Jeanette Rankin was the first woman ever elected to the United States Congress in 1916. She was a Republican and represented the people of Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. As she was sworn into office, she said, “I may be the first woman member elected to Congress, but I won’t be the last.” Rankin was right and would be proud of the historic breakthroughs Republican women achieved this fall.
Republicans will have a record-breaking number of women in place when the 117th Congress is gaveled into session. Many of them have already shattered glass ceilings at home and want to bring that strength to Washington. These women may not be celebrated by the mainstream media like their counterparts on the left, but their success is no less real.
Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Bice is setting two records. She will be the first Iranian American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, representing her Oklahoma district. She was also recently elected by her peers to serve as the Republican Freshman Class President. Bice will be the first female Republican Class President in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I came to Congress to help find solutions to some of our nation’s largest problems,” Bice said. “Working with the new representatives of the freshman class and fostering relationships among members will enable all of us to work better together to serve our constituents.”
Congresswoman-elect Nancy Mace broke a barrier in 1999, when she became the first woman to graduate from The Citadel in South Carolina. She will also be the first Republican woman to represent the state of South Carolina in Congress.
Last year as a member of the South Carolina legislature, she advocated for a rape and incest exception to an abortion bill under consideration. She courageously shared her story of being raped at age sixteen. “For some of us who have been raped, it can take 25 years to get up the courage and talk about being a victim of rape.”
Mace’s courage will undoubtedly give other survivors hope. Her story will bring a survivor perspective to Washington as the Congress works through legislation like the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization in the coming months.
Congresswoman-elect Yvette Herrell will be the first Republican Native American woman elected to Congress and is an enrolled member of the Cherokee nation. She will be representing the people of New Mexico. Congresswoman-elect Michelle Fischbach was the first woman president of the Minnesota Senate and will now represent Minnesota in Congress.
Republican Cynthia Lummis made history in the United States Senate when she won her election in Wyoming. She will be the first woman to represent Wyoming in the United States Senate.
It is fitting that so many “firsts” were made with the help of a leader who made her own history. In 2014, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik was sent to Congress by the people of New York at the age of 30. She was the youngest woman at that time, elected to Congress.
Congresswoman Stefanik pushed for the Republican party to recruit and support more women at all stages of the process. She even started her own political action committee: Elevate PAC. Its mission is to increase the number of Republican women serving in Congress by supporting top Republican female candidates in primaries.
Trailblazers like Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri, also recognize the challenge faced by Republican women. Before coming to Congress, Wagner made her own history when she became the first woman to head the Missouri Republican Party. “We have to fight twice as hard, three times as hard, not only as conservatives, but frankly as women, to have our voices heard.”
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has represented the people of Washington State since 2004. Just a few days ago, she was chosen by her peers to be the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This is the first time a woman from either party will have a top spot on this powerful committee.
The new Congress will benefit from these diverse women and their various perspectives. Congresswoman-elect Beth Van Duyne, sent to Congress by the people of Texas, should continue her opposition to the Affordable Care Act and look for ways to promote transparency in health care pricing. Congresswoman-elect Victoria Spartz, who represents the people of Indiana, will undoubtedly remember her childhood in socialist-controlled Ukraine and fight for limited government and against socialist influences.
This historic group of Republican women leaders has important work to do. Not only for the people they represent back home, but also for future women leaders looking to them for inspiration. Let’s hope that history can and will be repeated.