Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) was sworn into the House on Tuesday, officially making her the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.
McClellan’s swearing-in brought the chamber to full capacity — 435 members — for the first time since September 2019, according to FiveThirtyEight. The number remained shy of 435 for months because of vacancies caused by deaths and resignations.
McClellan won a special election in Virginia’s 4th congressional district last month, putting her on track to become the first Black woman elected to Congress to represent the Old Dominion. She filled the seat previously held by the late Rep. Don McEachin (D-Va.), who died in November after a battle with colorectal cancer.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy administered the oath of office to McClellan on the House floor Tuesday night. The new congresswoman delivered remarks from the House floor — surrounded by members of the Virginia delegation — shortly after, discussing the influence her parents had on her path to serving in government.
“I grew up listening to their stories of their childhood during the Depression, coming of age during World War II and its aftermath, and raising a family through the tumult of the 1960s and 70s,” she said of her parents. “They saw the best of government in the New Deal, they saw the worst of government in Jim Crow.”
“Their stories and a love of history that they spark in me, taught me at a young age that at its best, government is a force for helping people and solving problems. At its worst government is a force that oppresses some for the benefit of a few,” she continued. “Their stories sparked a desire to dedicate myself to making government by, of and for the people actually work for the people, solving problems and making their lives and communities better.”
The congresswoman also paid tribute to her predecessor, saying that she was succeeding but could “never replace” McEachin. She called him “a friend, mentor and colleague whom I served with in the Virginia House of Delegates, and succeeded in the Senate in Virginia.”
“I stand on his shoulders,” she added.
In an interview with The Hill last month, the then-congresswoman-elect said her victory in the race made her “my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
“To be the first Black woman from Virginia, the birthplace of both American democracy and American slavery and massive resistance, is poetic justice,” she added.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the dean of the Virginia delegation, on Tuesday said McClellan “will continue making history with her steadfast commitment to the 4th congressional district, fighting for their voices to be heard in this chamber.”