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This Week in Senate History


May 14, 1971
First Female Pages: Paulette Desell and Ellen McConnell

Although the Senate had employed pages as messengers since 1829, until this history-making day, all had been male. Taking their places at the head of what would become a long succession of female pages were Paulette Desell, sponsored by Senator Jacob Javtis (R-NY), and Ellen McConnell, sponsored by Senator Charles Percy (R-IL). Three more female pages, Julie Price, Mari Iwashita, and Barbara Wheeler, served the Senate later that year. "It is simply a question of fundamental human fairness," Javits explained. "A question of whether half the population shall be deprived of an opportunity without a substantial reason."

May 15, 1789
Image of the U.S. Constitution

The Constitution required that senators be divided into classes "so that one-third may be chosen every second Year." On May 14, 1789, the Senate implemented this requirement. A special committee divided the 20 serving senators into three balanced classes, with no class containing two members from the same state. The next day, May 15, 1789, a senator representing each class drew from a box one of three papers numbered 1, 2, and 3. The class of the senator who drew #1 would serve until 1791, #2 until 1793, and #3 until 1795. Senators arriving from newly admitted states would draw lots for assignment in a manner that would keep the classes balanced.

May 16, 1868
Taking the Vote on the Impeachment of President Johnson, Senate Chamber, Washington, D.C., May 16th, 1868.—Senator Ross, of Kansas, Voting "Not Guilty."

For the first time in its history, the Senate voted to acquit or convict a sitting president who had been impeached by the House of Representatives. By a 35-to-19 margin, one vote short of the required two-thirds majority, the Senate failed to convict and therefore remove from office President Andrew Johnson. A second roll-call vote on May 26 produced an identical outcome, and Johnson served out his term as U.S. president. One hundred and thirty-one years later, on February 12, 1999, the Senate voted to acquit another impeached president, William J. Clinton.