Dianne Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco, makes history on November 4, 1992, when she wins election to the U.S. Senate. The first woman to represent the state of California in the upper chamber, she joins a record number of women winning seats in Congress that year, earning 1992 the label "Year of the Woman.”
Born June 22, 1933, in San Francisco, Feinstein graduated from Stanford University and became the first woman to serve on the city’s Board of Supervisors, where she held the position from 1969-1978 and served as board president. She became the first woman to serve as San Francisco’s mayor in 1978, following the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk—an office she held until 1988.
In 1990, the Democrat lost a 1990 bid for California governor to Pete Wilson, but went on to secure Wilson’s vacant Senate seat in the 1992 election, defeating Republican challenger Rep. Pete McCloskey. Reelected to the Senate five times—in 1994, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2018—Feinstein served in the Senate for more than 30 years, making her the longest-serving woman Senator. She died at age 90 in September of 2023.
“We went from two women senators when I ran for office in 1992 to 24 today—and I know that number will keep climbing,” she said in a statement on her 30th anniversary of serving in the Senate.
Throughout her career, Feinstein was an advocate for women's and LGBTQ rights, environmental protection and gun control. Her notable achievements included helping create the AMBER Alert network, leading the enactment of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and playing a pivotal role in investigating the CIA’s torture tactics following the 9/11 attacks.
She became the first woman to serve as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, a position she held until 2021. She also was the first woman to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
The “Year of the Woman” in 1992 marked a significant turning point for women in politics when a record number of women ran for election, in part as a reaction to the Anita Hill hearings, in which U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment.
Feinstein was one of four women elected to the Senate that year, and another 47 women—24 in their first terms—were elected to the House of Representatives. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) were among the notable women elected in 1992, and California became the nation’s first state to elect two women to the Senate with the wins of Feinstein and Boxer.