Last night’s election was historic in so many ways, with representation that’s starting to better reflect the actual composition of the country.
We now have the first Black woman in Congress from Massachusetts: Ayanna Pressley. The first Black woman in Congress from Connecticut: Jahanna Hayes. The first Muslim women in Congress: Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Oma. The first two Native American women in Congress: Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. The first Latina women in Congress from Texas: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia. The first women in Congress at all from Iowa: Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer. The first woman senators from Tennessee: Marsha Blackburn. The youngest woman ever elected to Congress: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And while the race hasn’t yet been called, either Kyrsten Sinema or Martha McSally will become the first female Senator from Arizona.
Remember these names.
They matter, because representation matters. As I’ve written here so many times, the more kids who see themselves reflected back in any book, any movie, any job, any sport, any institution, the more kids we’ll have rising to pursue those opportunities.
So as a mom, it’s exciting for me to think of our kids growing up to see this as the normal course of events in US politics.
I wrote about the one scene in Hidden Figures that really struck me as a mother — in which one of Katherine Johnson’s daughters draw her as an astronaut, even as Johnson waved it away, not being able to imagine such a thing ever happening. But her daughters could. Because they didn’t spend their childhoods hearing, “no you can’t….you’re a girl,” the way their mom had.
That’s what happened last night. That’s the change we are going to start seeing, and we’ll start seeing it our kids first.
Keep in mind that as far as the arc of history, this is all relatively new. It took 159 years until Margaret Chase Smith became the first woman elected to serve a full term. It took nearly 30 more years for Kansas to elect Senator Nancy Kassebaum to a full term, making her the first woman to win without her husband having served first — and that was as recently as 1978.
In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore (gasp) pants on the Senate floor to protest that arcane rule. In 2009 there was a fight to integrate the Senate pool to allow women. Meanwhile, this very year, Tammy Duckworth became the first woman allowed to vote on the floor while holding her baby, and she had to fight for that. It also became abundantly clear during the Kavanaugh hearings that the Republicans lacked a single woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Our government really wasn’t “built” to accommodate women. And now, women are the government. They will continue to make changes not just in how Congress does things to become more equitable, but how the country does things to become more equitable.
More than 100 women in Congress — at least 94 Democrats and 16 Republicans, with more potentially coming as more elections are certified. Wow.
The overarching win, however, will be the day our kids — boys and girls — start to believe that female representation is business as usual in this country, and that women from different races, religions and backgrounds can serve the same as anyone.
It won’t require celebrations. It won’t require articles like this one. It will just be how thing are.
As Barbara Mikulski said about 1992’s “The Year of the Woman” congressional moniker:
“Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We’re not a fad, a fancy, or a year.”
Top Photo: Ayanna Pressley, via Facebook