headshots of female 116 Congressional Representatives including Ilan Omar, Deb Haaland and Carole Miller.

Redefining Representation: The Women of the 116th Congress

28 Jul 2019 CONTAINERS
headshots of female 116 Congressional Representatives including Ilan Omar, Deb Haaland and Carole Miller.

Featuring: Elizabeth D. Herman & Celeste Sloman

Presented by

The New York Times


Curated by

Beth Flynn & Marisa Schwartz Taylor

Just over a century ago, Jeannette Rankin of Montana won a seat in the House of Representatives, becoming the first woman ever elected to federal office. In 1917, 128 years after the first U.S. Congress convened, she was sworn into its 65th session.

One hundred and two years later, one has become 131—the number of women serving in both chambers of the 116th Congress.

For most of recorded American history, political power has looked a certain way. But the 2018 midterm elections brought a seismic change; for the first time, more than 100 women serve in the House—out of 435 seats—and members of color were elected in more states than ever before.

This series documents the women of the 116th Congress. Like the work of Kehinde Wiley, who painted Barack Obama’s presidential portrait, these photographs evoke the imagery we are used to seeing in the halls of power, but place the people not previously seen as powerful starkly in the frames.

Portraits of these women are a testament to what power looks like in 2019—and the possibilities of what it may look like in the years to come.


Elizabeth D. Herman is a photojournalist based in New York City and a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work focuses on the politics of history, conflict, and group belonging. A regular contributor to The New York Times, she was previously a Fulbright Fellow to Bangladesh and has had her photography and research published in national and international outlets.

Celeste Sloman is a New York City born and raised photographer, specializing in editorial portraiture. After completing her Bachelor of Arts at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, she returned to New York to pursue photography. Celeste has been published nationally and internationally in numerous publications. In addition to commissions, Celeste has collaborated with UN Women and is working on her own independent projects.


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