Some Glass Ceilings Did Shatter Last Night

Photo: Barbara Davidson/Getty Images.
Kamala Harris will be the second Black woman in history to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Hillary Clinton didn't crack that "highest, hardest glass ceiling" last night.

But down-ballot, female candidates made some big strides that can give us hope for the future of women in politics.

The number of women serving in the U.S. Senate after Tuesday's election will remain at 20, according to The Center for American Women & Politics. But the number of women of color serving in the Senate has quadrupled, to four.

It wasn't just Senate races that made history. We saw women score major firsts last night by winning bids for U.S representative and governor. And millennial women won key races that will bring more diversity and gender balance to state Legislatures.

Here are six women who broke major barriers on Tuesday.

Tammy Duckworth
— U.S. Senate, Illinois
Tammy Duckworth is a two-term congresswoman and Iraqi war veteran, with a mom who is Thai and of Chinese descent. Now, Duckworth will be a Democratic senator for the state of Illinois. She beat out the Republican incumbent, Mark Kirk, who, at one point in the race, made some disparaging comment about her background. Her win is not only important for Democrats; it also represents a few noteworthy achievements for government overall: Duckworth will be the second Asian-American citizen, the second Illinois woman, and the first female veteran to serve in the Senate, according to The Huffington Post.
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Photo: Chicago Tribune/Getty Images.
Tammy Duckworth ousted a Republican incumbent in Illinois.

Kamala Harris — U.S. Senate, California
Another female politician who would probably be on Leslie Knope's Wall of Inspirational Women (and, thus should be on your radar) is Kamala Harris. The California attorney general is the first Black woman to represent the state in this capacity — and only the second Black woman in history to be elected to the U.S. Senate. (She'll be the first Indian-American woman to get the gig, ever, too.) Although, from the moment her candidature was announced, it was destined to be a boundary-pushing race: She was up against Rep. Loretta Sanchez, another woman of color and Democrat, as Refinery29 reported.

Catherine Cortez Masto — U.S. Senate, Nevada
Clinton wasn't the only woman to hit gold in the Silver State. Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto beat out Republican Joe Heck for the senator position. She'll replace fellow Democrat Harry Reid, who'll be retiring, according to ABC News. At the same time, she'll be forging a new chapter both for her state and the Senate: With this win, Cortez Masto becomes the first-ever Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate.

The number of women of color serving in the Senate has quadrupled.


Pramila Jayapal — U.S. House of Representatives, Washington state
Pramila Jayapal shattered a glass ceiling in the House of Representatives. On Tuesday, she became the first Indian-American woman to be elected to that office, where she'll be representing Washington. Odds are, we'll see the champion of progressive causes continue to fight against many of Donald Trump's ideas put forth during the presidential campaign. She told Refinery29 earlier this year that his rhetoric was "simply not acceptable."

Kate Brown — Oregon Governor
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's re-election bid made history. The Democrat, who assumed office in 2015 after the then-governor resigned, became the first openly LGBTQ politician elected to a governorship. Brown is married to a man, though she identifies as a bisexual woman. "You can't be what you can't see," she told the Washington Blade last month. "If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there's someone like them in the world, it's worth it."
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Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.
Ilhan Omar will be the first Somali-American woman to serve as a state legislator.
Ilhan Omar — Minnesota State Legislature
Ilhan Omar is a survivor. She escaped Somalia's civil war as a child and spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya before making it to the United States. Now, the 34-year-old mother of three is going to serve in Minnesota's state Legislature. Omar, who was featured in Refinery29's Behind The Headlines series, will be the nation's first Somali-American Muslim female legislator. Watch more about her journey below.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story cited a report by Vox that said the number of women in the U.S. Senate would hit a historic high of 21. An analysis from CAWP determined that the final total will be 20, not 21. It also incorrectly stated that the former governor of Oregon died when he resigned. Refinery29 regrets the error.
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