EMILY's List — the largest national resource for women in politics — was created by Ellen R. Malcolm in 1985 to fund campaigns for pro-choice Democratic women, and strategically torch-light the balance of power in our government.
The name “EMILY's List” was an acronym for "Early Money Is Like Yeast" (i.e., it makes the dough rise). The saying is a reference to a convention of political fundraising that receiving major donations early in a race is helpful in attracting other, later donors. Now we know EMILY is more than a slogan — she’s a candidate, a voter, an operative, a member. If you’ve sought out this website because you want to ignite progressive change in your community — EMILY is probably you.
And as catalysts of change, we’ve changed too. Today’s EMILY’s List goes beyond fundraising with a strategic approach to recruiting candidates, winning elections and mobilizing voters. We are a driving force behind many of the campaign victories that bring the progressive decision making power of pro-choice Democratic women to office.
EMILY's List is founded
In 1985, 25 women, rolodexes in hand, gathered in Ellen R. Malcolm's basement to send letters to their friends about a network they were forming to raise money for pro-choice Democratic women candidates.
Barbara Mikulski elected to the U.S. Senate
Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) — one of EMILY’s List’s first two candidates — became the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right in 1986. Known as the dean of the Senate women, Mikulski was the longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress.
EMILY's List raises nearly $1,000,000 in third year
Nita Lowey (NY) and Jolene Unsoeld (WA) reversed a 14-year decline in the number of Democratic women in the U.S. House, when the number was raised from 12 to 14. EMILY's List recommended nine congressional candidates to more than 2,000 members and raised $905,000.
Ann Richards elected governor of Texas
1990 marked an historic year for women in politics, including the election of Ann Richards as the governor of Texas.
EMILY's List sets the stage for historic wins in 1992
By 1991, EMILY's List was gaining respect and political influence while maintaining its grassroots. The effects were obvious: women were stepping up to run, and EMILY’s List had a then-record number of candidates for the '92 elections.
Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy sparks political activism among women
The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy motivated women across the country to take political action — and, for many of them, this meant harnessing their power as EMILY’s List candidates, community members and voters.
Year of the Woman
In 1992, the “Year of the Woman,” EMILY's List helped elect four new women senators and 20 new congresswomen. Membership grew more than 600 percent, with more than 23,000 members contributing over $10.2 million.
EMILY's List got a big bump in March, when 60 Minutes aired a profile of Ellen and EMILY’s List. They explained our mission and goals to the nation — and the nation was listening. The segment raised awareness and led to explosive fundraising and membership growth.
Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (IL) was the first African American woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. When she was sworn in to office in 1993, she also became the first woman to represent Illinois in the Senate.
EMILY's List helped elect four new congresswomen and return Dianne Feinstein to the U.S. Senate
The first WOMEN VOTE! project was launched in California, where women provided the margin of victory for Feinstein. Members contributed $8.7 million to recommended candidates and membership grew to 33,156.
EMILY's List gears up for 1996 elections
In 1996, EMILY's List helped 31 states conduct WOMEN VOTE! projects and targeted 2.7 million women voters. EMILY’s List helped elect one new pro-choice Democratic woman senator, nine new congresswomen, and one governor.
Tammy Baldwin becomes first openly gay congresswoman
In addition to helping Rep. Tammy Baldwin (WI) become the first openly gay woman to serve in Congress, EMILY's List members contributed $21 million to help elect one new senator and seven new pro-choice Democratic congresswomen, bringing the total of Democratic women in the United States Congress to a record high of 43.
EMILY's List launches Political Opportunity Program
During this election cycle, EMILY’s List created the Political Opportunity Program to recruit, train, and support pro-choice Democratic women running for state and local office.
Nancy Pelosi becomes first woman Party Leader in Congress
In the 2002 elections, EMILY's List helped elect three new pro-choice Democratic women governors and added three new women of color to the U.S. House. Every EMILY's List incumbent seeking re-election won, and pro-choice Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Party Leader in Congress.
EMILY's List raised $44 million and added five new women to the U.S. House, including Rep. Gwen Moore
The Political Opportunity Program also helped Democrats regain control of legislative bodies in 6 states.
EMILY's List celebrates 20th anniversary
Celebrating our first 20 years of changing the face of power, the EMILY's List community came together in 2005 to share our successes and stories — and to plan our course for the future.
Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House
Making history, EMILY's List House candidates' victories helped Democrats gain control of the House, elevating Rep. Nancy Pelosi to her role as the first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The victories of Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Claire McCaskill helped lead to the Democratic take-over of the Senate, all through the raising of $46 million by EMILY's List. Our Political Opportunity Program helped achieve the largest increase in a single election for Democratic women in statewide office in history.
EMILY's List endorses Hillary Clinton for president
On January 20, 2007, Hillary Clinton announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, and EMILY's List made our first presidential endorsement the same day. EMILY’s List raised money for Clinton’s campaign and turned out millions of women to vote for her in primaries — helping spark a surge of enthusiasm for the 2008 elections.
Democrats win big
EMILY's List helped make 2008 a hallmark year for Democrats, raising more than $43 million and helping elect 12 new women to the U.S. House, two to the U.S. Senate, and the first woman governor of North Carolina. Our Political Opportunity Program helped train more than 1,300 people and helped 175 candidates in 32 states win.
President Barack Obama names four EMILY's List alumnae to his cabinet
In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed four of our alumnae — Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, and Hilda Solis — to his cabinet.
New Leadership at EMILY's List
In January 2010, EMILY’s List announced that Stephanie Schriock would be taking the reins as president, when founder Ellen R. Malcolm became chair of the board.
W.H.Y. 2012 — Women's Historic Year
2012 was truly an historic year. EMILY’s List raised a record breaking $51.2 million dollars, which helped elect 9 women to the Senate, 19 to the House, and the only Democratic woman governor in the country. And EMILY’s List membership has quadrupled since 2010, to over 2,000,000 members.
MPOTUS and Three Million Members
In March 2013, EMILY’s List launched the Madam President campaign to shatter the highest glass ceiling in American politics: putting a woman in the White House. In November 2013, one year before the midterm elections, EMILY’s List membership reached 3,000,000. With more than 100,000 people contributing to EMILY’s List in 2013 elections, voters are realizing that pro-choice Democratic women are the ones igniting change in the United States.
In 2016, EMILY’s List helped Hillary Clinton become the first woman ever to become the presidential nominee of a major party – and she won the popular vote by nearly three million. We were proud to support her trailblazing campaign from day one, and we made historic gains for women’s leadership.
We elected four new Democratic women to the U.S. Senate — the same number we elected in 1992 — and three of them are women of color. Catherine Cortez Masto is the first woman Nevada has elected to the Senate and is this country’s first-ever Latina senator; Tammy Duckworth is the first Thai American ever elected to the Senate, and is the first Democratic woman combat veteran ever to serve; Kamala Harris is the second African American woman elected to the Senate and the first in over two decades. She will also be the first Indian American ever to serve in the Senate.
EMILY’s List helped elect eight new women to the U.S. House of Representatives this cycle, six of whom are women of color. We tied the record number of women in Congress, and we have a record-breaking number of women of color serving.
We elected the first openly LGBTQ governor, Kate Brown in Oregon. Susana Mendoza became the first Latina ever elected as a state comptroller. Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian American woman elected to the House, Stephanie Murphy became the first Vietnamese American woman elected to Congress, and Lisa Blunt Rochester became the first woman and first person of color to represent Delaware in any capacity in Congress.
And in 2016, the EMILY’s List community grew to a new record of five million people.