The 2016 election has come and gone and the United States still has yet to elect its first female president. However, many women did make history this year. To those feeling discouraged, let’s turn an eye to the progress that was made in order to motivate us to keep moving forward.
Illinois elected Tammy Duckworth to the Senate, making her the second Asian-American Senator and the first female senator who has seen combat. Duckworth served as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard in Iraq. Her time was cut short when a helicopter she was operating was struck by a grenade, ultimately causing her to lose both legs. She has shown strength, courage, and perseverance not only in her recovery but in her political path since. She has been a champion of veterans’ rights, worked to reduce waste and fraud, and to foster job creation.
Nevada provided another historic win by electing Catherine Cortez Masto to the Senate. She is the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant and the first Latina to ever fill this political position. Cortez Masto has been a lifelong advocate for women and children and worked to strengthen laws that prevent sex trafficking and violence against women. In addition, she has fought to aid middle class families and protect homeowners’ rights.
California’s Kamala Harris will join Duckworth and Cortez Masto in the Senate. Harris is of mixed descent and is the second African-American woman to be elected to the Senate and the first Indian-American. Prior to assuming this position, she served as California’s attorney general. She is known for standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, working to reduce truancy in schools, and has played a significant role in the fight for marriage equality.
The House will also see an increase in female representation in the upcoming year. Washington state elected Pramila Jayapal who is not only the first Indian-American woman to fill this position, but also the first person of South-Asian descent to be elected to the House of Representatives. In 2013, she was recognized as a ‘White House Champion of Change’ and has been a vocal advocate for gun safety, women, communities of color, immigrants, and refugees. She has vowed to vigilantly advocate for social justice and immigration issues while in office.
Florida, one of the states most closely watched this election season, voted Stephanie Murphy into the House, as well. Murphy was born to Vietnamese refugees. She made history in her family by being the first to attend college, and in our country as the first woman of Vietnamese descent to be elected to Congress. She emphasizes her experience as an educator and business woman and sees strength in her ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans to enact positive change.
At a state level, Minnesota made history by electing Ilhan Omar, a former refugee who spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp. She moved to the United States at the age of twelve and is the first Somali-American, Muslim female legislator. Ilhan emphasizes the importance of including new and diverse voices in political discourse and has focused on supporting families, increasing access to education, protecting the environment, and promoting racial equality.
Finally, Kate Brown won the race for Oregon’s state governor. She is the first openly LGBT individual to serve as a governor in the United States. Her accomplishments thus far include: raising the minimum wage, increasing education funding, and promoting the development of clean energy.
Progress was made this election, but our work is not over. There is still history to be made. In Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, she urged us not to give up:
“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And-- to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
Many were shocked, hurt, and angered by the rhetoric that our President Elect used when referring to women and many fear that he will follow through with some of his plans to alter women’s rights to make choices about their health in the months and years to come. May we look to all previously elected female politicians for guidance; and to Tammy, Catherine, Kamala, Pramila, Stephanie, Ilhan, and Kate for hope; support one another in our daily lives; and continue to encourage girls to pursue their dreams, no matter what they might be.
“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”
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