Envisioning a future of bold, trailblazing women

When you visit the United States Capitol, it’s difficult for you to miss the bronze and marble reminders of the women who blazed the trail before us.

When those of us from the State of Washington walk these halls, we see the beautiful statue of Mother Joseph, who in the late 1800s led the effort to establish a network of schools and health care to help the new settlers in the Pacific Northwest.

Mother Joseph statue in the Capitol Visitors’ Center. Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol

As a young woman, I was fortunate to have the leadership of Jeanette Hayner, the courage of Jennifer Dunn, the faith of Elisabeth Elliot, and the indomitable spirit of Margaret Thatcher to guide and motivate me.

When I think of the limitless potential my young daughters, Grace and Brynn, will have as they grow into young women, I want my girls’ generation to remember the strength, determination, and struggles of the women who came before them and paved the way.

I hope they have women who inspire them to do better, be passionate about the world around them, and stay driven by a desire to make a difference.

We are now reaching the end of Women’s History Month, and lately I’ve been reflecting on the words of our beloved first lady, Nancy Reagan, who passed away earlier this month:

“Feminism is the ability to choose what you want to do.”

Mrs. Reagan’s words remind me just how important it is for young girls have role models.

They need to be able to look up to courageous women in every field who inspire them to dream, so they can say, “She’s cool. That’s what I want to do, too.”

It’s been nearly a century since women earned the right to vote. We’ve overcome quite a bit in the past century, particularly as public servants. We now have a record 104 women in Congress.

We are still vastly outnumbered by men in several industries, but it’s not always about the numbers. It’s about the values and dynamism that comes with those numbers. It’s about what the representation of the women behind those numbers means for the next generation.

As the representative for Eastern Washington and the second Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, I have the honor of serving and serving with countless passionate, talented, remarkable women who serve as a constant reminder that the most lasting tribute we can make during Women’s History Month is through our effort to make history for the next generation of women.

Eastern Washington is home to women like Dr. Shelley K. Redinger, the Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools, who has been at the forefront of significantly improving graduation rates. She represents the school district by serving on several community boards, yet still finds time to visit or teach a class in one of the district’s 50 schools.

Dr. Shelley K. Redinger, photo credit: Spokane Public Schools

Women like Dr. Patricia Butterfield, the Dean of the WSU College of Nursing, who is recognized both in nursing and health sciences as a regional, national and international scholar, and takes the time to inspire her own students to have a sense of discovery.

Dr. Patricia Butterfield (center), at a recent event at the WSU Tri-Cities College of Nursing. Photo credit: WSU

And women like Brooke Martin, a 15-year-old from Eastern Washington who, three years ago, developed the idea for iCPooch to solve her dog’s separation anxiety using video chat. After coming in 2nd at a prestigious science competition, her invention is now sold on three continents.

Brooke Martin with her dog, Kayla. Photo credit: iCPooch

It is a true honor to represent these inspirational women. And here in the halls of the People’s House, my Republican women colleagues are as diverse as the regions they represent.

Renee Ellmers and Diane Black were nurses.

Mimi Walters was a stockbroker.

Martha McSally was a colonel in the Air Force and the first female fighter pilot.

Barbara Comstock juggled starting a family with completing law school before she became Chief Counsel of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Susan Brooks was a U.S. attorney in Indiana, prosecuting high-profile cases of mortgage fraud and online child exploitation.

Virginia Foxx was the first in her family to go to college — and she later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in education, and served as president of a community college.

Kay Granger was the first woman to be elected Mayor of Fort Worth and is the first and only Republican woman elected from Texas to the House of Representatives.

Marsha Blackburn was the first woman to sell books door to door for Southwestern Co. After working her way up in the company, Marsha left to build a small business of her own.

Vicky Hartzler was raised on a farm, served in the Missouri State House until taking time off after adopting a baby daughter, and then later became the second Republican woman elected to Congress from Missouri.

Jaime Herrera Beutler is the first Hispanic in history to represent Washington State in the House, and her daughter is the first child to survive Potter’s Syndrome.

Lynn Jenkins was raised on a dairy farm, and she is a certified public accountant.

Cynthia Lummis was the youngest woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature.

Candice Miller served as Michigan’s first female secretary of state.

Kristi Noem left college early to help run her family’s ranch after her father died, but earned her bachelor’s degree in 2012, while serving in Congress.

Martha Roby worked at a law firm, and she is one of the first two women elected to Congress from Alabama in regular elections.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the first Cuban American Latina elected to Congress.

Ann Wagner was the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg.

Jackie Walorski wore many hats: she was a television reporter, a missionary, and even the executive director of her local Humane Society.

Elise Stefanik, at 30, was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Mia Love is the first African American Republican woman to serve in the House.

And Amata Radewagen is the first woman elected to serve in Congress from American Samoa.

Each story is unique and inspirational, and challenges us to think of all issues as women’s issues. For women in every corner of this country, we care about achieving a better life for ourselves and for our children.

As Congresswoman Blackburn so aptly put it — it’s a poetic coincidence that Mrs. Reagan passed away during this month of remembrance.

She will remain a permanent fixture in our memories, as one of the most influential and consequential first ladies in American history.

The onus is on us now, as women leaders, to show to girls across this country that with hard work they can achieve anything. No dream is too big, and no goal is too far-fetched.

We take seriously this responsibility to encourage and empower the next generation of leaders with how we interact, how we present ourselves as leaders, and the policies we choose to pursue.

House Republican women are trailblazers in their own right, and we are focused on a bold, forward-looking agenda to restore a confident America, where every individual and family feels secure in their lives and in their futures.

So let’s pledge to carry the torch of those who came before us and focus on a bright future where every American — especially women — live courageously, follow our hearts, see potential in ourselves and others, and be bold risk takers.

And where women can keep making history for generations to come.

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