Top 20 Women Who Have Served in the Massachusetts Legislature, Part 2


Attorney General Martha Coakley

#10: Attorney General Martha Coakley is the first woman to win a statewide elected office in Massachusetts history, serving as Attorney General since 2007. Prior to serving as Attorney General, Coakley served as Middlesex District Attorney from 1999 until 2007. She joined the District Attorney’s office in 1986 as an Assistant District Attorney in the Lowell, Massachusetts District Court office. A year later, she was invited by the U.S. Justice Department to join its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force as a Special Attorney. Coakley returned to the District Attorney’s Office in 1989 and was appointed the Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit two years later.

In 1997, while living in Dorchester, Coakley ran for the 13th Suffolk House District seat being vacated by then State Representative James T. Brett, losing to Martin J. Walsh, the current Mayor of Boston. After the loss, she eventually moved to Arlington and ran for Middlesex District Attorney, winning that election. In 2000, after getting married to Deputy Police Superintendant Thomas O’Connor of Cambridge, moved to Medford, where she has lived since. In 2010, Coakley ran for the US Senate, a seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy, and would lose to State Senator Scott Brown.


Senator Karen Spilka

#9: Senator Karen Spilka is the first woman to be elected via Special Election to the Massachusetts House, and then get elected to the Massachusetts Senate. She has also served in leadership positions, including Majority Leader and Majority Whip.


Representative Marie St Fluer

#8: Representative Marie St. Fluer is the first woman to win a seat in the Massachusetts House via Special Election. She is also the second Democratic woman to be elected to the legislature who was born outside the United States (Haiti), after Katherine Foley (Ireland).

In 2006, St Fluer served as Gubernatorial candidate Thomas Reilly’s running mate for a single day, before issues regarding her finances caused her to withdraw from the race.


Senator Lois Pines

#7: Senator Lois Pines is the first woman to serve in both the Massachusetts House and Senate, though non-consecutively. From 1973 to 1979, she served in the House, and from 1987 until 1999, she served in the Senate.  In 1978, she ran for Secretary of State of the Commonwealth, losing to Michael Connolly. In 1981, she ran for Lieutenant Governor. In 1988, she ran for Attorney General, losing to Thomas Reilly. She again ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2002.

Prior to serving as a State Representative, Pines served as a Tax Attorney for the Massachusetts Co. Inc from 1964 until 1972, and served as an Alderman At Large on the Board of Alderman for the City of Newton.

After serving as a State Representative, Pines served as the New England Regional Director for the Federal Trade Commission.

Pines can be credited with founding the Women’s Legislative Caucus in 1975,


Representative Gloria Fox

#6: Representative Gloria Fox is the longest serving woman of color in the Massachusetts House. She has served in the House since 1985, representing Roxbury.


Senator Linda Malconian

#5: Senator Linda Melconian is the second woman to serve in the Massachusetts Senator, and hold the title of Majority Leader.

Before serving as a Massachusetts Senator, Melconian served as an Intern for Congressman Edward Boland.

In 1971, she began her public service career as legislative assistant counsel to U. S. House of Representatives’ Majority Thomas P. Tip O’Neill (D-MA). After “Tip” O’Neill was elected House Majority Leader and Speaker, Melconian became the first woman staff professional to merit standing U. S. House Floor privileges in all three majority leadership offices.  She held staff positions including chief legislative assistant, speechwriter, House Floor scheduling and Member assistant, advisor on domestic and foreign policy and select/special committee assignments, and Assistant Counsel to the Speaker. In 1974, Melconian assisted then Majority Leader Tip O’Neill in his efforts to assure the integrity of the U.S. House of Representatives during the constitutional crisis of the historic Richard Nixon impeachment hearings.


State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry

#4: Senator Linda Dorcena Forry is the first Haitian American to serve in both the Massachusetts House and Senate, and is the first woman to win the 1st Suffolk Senate seat, and emcee the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast.

“Do not adjust your television set. There is nothing wrong with the picture on your TV. That is right, everyone. That’s right. I’m a woman!” ~ Senator Linda Dorcena Forry at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast this year, where she emceed.


Senator Mary Fonseca

#3: Senator Mary Fonseca is the first (Democratic) and longest serving woman in the Massachusetts Senate. She also was the first elected (Democratic woman) to several leadership positions in the Senate, including Assistant Majority Leader, Majority Leader, and Majority Whip.


Congresswoman Katherine Clark

#2: Congresswoman Katherine Clark is the only women to serve consecutively in the Massachusetts House, Senate, and Congress. She served in the House from 2008 until 2011, the Senate from 2011 until 2013, and won a Special Election to Congress in 2013 where she currently serves.

Before serving in public officer, Clark worked as a clerk for a federal judge in Colorado, and as a staff attorney for the Colorado District Attorneys Council. Moving to Massachusetts in 2005, she became general counsel for the state Office of Child Care Services. She moved to Melrose in 2001, ran for Melrose School Committee winning a seat. She became Chair in 2005.


Senate President Therese Murray

#1: Senate President Therese Murray is the only women in Massachusetts History to be elected to the top leadership position in either the Massachusetts House or Senate.

Before serving in the Massachusetts Senate, Murray worked as a Mitigation Chief for the Massachusetts Highway Department, and community relations coordinator for American Cable Systems. She was first elected to the Plymouth and Barnstable District in 1992, and served as Chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee since 2003. She was elected Senate President in 2008.

“Later on, when I was appointed Chairwoman of Ways and Means, I became the only woman at the table during Leadership Meetings with the Senate President, Governor and Speaker of the House where we discussed the issues facing the Commonwealth. But, being the only woman and the expert on the budget allowed me to bring a new and different perspective to the table. It also challenged me to make sure that my voice, as a legislator and a leader, not simply as a woman, was heard.  That really is the challenge and the victory, when we are seen as equals and accepted as leaders, and not just thought of as the woman at the table.” ~ Senate President Therese Murray, She-ro of the Week: November 2013

One thought on “Top 20 Women Who Have Served in the Massachusetts Legislature, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Reflections On: Equal Pay Day, 2014 | The Progressive Democrat

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