Hillary Clinton may have failed to shatter the “highest and hardest glass ceiling”, but there were a few surprising bright spots for women and minorities following an election marred by talk of walls, banning Muslims and allegations of sexual assault.

Three female Democratic Senate candidates made history on 8 November. Their wins took the number of women of colour in Congress’ upper chamber from one to four – the highest ever.

Then there was Ilhan Omar, a Muslim woman who came to the US as a child refugee, who became the country's first Somali-American legislator. And for the first time, a US state elected an openly LGBT governor.

Here’s a brief look at the women politicians who broke barriers on election night.

Tammy Duckworth

U.S. congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both of her legs to injuries sustained while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, departs after addressing delegates during the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012.
Image: REUTERS/Chris Keane

Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in 2004, beat incumbent Republican rival Mark Kirk to a Senate seat in Illinois. She was born in Bangkok to an American father and Thai mother of Chinese descent. In 2012, she became the first disabled woman veteran to be elected to the US House of Representatives.

During an Illinois campaign debate she faced remarks from her opponent apparently mocking her ethnicity and her family’s history of military service, for which he later apologized.

Kamala Harris

California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014.
Image: REUTERS/Gary Cameron

California Attorney General Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, will become only the second black woman in the US history to serve in the Senate, and California’s first black senator.

Catherine Cortez Masto

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) appears on stage with Nevada Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto at a campaign rally at the Laborers International Union hall in Las Vegas, Nevada February 18, 2016.
Image: REUTERS/David Becker

Former Nevada attorney general Cortez Masto beat Republican Joe Heck to become the first Latina elected to the Senate. She is also Nevada’s first female senator.

Ilhan Omar

Image: Illhanomar.com

Following victory in Minnesota, Omar will sit in the House of Representatives, making her the nation’s first Somali-American legislator.

She was born in Somalia and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, according to media reports, before coming to the US.

“Tonight, we are celebrating this win, our win. But our work won’t stop,” she said after her victory. “We will continue to build a more prosperous and equitable district, state and nation, where each and every one of us has opportunities to thrive and move forward together.”

Kate Brown

Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks at the state capital building in Salem, Oregon, February 20, 2015. Brown, a liberal Democrat from Portland, outlined her policy agenda on Friday in her first media event since she took the helm of the Pacific Northwest state to replace John Kitzhaber, whose decades-long political career dissolved in the wake of an influence-peddling scandal involving his fiancee.
Image: REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

The Oregon governor, who is bisexual, became the first openly LGBT politician to win a gubernatorial race. She was already serving in the role after stepping in following the resignation of former governor John Kitzhaber.

While she's the first governor to be elected to the role, she's not the first to hold office: former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey came out in 2004 and resigned shortly afterwards.