When Marcia Karrow takes the oath of office today as the new State Senator from the 23rd district, she will become the tenth woman serving in the upper house – a full one-quarter of the total membership and the most women to serve in the Senate at one time.
Karrow becomes the second woman to represent part of Hunterdon County in the State Senate – Anne Martindell did it from 1974 to 1977 – she will become the first woman to represent Warren County in the Senate.
One third of New Jersey’s counties have never had non-white male representation in the Senate: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean, Salem, Sussex, and Somerset counties. Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties have never been represented by a woman in either house.
After women won the right to vote in 1920, Jennie Van Ness and Margaret Laird became the first women to win election to the New Jersey State Assembly. They were both Essex County Republicans. A Woman would not serve in the upper house until 1965, when Democratic Assemblywoman Mildred Barry Hughes won a Senate seat. That year, Republican Marion West Higgins, the only woman to serve as Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly, lost her bid for a State Senate seat.
Since Hughes’ election, eighteen other women have served in the New Jersey Senate. Hughes lost her bid for a second term in 1967, and it wasn’t until 1973 that a woman won re-election to the Senate when Democrat Wynona Lipman beat Republican Lillie Simpson — the state’s first Senate contest between two women, and the only time in New Jersey history when both major party nominees were African-American women.