Jean Hunhoff the SD Legislature’s longest-serving woman

Updated to reflect results of the 2020 and 2022 general elections – the article now assumes that those elected in 2022 will take office in 2023 and serve a full two-year term.

August 2020 is the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women in the United States the right to vote. Women’s suffrage in South Dakota had actually been approved two years earlier, in a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 1918.

The first female legislator, Gladys Pyle, was elected in 1922; she went on to serve as Secretary of State and U.S. Senator. Another, Kristi Noem, became the first woman elected Governor in 2018; an earlier post looked at the various “firsts” for women in South Dakota politics. Another legislator, Susan Wismer, was the first female major-party nominee for Governor in 2014; another earlier post looked at women who ran for Governor prior to Governor Noem.


Twenty-nine female legislators have served for at least ten years. The longest serving among them is Jean Hunhoff. Hunhoff is the first female legislator in South Dakota to serve for 20 years, a milestone reached by 41 of her male colleagues. 

Hunhoff, a Republican, can claim 24 years representing Yankton County in the State Legislature, assuming she completes her new term. Hunhoff served first in the House 2001-06, then in the Senate 2007-14, then back in the House 2015-20, then back in the Senate since 2021. Hunhoff has been a longtime member of the important Joint Appropriations Committee, serving as Senate Chair in 2009-10 and again since 2021.

The Hunhoff name is well-known in Yankton, and Jean Hunhoff is not the only member of the family to serve in the State Legislature. Her brother-in-law, Bernie Hunhoff, was the 1998 Democratic nominee for governor and is the longest-serving party floor leader in the term limits era.

Here is a list of all the twenty-eight women who have served in the South Dakota State Legislature for at least ten years:

Jean M. HunhoffRYankton24HR 2001-06, Sen 2007-14, HR 2015-20, Sen 2021-24
Mary B. EdelenRVermillion18HR 1973-80, HR 1983-92
Ellen E. BlissRSioux Falls16HR 1953-68
Doris P. MinerDGregory16HR 1977-78, Sen 1979-92
Phyllis M. HeinemanRSioux Falls16HR 1999-2008, Sen 2011-16
Julie BartlingDBurke16HR 2001-04, Sen 2005-10, HR 2013-18. Asst. Minority Leader, 2013-18
Mary A. McClureRRedfield15Sen 1975-89. First woman President Pro Tempore, 1979-89
Frances S. “Peg” LamontRAberdeen14Sen 1975-88
Janice K. NicolayRSioux Falls14HR 1983-96
Deb PetersRHartford14HR 2005-10, Sen 2011-18
Debra R. AndersonRSioux Falls13HR 1977-89. First woman Speaker of the House, 1987-88
Kay S. JorgensenRSpearfish12HR 1979-84, HR 1993-98
Mary K. WagnerRBrookings12HR 1981-88, Sen 1989-92
Della WishardRPrairie City12HR 1985-96
J. P. DuniphanRRapid City12HR 1995-2002, Sen 2003-06
Dorothy NepstadRMitchell10HR 1969-78
Doris J. KummRWatertown10HR 1979-88
Dorothy M. KelloggDWatertown10HR 1981-84, Sen 1987-92
Mary VanderlindeDSioux Falls10HR 1985-94
Pamela A. NelsonDSioux Falls10HR 1987-88, Sen 1989-96
Barbara EveristRSioux Falls10HR 1993-94, Sen 1995-2002. First woman Senate Majority Leader
Cheryl B. MaddenRRapid City10HR 1993-98, Sen 1999-2002
Margaret GillespieDHudson10HR 2001-08, Sen 2009-10
Joni M. CutlerRSioux Falls10HR 2003-10, Sen 2011-12
Shantel S. KrebsRRenner10HR 2005-10, Sen 2011-14
Betty OlsonRPrairie City10HR 2007-14, Sen 2015-16
Susan WismerDBritton10HR 2009-14, HR 2018-18, Sen 2019-20. First woman nominated by a major party for Governor.
Mary DuvallRPierre10HR 2013-20, Sen 2021-22 
Liz MayRKyle10HR 2013-18, HR 2021-24