By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
During the month of March we celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the courageous women in our history who have marched, organized, and advanced the promise of equality, including such giants as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells and others who are forgotten in the suffragist movement that helped win the fight for women’s right to vote. Additionally, this year, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of women serving in Congress. And this year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman Member of Congress and a suffragette, being sworn into office. She was sworn into office three years before women nationwide were guaranteed the right to vote.
I am appreciative of women from all industries that continue to be hardworking, courageous, bold, and persistent in achieving at the highest levels in their field. Women continue to hold leadership positions and act with integrity when we continue to fight against barriers of inequality in the work place, schools and employment. Additionally, women have shown the world their ability to mobilize in large numbers, as seen in the Women’s March on Washington and across the nation, that we cannot and will not be silenced when it comes to those who want to stifle women’s rights. Women refuse to continuously be overlooked and deserve to have a voice on issues that impact them individually and their families.
Although Black History Month came to an end, we can still take the time to praise the exemplary efforts of women like Barbara Jordan for continuing to persevere in her civic engagement efforts. In 1966, she would become the first African-American to be a Texas state senator since1883. Later in 1972, Jordan would be elected to serve in the United States Congress ultimately making her the first African-American woman from a southern state, unlike her predecessor from the North – Shirley Chisholm, who was also the first African American and woman to run for the United States president. Through the use of her unmatched oratory skills and extensive knowledge of the Constitution, Jordan fought for the expansion of federal civil rights protections during her service in the United States House of Representatives.
Another notable woman from Texas is Ann Richards. She made waves at the Democratic National Convention in 1988 when she delivered a rousing keynote address. The speech transformed her, then the Texas treasurer, into a national figure; and it made her an admired champion of feminism and civil rights for minorities and members of the LGBT community. Richards first ran for governor in 1990 calling for a “New Texas” that would offer more opportunity and power to those groups. As governor, she went on to become one of the most effective in a long line of Texas progressives who vied for control of the state when it was largely a Democratic stronghold. Among other achievements, she fulfilled her campaign promise to bring more blacks, Hispanics and women into public office. She appointed the first black regent to the University of Texas and installed the first blacks and women on the state’s legendary police force, the Texas Rangers.
As we celebrate the many victories that women have won, we must keep fighting to make more progress. There are many steps that need to be taken to expand the economic opportunities available to America’s women. In recent years, my colleagues and I have been fighting to enact such critical legislation as ensuring equal pay for equal work, expanding the availability of affordable child care, a paid sick leave initiative, and a paid family leave initiative. I will continue to make this a priority by showing young girls and women that they deserve to be placed anywhere they desire, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.