This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first woman being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, was a powerful voice for women’s suffrage. After successfully securing voting rights for women in both Washington State and Montana, Rankin ran for Congress in her home state. She was sworn into the 65th Congress on April 2, 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women across the country the right to vote.
Upon her historic election, Rankin famously said: “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last.” Rankin’s prophetic statement was proven true four years later when Alice Robertson, a Republican from Oklahoma, was sworn into Congress. These two pioneers forged the path for nearly 100 other Republican women who have been sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, 21 Republican women serve in the House, where we not only represent constituents in our home districts, but also serve as leaders in the Republican Party. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represents Eastern Washington State, serves as the House Republican Conference Chair. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee and Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana chair congressional committees. All Republican women play an important role in advancing our agenda, but these four women play powerful roles in shaping the debate and influencing policy that will improve the lives of the American people.
We have a duty to represent women across the country and ensure their voices are heard. People traditionally characterize healthcare and education as women’s issues, but the fact is: all issues are women’s issues. We know that women care about having access to quality, affordable healthcare for their families as much as they care about keeping our country safe from those who seek to harm us. This is at the forefront of our minds as we serve the people we represent.
This month, we pause to recognize the significant contributions women have made throughout our history, but we also look to the future. House Republicans understand that women still face significant barriers in pursuit of their education and career goals. Each day, as we strive to expand opportunity, remove barriers and empower the next generation of women, we must recall the history that illustrates how far we have come. As I sit in the same office in which Congresswoman Robertson served, I look to the photo of my daughters and consider the remarkable opportunities the future presents. Together, we are implementing real solutions that will continue to allow women to succeed.
We must always remember that we stand on the shoulders of those throughout history who fought for equality — equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. As we look ahead and work to make our country stronger for the next generation, we must continue to fight for equality of opportunity. We can, and will, ensure that girls and women across the nation have all the tools they need to pursue and realize their American dreams.
Congresswoman Mimi Walters represents California’s 45th district. She serves as the Congressional Women’s Caucus Vice Chair and sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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