(01/03/13) - Thursday, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow was sworn in for a third term in congress. She took the oath of office in the old senate chamber, surrounded by her family.
The 113th Congress will have a record-breaking number of female senators - the most in history. These women say they're going to change how congress works.
Sen. Stabenow's office is full of photos and memories from more than 30 years in politics. She first ran for office when she was a grad student at Michigan State University in 1976.
Stabenow's challenger referred to her as "that young broad" during her first election. She was 24 years old.
"It was insulting, but it just made me work harder, and I think my whole life when those kind of things come up, I just put my head down and work a little harder," she said.
"That young broad" won her first election. Three years later, she was featured in a high school text book highlighting the increasing role of women in local politics. But the photo captions tell her story in a different way than you might imagine.
The caption reads, "She plans her busy schedule so she has time to spend with her husband and son." We asked if seeing that in a high school textbook strikes her as odd now, in this day and age.
"I do hope the questions have changed a little bit. And at least the expectations," she said.
There's evidence the expectations have changed. A record-breaking 20 female senators were elected to serve in the 113th Congress. Sixteen of the incoming senators are Democrats, four are Republicans.
There are also a record number of women in the House of Representatives this year. There are allegedly lines in the ladies room now because there are so many women senators.
"For the first time, we are having to argue, and we have won on potty parody because they are actually going to expand the women's restroom," Stabenow said.
The female Senators are forming bonds - like the one Stabenow has with her 86-year-old mother.
"She watches C-SPAN every day we are in session and she jokes that she is the only mom who can turn on the TV and know exactly where her daughter is," Stabenow said.
Stabenow was the first woman to preside over the Michigan house and first female U.S. Senator ever elected from Michigan.
At one point, she was the third highest ranking democrat in the senate.
"I'm very proud that I have been able to make steps forward and open doors, but I have always said that if you're the one and only, that's not enough. That's a token. What really matters is if you reach down your arm and help somebody else," she said. "If you can open a door and it stays open for other women, then you know you have really made a difference."
ABC12 Main Station