New US Congress makes history with record number of women

From the youngest woman to the first Muslim female representatives, no other US Congress has looked like this.

Deb Haaland stands during the 116th Congress and swearing-in ceremony on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol on January 3, 2019 in Washington, DC [File: Brendan Smialowski/AFP]
Deb Haaland stands during the 116th Congress and swearing-in ceremony on the floor of the US House of Representatives at the US Capitol on January 3, 2019 in Washington, DC [File: Brendan Smialowski/AFP]

New US legislators were sworn in on Thursday, with a number of “firsts” taking their seats in the 116th Congress. 

Democrats assumed majority control of the House of Representative, while Republicans kept their hold on the Senate. 

Nancy Pelosi, who was elected speaker of the House, said in a USA Today interview that US President Donald Trump should expect a “different world” with the new Congress. 

Among those sworn in is a record number of women, including the first Muslim women, as well as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. 

Here’s a look at the ‘firsts’ taking their seats: 

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar

First Muslim women elected to Congress

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are expected to become the first Muslim congresswomen [AP Photo]

Both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar won in their Democrat-safe seats becoming the first Muslim congresswomen.

Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents, and Omar arrived in the United States as a young girl from a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing civil war in Somalia.

Omar is also the first Somali American to serve in the US Congress.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Youngest woman elected to Congress

New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez participates in a town hall meeting [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th District and has now made history as the youngest woman to join Congress.

Born to a father from South Bronx and a mother from Puerto Rico, Ocasio-Cortez was an organiser for the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids

First Native American women elected to Congress 

Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids [AP Photo] 

Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, is the first Native American woman elected to Congress, alongside Sharice Davids.


Haaland said she will prioritise climate change, as well as a number of other progressive issues, such as Medicare-for-all and debt-free education.

Davids is a Cornell Law School graduate and professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, who was raised by a single mother.

She is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Native American tribe that hails from Wisconsin.

The former White House fellow under Obama, is openly gay and an advocate for LGBT issues. She was elected to the third congressional district in Kansas.

Ayanna Pressley

Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman 

Democratic candidate for US House of Representatives Ayanna Pressley points to her supporters after winning the Democratic primary in Massachusetts [Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Democrat Ayanna Pressley surprised many when she upset 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano during Massachusetts’s 7th Congressional District primary.

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia 

Texas’s first Latina congresswomen

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are running in Democratic strongholds [AP Photo] 

In a state with a Hispanic population of close to 40 percent, in 2018 Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became the first women of Latin American origin to represent Texas in the House of Representatives.

Escobar was elected to Texas’s 16th District, while Garcia won the state’s 29th District.

Jahana Hayes

First African American woman from Connecticut elected to Congress 

Jahana Hayes reacts after appearing at her midterm election night party in Waterbury, Connecticut [File: Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters]

Jahana Hayes, a former teacher, made history in Connecticut when she won her state’s fifth congressional district, becoming Connecticut’s first African American woman elected to Congress. 

Marsha Blackburn 

Tennessee’s first female senator 

In a closely-watched race, Tennessee voters elected Republican Marsha Blackburn to the US Senate, making her the first female to serve in the chamber from the state.  

Marsha Blackburn addresses Republicans in Tampa, Florida in 2012 [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer 

Iowa’s first women elected to the House

Democrats Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer [File: Scott Morgan/Tem Reid/Reuters]

Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne became Iowa’s first female representatives after defeating their Republican male competitors in November. 

Source: Al Jazeera


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