The League of Women Voters of Kansas is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates. Since some of the women listed in this exhibit may be running for office, their appearance in this exhibit does not constitute an endorsement by the League.
Top Row, Left to Right:
Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy from Hays was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Kansas in 1932. She had served in the Kansas legislature previously.
Nancy Landon Kassebaum was elected in 1978 as the first woman U.S. Senator from Kansas. She worked tirelessly on issues such as reducing the budget deficit, arms control, and health care legislation. In her last term, she chaired the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources and was the second woman in U.S. history to chair a standing committee. After her retirement from the Senate in 1997, Kassebaum married former U.S. Senate majority leader Howard Baker of Tennessee.
Jan Meyers, from Overland Park, served five terms in Congress from 1984-1996. In 1995, she became the first Republican woman to chair a standing House committee in more than 40 years. She also served twelve years in the Kansas State Senate from 1973-1984 and was known as a leading proponent of issues of interest to women, children, and families. Meyers’s long tenure as a public servant began on the Overland Park City Council. Reflecting on a political career that sometimes saw her take a stand against her party on major social issues, Meyers advised would–be politicians, “Listen to your conscience and your constituents—both. Most of the time they’ll agree. If your conscience is different than your constituents’, then you’ll have a hard time.”
Kansas women serving in Congress include:
Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy, 73rd Congress, 1933-35
Martha Keys, 94th and 95th Congress,1975-1979
Jan Meyers, 96-104th Congress,1985-1997
Nancy Boyda, 110th Congress, 2007-2009
Lynn Jenkins, 111th – 115th Congress, 2009-2019
Sharice Davids, 116th Congress, 2019-present
Only two Kansas women have served in the US Senate:
Nancy Landon Kassebaum, 1978 – 1997
Sheila Frahm, former state senator and 44th Lt. Governor of Kansa, 1995 – 96, was appointed by Governor Bill Graves to fill an unexpired term created by the resignation of Senator Bob Dole. She lost the election to hold the seat permanently to U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback in 1996.
Second Row, Left to Right:
Joan Finney (1925 – 2001) began her political career by working in the Topeka and Washington, DC, offices of U.S. Senator Frank Carlson. She served as commissioner of elections for Shawnee County from 1970 to 1972. She changed political parties to run for Kansas State Treasurer and was then elected for four terms, becoming the first woman to hold that position. She was elected the 42nd Governor of Kansas in 1990–the first woman to hold that office and the first woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka, became the third woman to win the governorship. Kelly served fourteen years in the Kansas Senate (2005 – 2018) before resigning on January 14, 2019, to serve as Governor of Kansas. Kelly was ranking minority member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee for most of her legislative career.
Kathleen Sebelius, also a Democrat from Topeka, was the second woman elected as Governor. Prior to running for Governor, she had served as a state representative from Topeka, 1985-1994, when she ran for State Insurance Commissioner in 1994 and served two terms, 1995-2003. She was elected twice as Governor but resigned in 2008 to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. From April 2009 through June 2014, Sebelius served in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as the 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, leading the effort to pass and implement the most significant health reform in half a century, the Affordable Care Act. Forbes named Sebelius one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Time magazine named her one of America’s Top Five Governors.
Third Row, Left to Right:
Oletha Faust-Goudeau, first African American woman elected to the Kansas Senate in 2008, was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She was employed with PCA International for 16 years and studied at Wichita State University, majoring in pre-law. In 2004, she was elected to the 84th District in the Kansas House of Representatives. She is currently serving as Assistant Minority Leader in the Kansas Senate.
Delia Garcia was appointed Secretary of Labor by Governor Kelly in January 2019. Garcia was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2004, where she was the first Latina woman elected, and at the age of 27, the youngest female to serve in the Kansas Legislature. She is honored in the Kansas History Museum for this achievement.
Ponca-We Victors was sworn into her first term in the Kansas House of Representatives in 2011 wearing her native costume. A member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and Ponca tribe of Oklahoma, Rep. Victors is the first Native American woman to serve in the Kansas legislature. She was reelected five times to the 103rd district (Wichita) and is serving today.
The first woman of color to be elected to the Kansas Legislature without being appointed first was Barbara Ballard, Lawrence. The Center for American Women in Politics noted in 2015 that 22% of the women legislators serving nationwide are women of color. However, women of color constituted only 5.4% of the total of 7,383 state legislators.
Bottom Row, Left to Right:
Susan Wagle, first woman to be elected President of the Kansas Senate, is a businesswoman from Wichita. She has been representing the 30th senatorial district since 2001. She was elected Senate President in 2013, a position she currently holds. Wagle also served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 1991 to 2001 where she also held leadership positions including Speaker Pro-Tem. Wagle served as National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2006. She is currently a member of ALEC’s Board of Directors.
Sharice Davids is the first Native American woman elected to Congress from Kansas and the first openly gay member of Congress from Kansas. Representing the third congressional district, Sharice earned a law degree from Cornell Law School. Sharice was one of 16 selected to participate in the White House Fellowship program 2016-2017. She has lived and worked on Native American reservations, working with tribes to create economic development opportunities, programs and initiatives. Sharice is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and is highly trained in martial arts.
From 1919 to 2019, only ten different women have held statewide office (two have held two offices):
Lorraine (Lizzie) Wooster, Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1919-1923
Lillie Washabaugh, State Printer, 1957-1961
Elwill Shanahan, Secretary of State, 1966-1978
Joan Finney, State Treasurer, 1975-1991
Joan Finney, Governor 1991-1995
Sally Thompson, State Treasurer, 1991-1998
Shelia Frahm, Lieutenant Governor, 1995-1996
Carla Stovall, Attorney General, 1995-2003
Kathleen Sebelius, Insurance Commissioner, 1995-2003
Kathleen Sebelius, Governor, 2003-2009
Lynn Jenkins, State Treasurer, 2003-2009
Sandy Praeger, Insurance Commissioner, 2003-2015
Laura Kelly, Governor, 2019-present
Vicki Schmidt, Insurance Commissioner, 2019-present
To find other women in Kansas State Elected Office, 1919-2019 go to: https://cdm16884.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16884coll1/id/489/rec/4
To find a complete list of people who served in the Kansas Legislature, go to Kansas Legislators: Past and Present and search by last name. https://kslib.info/businessdirectoryii.aspx