Top 20 Women Who Have Served in the Massachusetts Legislature, Part 1

Since 1923, over 100 women have served in the Massachusetts Legislature many of which who have broken barriers as women in politics, running for various office positions, and getting legislation passed.

This list is of 20 Democratic women in the legislature who have contributed greatly to the representation of women in politics.


On the left, Representative Susan Walker FitzGerald, and right, M. Sylvia Donaldson.

#20: Representative Susan Walker FitzGerald was the first woman elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1923. She served until 1924. Fitzgerald was passionate about Equal Pay. This Boston Globe article, “MRS FITZGERALD URGES EQUAL PAY MEASURE” published on January 25th, 1923 details:


It is important to note that this piece of legislation, in 1923, received a favorable review, but never did pass.

Article from the Boston Daily Globe: “FAVORABLE REPORT ON “EQUAL PAY” BILL,” March 9th, 1923:



Representative Elaine Noble

#19: Representative Elaine Noble is the first lesbian women elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, serving from 1975 until 1979. In 1978, she ran for US Senate, losing to Paul Tsongas. In the 1990s, she unsuccessfully ran for Cambridge City Council.


Representative Katherine Foley

#18: Representative Katherine Foley is the first woman to be elected to the Massachusetts Legislature being born outside of the United States (she was born in Ireland). Representing Lawrence, Foley is well known for getting the Heart Balm Bill passed through the legislature.


Representative Katherine Kane

#17: Representative Katherine Kane served in the Massachusetts House from 1964 until 1969. Prior to running for office, she served as President of the Boston Chapter of League of Women Voters from 1961 until 1964. During her time in the legislature, she helped found the Progressive Caucus in 1967. From Boston Globe’s article “13 Democrats Form State House Alliance,” by Timothy Leland (Feb. 14th, 1967) states:


Afterwards, in , she took a leading position in the White Administration in the city’s new Office of Cultural Affairs from 1970 until 1975, before becoming the first female Deputy Mayor of Boston in 1975. During her tenure as Representative in 1968, she became a lead organizer of “Summerthing,” which took off. By 1970, Mayor White created the Office of Cultural Affairs, which funded “Summerthing” until the late 70s. Between 1975 and 1976, Kane also served as Director of Boston 200, the program instrumental in creating Boston’s Bicentennial celebration.


Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz

#16: Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz is the first Latina to be elected to the Massachusetts Senate. She was elected in 2009 through a highly publicized battle with the sitting Senator, Dianne Wilkerson, after Wilkerson refused to step down following allegations of impropriety.

Before being elected as a State Senator, Chang-Diaz worked as a Legislative Aide to Senator Cheryl Jacques, was also a campaign manager, an organizer for MassEquality, and a public school teacher.


Senator Cheryl Jacques

#15: Senator Cheryl Jacques served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1993 until 2004. After coming out during her fourth term in the Massachusetts Senate, she received unkind words from then State Representative Scott Brown, due to a decision to have children with her partner, citing it’s “not normal” and “alleged family responsibilities.”

Before serving in the legislature, Jacques served as Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County, and Assistant Attorney General for the state.  After serving in the legislature, Jacques worked as Executive Director for Human Rights Campaign, also addressed the 2004 DNC in this capacity, in this post. In 2011, Governor Deval Patrick appointed Jacques to serve as an administrative judge with the Department of Industrial Accidents. At the time of this appointment, Jacques was serving as counsel with the Boston law firm of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten.


Auditor Suzanne Bump

#14: Auditor Suzanne Bump is the second woman to be elected to a statewide office, as Auditor, serving since 2011. Prior to serving as Auditor, Bump served as a Legislative Aide to Representative Elizabeth “Bibs”  Nener Metayer of Braintree for five years.


Representatative Elizabeth N. Metayer: “If you cast your bread upon the water, it will come back as cake.”

Despite Bump running the House seat being vacated by Metayer (who held the seat for 10 years and was elected at age 63), Metayer didn’t endorse Bump for the seat that she eventually won due to a dispute. Metayer was a supporter of House Speaker Thomas W. McGee, while Bump supported Rep. George Keverian over McGee, and as such, fired Bump over this dispute. Instead, Metayer endorsed 35-year-old attorney Elizabeth E. Laing.

Bump would remain a State Representative until 1993, when she would be unseated by Braintree’s first Mayor, Joseph C. Sullivan. After this should become senior counsel for the American Insurance Association, and political director on the Patrick campaign.


Senator Dianne Wilkerson

#13: Senator Dianne Wilkerson was the longest serving woman of color in the Massachusetts Senate, serving from 1993 until 2008.


Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera

#12: Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera is the longest serving Latina lesbian women in the Masschusetts House. In 1998, following the death of Representative Anthony Scibelli, she ran successfully for the seat, becoming the first Hispanic woman elected to the legislature.


Representative Liz Malia

#11: Representative Liz Malia is the longest serving lesbian woman in the Massachusetts House who also won by Special Election in 1998. After serving as Chief of Staff to Representative John E. McDonough of Jamaica Plain in Boston, she ran for his seat when he decided to step down.

“People will be watching to see if flames are coming out of my ears, or if smoke is coming out of my nostrils, to see if I will do anything bizarre.” ~ Representative Liz Malia, on what he more conservative collegues might think of her because of her sexual orientation, after winning the election.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the list…


2 thoughts on “Top 20 Women Who Have Served in the Massachusetts Legislature, Part 1

  1. Pingback: In Appreciation of Governor Deval Patrick | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: Reflections On: Meeting Barney Frank, and Sean Patrick Maloney | The Progressive Democrat

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