A woman did not finally win the White House in November, but other women fill posts in which they are important influences in American politics.

Whether in their preferences at the ballot box or in running for elected office themselves, women exert blunt and heavy political force.

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Yet that force tapped the brakes in the past election cycle. Not only did women fail to shatter the glass ceiling for the highest office in the land, but they also did not increase the number of congressional seats held by women, 104, which was reached in the 2014 midterm elections.

Twenty-one women joined the 115th Congress in January as senators and 83 as representatives. That is one fewer in the Senate and one more in the House than in the 114th Congress.

Most experts had predicted that Democratic female candidates would prevail over Republican rivals, such as Katie McGinty over Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and bring their Senate number to 24. They fell short at 21, including a defeated McGinty.

There are also two fewer female governors; they now hold just four of the 50 state executive mansions. The number of state senate seats held by women dropped by one.

Still, the political standing of women is hardly a gloomy one: 1,832 serve in statehouses, 27 more than at the end of 2016.

It has been exactly 100 years since Jeannette Rankin, a Montana Republican who could not yet vote for herself, found a way to become the first female Congress member in 1917.

"I may be the first woman member of Congress," she said when she won her seat, "but I won't be the last." (She became the only member of Congress to vote against participation in both world wars.)

It was a long time after Rankin that women's participation in elected office really picked up steam. It was the 1970s, when the women's liberation movement began in earnest.

Despite not increasing their numbers much in elected offices in 2016, women actually ran in record numbers, according to data from Rutgers University. Forty filed to run for the Senate, 15 of whom won their party primaries, and 272 filed to run for the House, 167 winning their primaries.

Women also made history beyond the ballot box. Kellyanne Conway became the first woman to manage a winning presidential campaign, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley became the first Indian-American woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Women of color make historic gains

Kamala Harris, the second black woman to serve in the upper chamber, was elected first as San Francisco's district attorney, then as California's attorney general. (AP Photo)

In January, three Democrats, Kamala Harris of California, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, became, respectively, the first biracial, Hispanic, and Thai-born women in the Senate. All three rose from the political ranks in their states.

Harris, the second black woman to serve in the upper chamber, was elected first as San Francisco's district attorney, then as California's attorney general. Masto, the first Latina in the Senate, previously served as Nevada's attorney general. Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in combat, served in the House before winning her Senate race in November.

In the House, Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester became the first African-American woman to represent Delaware in Congress, and Stephanie Murphy became the first Vietnamese-American woman in Congress.

Republican women broke ground, too. Five women from racial minority groups who had not previously won election won their races for their state legislatures, including Affie Ellis, who became the first Native American woman elected in Wyoming.

Teresa Elder, a 47-year-old African-American Democrat, said she is proud of the accomplishments of women and especially the gains minority women made this year in elections down ballot. "The truth is, you cannot win if you don't run. Now that might sound simple, but just making the connections needed to make that choice is hard work. I admire those women for sticking it out and taking that risk," she said, sitting with several friends at a senior center in eastern Ohio.

It's complicated

Hillary Clinton appeared to assume that the bonds of sisterhood would or at least should propel her into the White House. But the calculation frayed badly during her primary battle with Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders, especially after former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright bluntly scolded young women who did not support Clinton.

"We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it's done," Albright said of the fight for sexual equality. "It's not done. There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!"

That outburst did not endear Albright or Clinton to young women who liked Sanders or to older women who believed the fight for equality does not impose an obligation to support a candidate just because they are members of the same sex.

"I am all for women running for office," said Diane Pernick, 66, of Ohio. She came up in an age when women were bursting into prominence at colleges and in businesses, factories and elected office. She is proud of the effort that went into those successes. "And to have women represent their communities in Washington or on the state level was part of that emerging power.

"Having said that, I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. Not because she was a woman. There was no sort of resentment for not voting for her. It was because I did not line up with her positions and values."

The longtime Democrat said she favored Donald Trump and his disruption of Washington over Clinton and her ties to the progressive wing of her party. "I truly want to see a woman president in my lifetime, but we did not fight for women's liberation only to be made to feel that we have to vote for someone just because she is a woman," Pernick said.

In the end, Clinton did not out-and-out lose female voters, but their support for her was lackluster in states she needed to win the Electoral College. (AP Photo)

Alice Giles disagrees, saying more women should have come out and supported Clinton. She was devastated that Clinton lost. "It was very disappointing to me to not see other women out there supporting her for office," the Steubenville, Ohio, Democrat said.

In the end, Clinton did not out-and-out lose female voters, but their support for her was lackluster in states she needed to win the Electoral College.

While Clinton won the women's vote overall, she lost the votes of many white women and struggled to win female voters without a college education in states such as Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin, who could have propelled her to victory.

The surge of female voters Clinton and her team expected never materialized. In fact, turnout among women was only one percentage point higher than in 2012. Even within that number, Clinton underperformed with women as compared with former President Barack Obama, netting only 54 percent of their vote to his 55 percent.

Her problem was not that she was a women but that she had spent 30 years in public life, making her a quintessential establishment candidate in a year of anti-establishment sentiment. It poisoned her chances.

She also was viewed as a polarizing figure, even among regular Democrats who supported her, which made it difficult to motivate people to vote in a year when both presidential candidates had high unfavorable ratings.

New women's movement

The Women's March movement in Washington and nationwide began in January with a massive protest, a day after President Trump's inauguration.

Millions of women, most of them white and many of them dressed in "pussy" hats and other provocative costumes, marched through cities around the nation, airing an extensive litany of grievances at the Trump White House door.

The event's organizers collected the personal data of more than 500,000 women who pledged, after the Jan. 21 protests, to take action at 10 more protests in the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Last Wednesday, organizers called for a strike dubbed "A Day Without a Woman," telling supporters not to work at home or in their offices and not to shop, except at stores owned by women or racial minorities.

They've also organized to show up at Republican congressional town-hall meetings, turning those into raucous events across the country, and sent half a million letters to elected officials.

But can these women turn their evident anger into legislative and election victories, thereby expanding their imprint on American politics.

Future for Republican women

The number of Republican women in Congress has risen, and the partisan gap has narrowed. In 2010, the proportions among female Congress members were 70 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans. (AP Photo)

There have always been a lot more women in the ranks of elected Democrats than among Republicans.

In 2017, women are just over one-third, 35 percent, of all Democrats in state legislatures, while women represent just 16.8 percent of Republicans in state legislative seats, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

But the number of Republican women in Congress has risen, and the partisan gap has narrowed. In 2010, the proportions among female Congress members were 70 percent Democrats and 30 percent Republicans.

Sarah Chamberlin, president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Project, has made it her mission to close the gap. "This is a huge issue that we as Republicans need to address," she said, "We have to get more conservative women involved in the process.

"Part of the problem with women is that they wait to be asked to run, mainly because they are busy working, raising families and caring for their parents.

"But, once they do decide to run, getting them funding is a real challenge. The gap between funding for female candidates and male candidates is staggering." Women only match men's fundraising after they have won an election, she said.

"Democrats also have the upper hand because they have Emily's List, which is entirely dedicated to running and effectively funding ... female elected progressives. We need something like that on our side," she added.

Chamberlain is embarking on a nationwide tour for her Woman2Woman project. "The recruitment of female candidates in 2018 to run for Congress is a high priority for our organization," she said.

Chamberlain said the decline of Republican women in Congress will hurt the party, if not immediately, and assuredly in the long term. "My mission is to stop the trend of women falling behind in their representation in Washington as well as state legislative bodies," she said.

As both parties wrestle with how to get more women to run, they agree that female elected officials tend to be better than men at governance once they get into office.

"They just like to get things done; it's as simple as that," Chamberlain said.