Election that made history for women in US politics

New Hampshire, known for its first-in-the-nation presidential primaries, earned the distinction of the becoming the first American state with an all-female political top team on a night when women triumphed in a slew of congressional races.

When the confetti is swept away, 6 November is set to go down in the history books as the biggest night for women in US politics. The number of female senators could reach 20 – a record – when the new class takes its seat on Capitol Hill in January. New Hampshire, meanwhile, sent Democrat Maggie Hassan to the Governor's mansion, and her fellow party members, Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, to the House. The state's Senate delegation, comprising Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte, is already all female.

In Washington DC, two of the current 100-strong Senate's 17 female lawmakers are due to retire. But a Democratic sweep – all but one of the new female senators elected was affiliated with Barack Obama's party – on election night means that at least four new women will be inducted into the legislative body, including Elizabeth Warren, who trounced Republican Scott Brown in the one of the most closely fought races this election season. The figure was set to rise to five after Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was yesterday morning seen leading in North Dakota following the receipt of results from all precincts. Her edge, however, was slender and remained unofficial. Fanning speculation of a possible recount, her Republican rival Rick Berg said he would wait to concede until all the official figures were in – something that could take up to a week. Either way, women won big last night. "There was war on women, and the women won," the online magazine Slate said yesterday, in reference to what, on the Democratic side, are viewed as the Republicans' anti-women polices, particularly on the question of abortion.

Among the notable incumbents re-elected on Tuesday night was Democrat Claire McCaskill, who defeated her Republican challenger, Representative Todd Akin, in Missouri. Mr Akin was the focus of international controversy in August when he suggested that women's bodies have a way to "shut down" conception in the event of what he called "legitimate rape". More than one headline yesterday hailed Ms McCaskill's "legitimate victory".

Meanwhile, Ms Warren's win in Massachusetts – in the seat that was once held by the late Senator Ted Kennedy – makes the fierce consumer advocate the first woman to represent that north-eastern state in the Senate.