Natasha Brown, CBS Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Three Congresswomen from the Delaware Valley made history with their congressional wins several years ago. Now, they're paving the way for more women in Congress.
"I remember when I first running, I lie awake at night and say oh, what have I gotten myself into?" Madeleine Dean said.
U.S. Congresswomen Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Lisa Blunt Rochester are forging history, making paths in Congress.
"In sort of my midlife," Dean said, "I said I've got to run. So I had a chance to run first at a local level, then I served as a state representative, and then really was searching to do more. And had the chance alongside Mary Gay to run in 2018 for Congress.
"I took about 10 days to decide," Scanlon said. "It was very much getting in with both feet. And ended up being the first woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress in several years until I was joined by Susan Wild and then by Madeleine Dean."
Blunt Rochester made double history in 2016 as the first woman and the first Black woman to represent the state of Delaware in Congress.
"I just decided I don't have anything to lose and everything to give I'm going to run," she said. "Similarly, I had never run for anything in my life. I was over 50, widowed, had never been in a debate."
Each of their boundary-breaking moves into political life and into the halls of Congress has left an indelible mark, paving the way for the history-making 118th Congress, which now includes a record number of women.
"I think women bring a different expression to the table," Dean said. "We want to collaborate more we certainly want to be representative of our communities."
"There's actually research that looks at the fact that when there's more women in government different issues get addressed," Scanlon said. "In this last Congress, we saw the first iteration of the Black maternal mortality caucus because that's a huge issue in this county but it hadn't been addressed. Why? We didn't have that many mothers and we didn't have that many Black women in Congress before."
Now, these Congresswomen in leadership roles in Washington have this advice for those who may be hoping to get into public service now that they've helped pave the way.
"It's that whole thing of being able to see it so that you can be it," Blunt Rochester said. "That I think was really important. I think we tried to make sure that the doors are bust wide open."
"One thing that I tell people is if they think they have an inkling of being interested in public service, hang around with those who are in public service," Dean said.
"Just claim your place," Scanlon said. "And if there's a table, take a seat at the center of the table because you can't be marginalized that way."
Counting both the House of Representatives and the Senate, women account for 153 of 540 voting and non-voting members of Congress. That represents a 59% increase from a decade gap.
Five women now represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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