Women make history in new U.S. Senate
(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was the first woman to be elected House speaker in 2007. On Thursday the Senate has made history with a record number of women.
When 13 new U.S. senators took the oath Thursday, five of them were women.
Those five bring the ranks of women senators to 20 -- a full one-fifth of a legislative body that was all-male as recently as the 1970s.
"The quality of these women is so incredible," said Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, a new senator from North Dakota.
Asked how it will change the dynamic in the Senate, Heitkamp replied: "I'm hoping that it will mean that this body will become more collaborative, more willing to compromise."
The last time five women were elected to the senate was 1992, and it was dubbed "the year of the woman."
Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski was one of them. "It was forbidden for women to wear trousers on the Senate floor," she said. "And when I stepped out in my slacks, you would have thought I was working on the moon."
The new members will become part of a longstanding tradition. All the female senators from both parties get together for lunch once a month to talk about policy and their personal lives.
It's a big shift from the first women senators, like Hattie Wyatt Caraway and Margaret Chase Smith who had to go it alone.
How long it will take to get to 50 women U.S. senators?
"I think we'll be able to do this in less than 15 years," said Mikulski. "We're accepted, we know how to raise our money, we know how to raise hell. We know how to organize everything from grassroots all the way up."
Mikulski just became chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, the first woman to hold that position. Over in the House of Representatives, the number of women dipped two years ago. But as of Thursday's swearing-in, it is back up to 78, the all-time high.
- Nancy Cordes
Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.Follow on Twitter »
- Okla. tornado survivor finds dog buried alive under rubble
- 5/23: Obama: The war on terror, "like all wars, must end"; baby born as tornado struck
- Oklahoma miracle baby -- born amidst tornado chaos
- Survivor of Bangladesh factory collapse speaks out
- Teacher injured in Okla. tornado takes first steps
- Storm spotter: Oklahoma tornado "a nightmare"
- Man killed in brutal London attack
- CBS News goes undercover in a Bangladesh clothing factory
- Injured third-grade teacher tells of trying to protect students
- Resentment over wars may have motivated London terror attack
- Did Obama admin. know of IRS targeting during campaign?
- Angry Pakistanis fight to end U.S. drone strikes
- President Obama defends drone strikes
- Parents ask why Okla. schools don't have tornado shelters
- Mother-to-be was in labor as Oklahoma tornado hit
- Survivors pulled from Okla. school hit by tornado