“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Unknown
Where would we be today if Jeanette Rankin said “why me?” instead of “why not me?” Or if Malala Yousafzai backed down and decided girls in Pakistan didn’t need an education? What if Margaret Thatcher left politics to the men?
These are some of the hypotheticals that go through my head during Women’s History Month, especially on days like yesterday, when we gather to celebrate women (this time with the Smithsonian Institute). Minority Leader Pelosi and I have partnered on similar events in the past, and each time I leave inspired. Yes, we have our policy differences, but we are both living, breathing examples of the legacy of women trailblazers who came before us.
Where would we be today if not for the strong women of the past?
You know, growing up on my family’s orchard in Kettle Falls, Washington, I never doubted for one second that I could do anything, or be anything, if I was motivated and worked hard. That’s the story of the American Dream — the opportunity to pursue, to build, and to grow.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that this wasn’t a universal view, which made me all the more thankful for parents who encouraged me along the way. And now, as a representative for Eastern Washington here in the People’s House, I get to meet and work with women who are breaking down barriers in science, policy, business, and more. Last year, we celebrated 100 years of women in Congress. We still have a couple years to go until we hit 100 years of women having the right to vote. In America, we have women running for office, starting businesses, even touching the stars, and during Women’s History Month, we celebrate them.
We’ve come a long way, reached several firsts and milestones, but for many women around the world, the barriers to break down are a bit more fundamental — learning to read, voting, and going to school. That’s what today, International Women’s Day, is all about. Today isn’t another check the box day on a long list of holidays and observances, or a brief blip in a month of celebrating women. This particular day is a powerful reminder to everyone about the progress we’ve made towards equality of opportunity — and the work that still needs to be done around the world.
More than a reminder, today is a mission: to inspire, empower, and advocate for our neighbors.
I often say that we stand on the shoulder of giants — but we stand there to lift the next generation higher than ourselves. We stand there so that every woman has a voice, and has an opportunity to be legendary, and so that women can keep making history for years to come.