They Weren’t Trying To Be The First

There’s been so much talk about the need of new leadership in the country at different levels of government and a lot of existing and new organizations have created programs to encourage people of different demographics to run for public office.

Being the curious person that I am, I started searching for data that would give me an idea of how bad the disparity is between various demographics.

So, found a post that listed some of the first African Americans to achieve something BIG in American history.

To my surprise, I found out that a former black slave was elected to the Senate only a years after the abolition of slavery. Talk about debunking stereotypes and challenging social norms. AWESOME!

Although all of the people on the list were very interesting, The Honorable Blanche Kelso Bruce of Mississippi got my attention because he was listed as the first African American (and only former slave) to have served a full term in the U.S. Senate from 1875-1881.

Out of curiousity, I Googled more information on the first black or African American in the U.S. Senate and found out that the first person of color to the Senate was actually Hiram Revels (1869–1871), a freedman born in North Carolina (46 years after the first white Senator).

There were a few things that first came to mind when I saw the years these two Senators were elected.

First of all, for a person of color to have become a Senator in the 1800s is amazing! Why? Well, BECAUSE only 6 years prior (January 1, 1863), President Abraham Lincoln had made the official announcement that “slaves within any state, or designated part of a state…in rebellion,…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Later, the 18th Amendment, adopted late in 1865, officially abolished slavery although it wasn’t received all too well as we’ve all learned through history classes.

And of course, we still have some very contemptuous people who are very sour about blacks and other people of color having freedom.

So, then, I thought what about women? How long did it take the first woman to become Senator? Well, I found some pretty interesting stuff that I was already aware of. However, seeing the huge time lapse between Senators of different races and genders was staggering!

Here’s what I found.

From 1869 to 1993 (YES. 1993), NO. WOMAN. OF. COLOR had been elected into the Senate. It was until January 3, 1993 that Carol Moseley Braun became the first black female Senator.

That’s a 124  years difference between the first black man and the first black woman and 170 years between the first white male Senator and a black woman Ludicrous, right!???!

The first white woman elected to the Senate was Ophelia Wyatt Caraway in 1932, while the first white male Senator was Andrew Jackson. YES. That Andrew Jackson (1823-1825), also the 7th President of the United States. Only a 9 year difference.

So, having figured this out, I thought of looking up the differences between people of other races to see how long it took them.

The first Latin-American man elected to the U.S. Senate was  Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo (1928). His election, however, was a fill- in for the unexpired seat for Andreus Jones who died at the end of 1927. That’s a 105 year difference between the first white Senator and the first Latino Senator.

We hadn’t had a Latina Senator until this past election. On November 8th, 2016 former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto won retiring Senator Harry Reid’s seat. That’s 193 years after the first white Senator.

The first Asian American male Senator was Hiram Fong (1959-1977) as Hawaii was added to the union (136 year difference), while first Asian American woman Senator became Mazie Hirono, from Hawaii until January 3, 2013 (a 54 year difference between the two and 190 year between her and the first white male Senator).

Then, the first person of Native American descent to become Senator was Charles Curtis (1907-1913; 1915-1929) in the state of Kansas. He filled a republican vacancy in the term ending March 3, 1907, due to the resignation of Joseph R. Burton.

On that same day, Curtis was elected for the full Senate term until March 3, 1913. Senator Curtis later became President Hoover’s Vice-President. There has yet to be a female Native American Senator (an 84 year delay after Senator Andrew Jackson).

So, after analyzing the time gaps in between each Senator based on race and gender, the time laps are too large and we’ve yet to have a Native American female Senator.

I strongly believe that representation is needed from different groups of people because no one understands the needs of a group of people than members of that particular group.

I realize that prejudices, biases, stereotypes and many other factors prevent people from running due to fear of scrutiny, fear of not belonging and fear of failure.

So, if you’re not running for office, you can get involved in your community in some way.

Volunteering is an undervalued job, but it has surmountable benefits beyond economics. I’m aware that many obstacles have prevented women and other people of color to run for public offices as small as being part of Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs).

But if we continue to stand back without trying to debunk the false assumptions and stereotypes that our people are not interested enough, that we don’t care or that we aren’t educated enough to become involved, then we will always be left behind.

Today, we have many organizations that support citizens who want to organize, who want to run for offices, who want to start social programs…you just have to start by attending meetings and being part of the conversations.

Your concerns need to be heard, and your suggestions need to be shared. Women are needed in every aspect of our political system and all minorities need to step up and something.

Difference Between Men and Women within their own race

Men Women Years
White Andrew Jackson (1823) Ophelia Wyatt Caraway (1932) 9
Black Hiram Revels (1869) Carol Moseley Braun (1993) 124
Asian Hiram Fong (1959) Mazie Hirono (2013) 54
Native American Charles Curtis 1907) N/A
Latinx Octaviano Ambriosio Larrazolo (1928) Catherine Cortes Masto (2016) 87

So, it looks like we’ve still got a long way to go, but it won’t change unless more women run for local, state and federal offices. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another 145 years to see a woman become President of the United States.

I’ve created a list of organizations that provide resources if you want to run for office with a short list of ideas on how you can get involved as a supporter in public service. You can download this free list here.

If you decide to run for office, PLEASE come back and let us know in the comments.

Go and leave your mark!

2 thoughts on “They Weren’t Trying To Be The First”

    1. Thank you, Laura. It was for me as well when I calculated how long it’s taken women to get into the public sphere of leadership.

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