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Women Firsts in Illinois Government

  • In 1922, just two years after women were given the right to vote, Lottie Holman O'Neill was the first woman elected to the Illinois State legislature.  She continued to serve in the Illinois House and Senate for 40 years.

  • Two years later, in 1924, Florence Fifer Bohrer, daughter of Governor Fifer, was the first woman elected to the Illinois Senate.

  • Floy Clements of Cook County became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Illinois House in 1958.

  • Fifty years after the first woman from Illinois was elected to the U.S. House, the first African-American woman was elected to it.  Cardiss Collins became a U.S. Representative in 1973 and served until 1997.  In 1979 she became president of the Congressional Black Caucus.

  • Earlene Collins, elected as the first African-American woman to the Illinois Senate in 1977, served until 1999.

  • The first woman in a leadership position in the Illinois legislature was Celeste Stiehl who became the first Assistant House Minority Leader in 1975.

  • Adeline Geo-Karis is a trail-blazer and in 1985 she became the first woman to serve as Assistant Majority Leader in the Illinois Senate.

  • Dawn Clark Netsch was elected as Comptroller in 1990, she became the first woman to be elected to a constitutional office.  Four years later she ran for governor, becoming the first woman in Illinois to be nominated by a major party.

  • In 1994, Carol Mosely-Braun became the first African-American woman in the U.S. Senate.  Judy Baar Topinka was elected State Treasurer, the office she held until she ran for governor in 2006.

  • After 18 years in the Illinois House, Barbara Flynn Currie became the first woman to become the House Majority Leader in 1997, a position which she continues to hold.

  • In 1997 Sonia Silva became the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the Illinois House.

  • Corrine Wood served as the state's first woman Lieutenant Governor beginning in 1999.

  • In 2003, the first Hispanic woman, Iris Y. Martinez, was elected to the Illinois Senate.

  • In 2003, Lisa Madigan was the first woman to be elected Attorney General in Illinois.  In 2006 she was elected to her second term earning the largest vote of any statewide candidate.

  • Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson became the first woman Democrat to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader in 2005.

  • State Senator Christine Radogno became the state's first woman Caucus Leader, Minority Leader of the Illinois Senate in 2009.

 

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