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New Hampshire's all-female congressional delegation reflects on breaking new ground

New Hampshire, a state known for its self-reliance and independence, is the first state in the nation to have an all-female delegation in Congress as well as a woman governor. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

By Kelly O'Donnell, Capitol Hill Correspondent, NBC News

New Hampshire takes great pride in its “first in the nation” status when it comes to the presidential primary, and this year claimed another kind of political bragging right: the governor and the entire congressional delegation are women.  No other state has done that and many have yet to send even one woman to the Senate.


Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is familiar with breaking new ground.  Shaheen, a Democrat, is the only woman to ever serve as both a state’s governor and senator.  In Congress, she is joined by Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and House members Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.

When asked why she thinks New Hampshire was first, Shaheen said, “I think we've had a really great history in New Hampshire of having very accomplished women serve at all levels of government and so we've had that history and that's led the way that's allowed each of us to be in the positions that we're in.”

Gender was not a campaign issue but the impact of this glass-ceiling breakthrough matters, said Ayotte.

“The great thing about this is that future generations of young women in New Hampshire across the country look and say, 'You know what, they did that. I can do that.'"

At a time when political dysfunction and Washington’s reputation for gridlock are easy targets, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster says women bring a particular kind of life experience to the table.

"If you've raised teenagers and toddlers, you know how to get to yes," she said. "So I think we all have experience in our delegation."

But as mothers, the work-life balance is not easy. Ayotte’s children are the youngest of the group at 5 and 8 years old and remain in New Hampshire with her husband and extended family while she spends work weeks in Washington.  Asked if she experiences “mom guilt” Ayotte quickly responded, “Absolutely.”

For her it was a family decision. “I've been able to juggle it -- first of all, I have a great husband who's been supportive of me.”

Shea-Porter and McLane Kuster, who won their seats last November, say many constituents at the time did not realize that history could be made with an all-female congressional delegation.  

Shea-Porter says it’s in the state’s blood.

"Being a primary state, politics is our state sport so people are acutely aware and involved, and I think that helps too," she said.