New Hampshire was called “First in the Nation” for many years when our national primary elections truly happened first. Some say that tradition lives on. But in current day politics where several states allow you to pre-vote and caucus events occur earlier, that title may be ebbing away.
A fairly new tradition that our state can be proud of, is its ability to elect women to represent them at the national level (and we are not slackers at the local level). We would like to think that the United States, in general, is enlightened regarding women in politics, but honestly it is not.
I have written about several of the early New Hampshire women leaders, from both major parties, who were first to become legislators, senators, mayors, selectmen, commissioners and sheriffs on the state, county and local level. The party they represented will never be my focus. The fact that New Hampshire women are, and have been, accomplishing great things will be.
Now I take a temporary leap in time to more current day, to acknowledge New Hampshire’s more recent accomplishments–the so-called Female Delegation, though I prefer Women’s Delegation. Though not technically part of that delegation, I must begin with an earlier governor’s race, because it leads into this story.
Jeanne Shaheen was the FIRST woman to be elected (but not to serve) as Governor of New Hampshire, which she did from 1997 to 2003. The first woman to serve as New Hampshire’s governor, Vesta M. Roy, was acting governor for 7 days, from December 30, 1982 until January 6, 1983, after Governor Hugh Gallen died before his successor, Governor-elect John H. Sununu, could be inaugurated.
Kelly Ayotte became the FIRST and ONLY woman to serve as New Hampshire’s Attorney General, serving from 2004 to 2009 (She was twice reappointed by Democratic governor John Lynch). In 2010 she was elected U.S. Senator (serving 2011-2016). She lost her US Senate re-election bid in 2016 to Maggie Hassan.
In 2006 Carol Shea-Porter became New Hampshire’s first U.S. Legislator. The 2008 election made New Hampshire the first state in the nation to have a legislative body with a majority of women.
In 2009 Jeanne Shaheen became the only woman in U.S. history to be elected both a Governor and a United States Senator. Following the 2016 election, she will now share this honor with Maggie Hassan (81st Governor of New Hampshire, elected in 2012, and sworn into office on January 3, 2013).
In 2013 New Hampshire made herstory again. Not only with its First Female Delegation, composed of Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R)(former NH attorney general), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen(D), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster(D), and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter(D). This same year New Hampshire also had a woman governor (MaggieHassan-D), speaker of the NH House (Rep. Terie Norelli for 2013-14 Session), and chief justice of the NH State Supreme Court (Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dailanis).
Fast forward to 2016 and the most recent state races. New Hampshire’s all-women all-Democrat delegation (first in the nation) include: Jeanne Shaheen (U.S. Senator), Maggie Hassan (U.S. Senator), Carol Shea-Porter (U.S. Rep.), and Annie Kuster (U.S. Rep.).
Both Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan are former Governors of NH. Shaheen was the first woman U.S. Senator in NH’s history (2008), and Carol Shea-Porter was the first woman elected to Congress from New Hampshire (in 2006).
All of these women are amazing–intelligent, focused, politically astute, talented, and hard-working.
I salute them all–for their accomplishments, and for how hard they have worked, and continue to work, on behalf of the people of New Hampshire.
[Editor’s note: Technically, as this is published in November 2016, Kelly Ayotte is still a United States Senator until January 2017 when Maggie Hassan is sworn in to that position. Just as Maggie Hassan remains Governor of the State of New Hampshire until her replacement does the same.].
[Editor’s Update: On December 19, 2016, New Hampshire’s electors cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. According to the Boston Globe: “the four electors were all women — a first.” Each of the electors had accomplished a first in Democratic politics in New Hampshire. “Terie Norelli was the first Democratic woman to be speaker of the New Hampshire House. Bev Hollingworth was the first Democratic woman to lead the state Senate (the Senate title is ‘President’). Carol Shea-Porter was the first woman sent to the US House from New Hampshire.” Dudley Dudley was the first woman to serve on the New Hampshire’s Executive Council.]
[Editor’s Update: adding another milestone from the past. On 3 December 2008 the female New Hampshire Senators celebrated the historic milestone when the New Hampshire Senate became the first legislative body in the United States with women as the majority of its members (13 out of 24 senators who took office).