The ascendance of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the defeat of the South Dakota abortion ban, aren't the only good news for American women to come out of Tuesday's elections. As the likely first ever Madame Speaker, Rep. Pelosi will preside over a chamber filled with more female representatives than ever before, according to the Associated Press. The House will add at least three women members, and the Senate will add two, bringing the total number of women in Congress to 86 -- 70 in the House, 16 in the Senate. (Women were candidates in two other tight races that were still too close to call on Wednesday.)
"It's a real sea change of women taking political power and showing it in a most visible way, by electing Nancy Pelosi speaker," Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY's List, one of the nation's most powerful political action committees, which supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates, told the AP. "We're going to have the highest number of Democratic women in Congress in history."
In the Senate, Democratic women scored victories in Missouri and Minnesota, pushing the number of female senators to 16. In Missouri, Claire McCaskill won one of the nation's most closely contested races. (Incidentally, as a member of the Missouri Legislature, McCaskill was the first woman to ever give birth while an active member of the Legislature.) In Minnesota, attorney Amy Klobuchar defeated her opponent in a landslide.
With the Democrats in control of the House, AlterNet notes that women representatives are also poised to take other important leadership positions there, beyond that of Madame Speaker: "Most significant, New York Rep. Louise Slaughter will likely become chair of the House Rules Committee, which sets the parameters of floor debate. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald of California will chair the House Administration Committee, which oversees federal elections and day-to-day operations in the chamber."
We look forward to following what they all do with their new power, but for now pass the champagne!