One hundred years ago during the 65th Congress, Jeannette Rankin was sworn in as the first female member of Congress. A Republican from Montana, Rankin was the first woman to hold national office.
Remarkably, she was chosen to represent her community when women were denied the right to vote. Following in her footsteps, just two Congresses later, three more Republican women were sworn into the House of Representatives.
One of these women, California’s Mae Ella Nolan, is particularly notable because she was the first woman to chair a congressional committee. Today marks the 94th anniversary of Nolan’s swearing-in, providing us with an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous role these women played in shaping the way for women in the Republican Party.
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In the 115th Congress, 21 Republican women serve in the House of Representatives. In the 94 years since Nolan assumed office, Republican women have grown in number and strength. We represent congressional districts across the country and come from a wide range of backgrounds: a fighter pilot from Arizona; a business owner from Tennessee; a lawyer from New York; a rancher from South Dakota; a journalist from Indiana; and an accountant from Kansas.
Republican women in the House have grown not only in numbers, but we have also risen to leadership positions within the party. As chair of the House Republican Conference, Cathy McMorris Rodgers serves as a powerful voice for the party, while promoting conservative values and representing women across the country. Three of the 21 women, Virginia Foxx, Diane Black and Susan Brooks, serve as committee chairs: education and workforce, budget, and ethics, respectively. Having women hold these positions is critical because they lend incredibly important perspectives that help shape the debate on the critical issues facing our nation.
Women need a seat and a strong voice at the table to make our voices heard. We take this responsibility very seriously. We feel a strong sense of duty to women across the country because we understand that all issues are women’s issues. We know that women are concerned about health care, child care and education, but we also know women are concerned about national security, the economy and our veterans.
As mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, we all want the best for our families, friends and this country. Ensuring future generations grow up in a safe and economically vibrant nation that promotes conservative values is a top priority for Republican women in Congress. We are committed to advancing an agenda that does these things, and we will work with our colleagues to make our voices heard in these important debates.
On the anniversary of the day Nolan was sworn into Congress, we have the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, but also ahead to the work that remains. While we have made significant strides, we still have a great deal of work to do.
Today, women in America comprise over 50 percent of the population, yet we still face serious obstacles in the workplace and academia. We are working together to expand opportunities, increase flexibility, remove barriers and empower the next generation of women. By implementing these changes, women will have the tools they need to succeed and pursue their American dream.
I am humbled and honored to work with such an incredible group of strong women. We have come a long way since Jeanette Rankin and Mae Ella Nolan served in the House of Representatives, but we still have room to grow. Republican women in Congress and across this great nation make – and will continue to make – strong and substantial contributions to better their families, communities and America.
Rep. Mimi Walters represents California’s 45th Congressional District. She can be contacted at walters.house.gov/contact/email.