From NBC's Chris Donovan
If the Democrats take control of the House and Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, we all know that she would be the first female Speaker of the House, but what might also be interesting to point out is that she would become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the federal government -- that is if you use the presidential line of succession as the measure.
Madeleine Albright made history in 1997 when she became secretary of state and thus the highest-ranking woman (as the New York Times and Washington Post both pointed out the day after Clinton named her) -- as that position is fourth in line of presidential succession (even though she could not be president because she wasn't born here). And Condoleezza Rice can now claim that same distinction. But if Pelosi becomes Speaker she will be second in line of succession -- below only the vice president. She already is the highest-ranking official in congressional history after being elected Democratic leader of the House.
Obviously this analysis excludes the judicial branch, and it's important to remember the two women who have reached the U.S. Supreme Court: Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993.