Milestone: Women of color become governors for first time in U.S. history

South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley is the first Indian-American woman Governor in the U.S. (Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images) South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley is the first Indian-American woman Governor in the U.S. (Photo by Chris Keane/Getty …
Last night, two women made gubernatorial history. South Carolina's Nikki Haley and New Mexico's Susana Martinez both became the first women of color elected to the role of governor in the United States. Haley, a Republican, is the second Indian-American in the country and the first woman in her state of South Carolina to step up to the role.

Her own campaign was rife with accusations of extra-marital affairs, something few female politicians thus far have had to contend with. In the fight to replace infamous adulterer Mark Sanford, the allegations, which she denied, were particularly stinging. But with backing from Sarah Palin, whose home-brew of strong family values has made her a Tea Party icon, Haley was able subdue the negative press.

Meanwhile, New Mexico became the first state in the U.S. to elect a female Hispanic Governor. Susana Martinez, defeated her Democratic opponent, also a woman, in last night's elections. The Texas native, originally a Democrat until 1996, also got Palin's endorsement.

The Palin platform wasn't the only similarity between the campaigns of Martinez and Haley. Both are pro-life, against same-sex marriage, and have dissociated in one way or another from the popular notions of their heritage. For Martinez, a former border prosecutor, it was by taking a conservative stance on immigration laws, a generally unpopular view among Hispanic voters. For Haley, a 38 year-old married mom of two, the subject of her religious background and her upbringing by Sikh immigrant parents came under attack. She was also the target of ugly and derogatory racial comments by a fellow Republican state senator. As a result, Haley played up her conversion to Christianity, 14 years ago, promoting her Methodist faith on her campaign website.

In addition to Haley and Martinez, two other women of color earned a place in the textbooks. Republican Jamie Herrera became the first Latina congresswoman in the state of Washington; and Democrat Terri Sewell was named the first African-American woman elected to congress in Alabama.

Today many are celebrating the huge milestone they've reached and what it means for women of color in America today. Despite the majority of Republican wins, most agree President Barack Obama's election is partly responsible for paving the way. But some are calling the strides part of a larger Republican strategy that isn't reflective of the country's minority interests.

What no one can argue with is that history was made--and it was long overdue.