Four Ways Women Won the 2012 Election

Americans may have re-elected the country's 44th male president, but Election Day 2012 was a historic night for female politicians.

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U.S. Senate candidate Representative Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, speaks after her victory over Republican candidate Tommy Thompson on election night, Nov. 6, 2012, in Madison, Wis. Baldwin will become the U.S.'s first openly gay Senator. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Correction appended: Nov. 8, 2012

Americans may have re-elected the country’s 44th male President, but Nov. 6 also registered as a historic night for women. Once again, female voters gave a major boost to President Barack Obama‘s campaign; he carried 55% of the demographic — about the same percentage he carried in 2008 — including nearly 67% of single women. Some women were especially committed to their civic duty, like 21-year-old Galacia Malone in Chicago, who stopped to cast her ballot on her way to the hospital to give birth.

On Nov. 7, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg posted a status update characterizing Election 2012 as “a great step forward for women.” New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot also chimed in: “If there was a war on women this year, it looks like the women are winning.” The newly elected female members of Congress do not all represent the same party, but they vow to represent all women once they are sworn into office. Four notable ballot-box victories for women this year:

1. New Hampshire will boast the nation’s first all-female congressional delegation.

Joining the state’s U.S. Senators, Jeanne Shaheen (D.) and Kelly Ayotte (R.), are Democrats Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, who defeated Republican Representatives Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass. Democrat Maggie Hasan was elected governor, and she will be the nation’s only female Democratic governor in 2013. But, as the AP reports,this election was not the first time women have made history in the Granite State. In 1999, New Hampshire became the first state to have a female governor (Shaheen), senate president and house speaker all in the same year.

(MORE: Inside the Secret World of Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win)

2. White men will now be a minority in the House Democratic Caucus.

Because many Blue Dog Democrats (mostly white men) did not run for re-election, the 113th Congress will mark the first time that white men are a minority in the House Democratic Caucus. As Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman explained in an article before election night:

In 1953, white men were 98 percent of House Democrats and 97 percent of House Republicans. Today, white men are down to 53 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans . . . it’s in part a byproduct of Republicans packing Democratic voters into the kinds of minority-majority seats most likely to elect minority members.

The new Congress, however, will boast the largest number of incoming female House members since 1992, and a record 28 women of color altogether, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, a military veteran, will be the first Hindu American to serve in Congress. Among 2012 congressional candidates in general, there was a significant increase in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — not surprising given that Asians are the fastest-growing racial group in the country, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

3. There will be 20 female U.S. Senators in 2013. That’s a record.

Despite the retirements of Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, women gained ground in the U.S. Senate, expanding their ranks from 17 members to 20, a new record. Former North Dakota attorney general Heidi Heitkamp became the state’s first woman elected to Congress, and Republican state senator Deb Fischer became Nebraska’s first female U.S. Senator since 1954 — and the first woman elected to a full term. Democratic Representative Mazie Hirono will not only be Hawaii’s first female Senator but also the first Asian-American female U.S. Senator. Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, will be the state’s first female Senator and the first openly gay U.S. Senator. After running the state’s most expensive race ever, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren became the state’s first female Senator.

Even more impressive, all current female Senators who were up for re-election won their races, including Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington; Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California; Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York; Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota; Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan; and Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.

4. Republican men with extreme views on abortion lost their elections.

Several Republican U.S. Senate candidates who made controversial remarks about rape and abortion did not win their races on Nov. 6. In Missouri, McCaskill defeated challenger Representative Todd Akin, who argued in a radio interview that if women experience a “legitimate rape,” their bodies can avert unwanted pregnancies. Similarly, in Indiana, Democratic Representative Joe Donnelly defeated Richard Mourdock, who said pregnancies from rape are something “God intended.”

In rebuking such candidates, “voters sent a clear message last night that they’re tired of a backwards-looking agenda that hurts women and families,” EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. The political-action committee, which supports pro-choice female candidates, reported more donors and members during the 2011-12 election cycle than at any other period in its 27-year history.

Due to an editing error, this article misstated a few of the politicians’ party affiliations.

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