, thus cementing her reputation as an aggressive opponent of the banking industry/one of the only people who ever seemed like they knew what they were talking about during the financial crisis. Warren, who'll be the first female Senator to represent Massachusetts, also helped President Obama create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We'll sleep better at night knowing the ultimate consumer advocate snagged a Senate seat.
Deb Fischer (Nebraska; Republican):
Fischer's the only new anti-choice (and Republican) Senator, so we're not the biggest fans. But even her opponents have nice things to say about Fischer, who will be the first woman to represent Nebraska in the Senate since 1954: "She's smart, she's tough. She can work, she'll work it hard," Bud Pettigrew, the chair of Democratic county chairmen in Nebraska, once said of her. "She gets her bills through, she's respected. She's tea party, but she won't say dumb things. I don't think she's always the nicest person, but she's tough. I respect her."
Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota; Democrat):
High-ranking Team Rape member/Republican Rick Berg JUST conceded to Heitkamp this afternoon after a nail-bitingly close race, although she tweeted "I am confident I am going to be the next United States Senator from North Dakota" hours ago. She's the first North Dakota woman to represent the state in either the Senate or the House. According to the AP, even Romney fans voted for her because she'd rather work on local issues than pearl-clutch over lady parts and she "understands North Dakota" — that bodes well for her potential to make actual shit happen moving forward.
According to EMILY's List, every Democratic woman incumbent Senator was re-elected last night. NOT TOO SHABBY. These women aren't going anywhere:
Claire McCaskill (Missouri; Democrat):
Our ever-emotive uteri are crying tears of joy that Claire McCaskill beat Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin last night in a long, hard race that didn't look so positive until Akin showed his true babbling rape apologist colors. Akin had expressed doubts that McCaskill was "ladylike" enough to win the race, but, as it turns out, voters seem to prefer her "aggressiveness" (ick) over a man who has no clue how ladies — and SCIENCE — actually operate. Here's to many, many more bitch faces to come.
Maria Cantwell (Washington; Democrat):
Washington's second-ever female senator, notorious for focusing on free trade and job creation, easily won a third term with 59 percent of the initial vote count and says she wants to do better this time around. "I'm not going back to the United States Senate to salute stalemate," she said. "I'm going back there to put in economic policies to get our people back to work."
Dianne Feinstein (California; Democrat):
All we have to say is: duh. Here's to Feinstein's fourth full term!
Kirsten Gillibrand (New York; Democrat):
This will be Gillibrand's first full six-year term since replacing Hillary Clinton. Will she keep following in Clinton's footsteps by running for President in 2016? Obviously, Gillibrand isn't talking that far into the future yet — but since she's supported the DREAM act, combated illegal gun trafficking, and fought to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we expect more good things to come. She also recently said that, if both the House and Senate were more evenly proportioned, "We would not be debating contraception. We would be debating the economy, small business, jobs, national security - everything but." Sing it, sister.
Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota; Democrat):
Klobuchar is Minnesota's first elected female Senator. She's super popular — no one thought she would lose this year — and smart; she was named Minnesota's Attorney of the Year in 2001. Go, Klobuchar!
Debbie Stabenow (Michigan; Democrat):
Stabenow, who easily won a third term, said her re-election was evidence that Michigan is "coming back" — she's been a champion of auto industry rescue and a strong supporter of education reform. But we think her victory is also evidence that voters won't stand for ignorant lady-haters: her opponent, Pete Hoekstra, thought it was cool to call the Lilly Ledbetter Act a "a nuisance" and ran those horrible racist ads. Ah, when awesome women triumph over sexist blowhards, winning is just that much sweeter.
Republican senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) are both retiring. Five Republican female candidates lost: Wendy Long against Gillibrand, Elizabeth Emken against Feinstein and Linda Lingle against Hirono. Linda McMahon in Connecticut and Heather Wilson in New Mexico also lost. All together, the next Senate will have 4 female Republicans and 16 female Democrats.
Women still only make up 17 percent of the House and the Senate. But in 1991 — which, really, wasn't all that long ago — there were just two women in the Senate. After the election of 1992, dubbed the "Year of the Woman" (a title that seems LOL-worthy now), there were a whopping seven women in the Senate. Now there are 20, up from the current 17, which was also a record number.
"When women are part of the negotiation and are part of decision-making, the outcomes are just better," Gillibrand told The Huffington Post last year. "When we have our dinners with the women in the Senate — the Democrats and Republicans — we have so much common ground. We agree on so many basic principles and values. I think if there were more women at the decision-making table, we would get more things done."
There won't only be more women around the table; there will be significantly fewer members of Team Rape. This election definitively proved that politicians can't just say whatever they want about rape and abortion and get away with it. That's powerful stuff. Maybe now we can actually have some productive conversations about pressing issues like, oh, offhand, the ECONOMY and women's health and education and all other sorts of political topics without having to pause every five seconds to explain that the vagina is not the Antichrist.
In other words: