Minnesota “Firsts” for Women

As we celebrate the Centennial of the 19th amendment, the League of Women Voters Minnesota can't help but reflect on all that has been accomplished in the last 100 years. One of the most visible markers of these achievements is the many glass ceilings that have been shattered. In that spirit, what follows is a list of "firsts" for women with connections to Minnesota.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we would like your help to make it so! If you know of any Minnesota women “firsts” who should be included, please email info@lwvmn.org. Together, we can make a record of the amazing women who have moved us forward in the last century, thereby honoring their achievements and creating a lasting resource for the next century's leaders and barrier-breakers.


Pamela Alexander
Judge
1st African American woman judge in Minnesota

Susan Allen  
Minnesota State Representative
1st Native American woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature

Michele Bachmann  
United States Representative
1st Republican woman United States Representative from Minnesota

Ann Bancroft
Explorer
1st woman to reach both the South and North Poles

Sharon Sayles Belton
Mayor of Minneapolis
1st woman and 1st African American Mayor of Minneapolis

Muriel Humphrey Brown 
United States Senator
1st woman United States Senator from Minnesota (by appointment) 

Myrtle Agnes Cain  
Minnesota State Representative
1st woman (alongside three others) elected to the Minnesota House in 1922

Jennifer Carnahan
Chair, Republican Party of Minnesota
1st Asian American to serve as Party chair

Toni Carter
Ramsey County Commissioner
1st African American to serve on a county board in Minnesota

Margaret H. Chutich
Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
1st openly gay state supreme court justice

Karen Clark
Minnesota State Representative
1st openly gay woman elected to the Minnesota State Legislature 

Angela Conley
Hennepin County Commissioner
1st African American to serve as a Hennepin County commissioner 

Marvel Cooke
Reporter
1st African American Woman to work at a mainstream white-owned newspaper in Minnesota 

Angie Craig
United States Representative
1st openly gay United States Representative from Minnesota

Jessie Diggins
Olympic Cross-Country Skier
1st athlete to win cross-country gold for the United States at an Olympic Games, along with Kikkan Randall

Martha Angle Dorsett 
Lawyer
1st woman lawyer in Minnesota

Judi Dutcher
Minnesota State Auditor
1st woman to serve as Minnesota State Auditor

Irene Fernando
Hennepin County Commissioner
1st Filipino American to serve as a Hennepin County commissioner

Michelle Fischbach
President of the Minnesota Senate
1st woman to serve as President of the Minnesota Senate

Peggy Flanagan
Lieutenant Governor
1st Native American woman Lieutenant Governor in the United States

Beth Ford
CEO, Land O'Lakes
1st openly gay woman CEO of a Fortune 500 Company

Joan Gabel
President of the University of Minnesota
1st woman to serve as President of the University of Minnesota

Edwina Garcia
Richfield City Council Member
1st Latina elected to the Minnesota Legislature

Lillian Cox Gault
Mayor of St. Peter
1st woman Mayor of St. Peter

Maria Regan Gonzalez
Mayor of Richfield
1st Latina Mayor in Minnesota

Kaohly Her
Minnesota State Representative
1st Hmong American woman elected to the Minnesota House, along with Rep. Vang

Virginia Paul Holm 
Minnesota Secretary of State
1st woman to serve as Minnesota Secretary of State

Sue Metzger Dickey Hough 
Minnesota State Representative
1st woman (alongside three others) elected to the Minnesota House in 1922

Andrea Jenkins
Minneapolis City Council Member
1st African American openly trans woman elected to office in the United States

Carol Johnson
Minnesota State Treasurer (position abolished in 2003)
1st woman to serve as State Treasurer

Marlene Johnson
Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
1st woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota

Hannah Johnson Kempfer  
Minnesota State Representative
1st woman (alongside three others) elected to the Minnesota House in 1922

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator
1st woman elected to the United States Senate from Minnesota

Coya Knutson
United States Representative
1st woman elected to United States Congress from Minnesota

Emily Larson
Mayor of Duluth
1st woman Mayor of Duluth

Dee Long
Speaker of the Minnesota House 
1st woman to serve as speaker of the Minnesota House

Betty McCollum
United States Representative
1st woman to represent the 4th Congressional district of Minnesota

Anne McKeig
Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
1st Native American state supreme court justice 

Mandy Meisner
Anoka County Commissioner
1st Asian American to serve as an Anoka County Commissioner

Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed  
Superintendent of Hopkins School District
1st woman to serve as Superintendent of Hopkins School District

Mee Moua
Minnesota State Senator
1st Hmong American woman elected to a State Legislature in the United States

Diana Murphy
United States Circuit Judge
1st woman to serve on the federal bench in Minnesota

Laura Emelia Naplin  
Minnesota State Senator
1st woman elected to the Minnesota Senate

Sarah Jane Nicoll
Mayor of Sartell
1st woman mayor of Sartell

Kim Norton
Mayor of Rochester
1st woman mayor of Rochester

Ilhan Omar
United States Representative
1st Somali American elected to office in the United States (also first Muslim Congresswoman with Rashida Tlaib)

Mabeth Hurd Paige  
Minnesota State Representative
1st woman (alongside three others) elected to the Minnesota House in 1922

Patricia Torres Ray
Minnesota State Senator
1st Latina elected to the Minnesota Senate

Brianna Scurry
Professional Soccer Player
1st African American woman to be elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame

Lena O. Smith
Lawyer
1st African American woman lawyer in Minnesota

Sarah Strommen  
Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
1st woman commissioner of the Minnesota DNR

Lori Swanson
Attorney General of Minnesota
1st woman to serve as Attorney General of Minnesota

Margaret Treur
Lawyer
1st Native American woman lawyer in Minnesota

Samantha Vang
Minnesota State Representative
1st Hmong American woman elected to the Minnesota House, along with Rep. Her

Sophia Vuelo
Judge
1st Hmong American judge in Minnesota

Rosalie E. Wahl 
Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
1st woman state supreme court justice

Neva Walker
Minnesota State Representative
1st African American woman elected to the Minnesota Legislature

Wilhelmina Wright
United States District Judge
1st African American woman Minnesota Supreme Court Judge