On occasion of the event, “Women Bridge the Ocean,” organized by the Center for American Studies, here is a brief praise to some of the American women who have distinguished themselves through their merits in both political and military ambitions.
These merits extend beyond holding political office or achieving a rank of four-stars. They represent important achievements in the constant struggle toward gender equality.
Next year marks the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage. When the Amendment was passed, only one woman, Jeanette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, had served in the House of Representatives. She was the only female member of Congress when she served and was not in office when the Amendment was passed.
Since then, women have come to fill nearly a quarter of the seats in Congress. They now comprise 131 members of Congress and have held numerous other important positions in the American government. These include 53 current and former cabinet members, three current members of the Supreme Court, a Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, and more. Even the U.S. Armed Forces, which didn’t have a permanent contingent of women until 1948, now includes 69 female generals.
The current Congress, the 116th Congress, is the most diverse Congress in United States history, including the first Native American congresswomen, as well as the first Muslim congresswomen. In Congress, women are taking leading positions. Since the 1990s, with the elections of Senator Kassebaum of Kansas, Senator Hutchison of Texas, Senator Feinstein of California and Senator Boxer, also of California, the Senate has made strides in breaking free from the perception of the body as a “boy’s club.” In the Senate, women have recently been very influential.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, for example, is the founder of the Common Sense Coalition, which is integral to solving government shutdowns, and, currently, three female senators, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Maryland, are running for President. While in the Senate, Senator Harris has taken an important role in creating legislation to combat the substance abuse problem in America.
In the previous Congress, Senator Klobuchar authored a greater amount of enacted legislation than any other Senator. And Senator Warren was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis.
In the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is the current Speaker and is the first female Speaker of the House in American history as well as the first female head of an American political party. She is the highest-ranking elected woman in American history. Additionally, women in the 116th Congress chair six Congressional Committees, including the influential House Committee on Appropriations, one of the most powerful committees in Congress.
Women have been integral to keeping the American people safe through their foreign and domestic service.
This past decade alone has displayed numerous milestones for women in the US Armed Forces. Lori Robinson of the US Air Force became the first woman in American history to command a major Unified Combatant Command, a Department of Defense command composed of forces from at least two military departments. Robinson served as commander of the US Northern Command, a Unified Combatant Command, as well as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, until 2018.
Additionally, other women such as Michelle Howard (Navy), Janet Wolfenbarger (Air Force), and Ann Dunwoody (Army) became four-star generals, the first women to hold that rank in their respective branches. Admiral Howard also carries the distinction of being the first African-American woman to become a four-star general.
The succession of women into positions of leadership is happening not only in America but is a modern, global movement, and, if current trends continue, then parity seems possible.
Countries like America, by giving room for women to lead, are paving the way for developing countries. The visibility of female leaders on the global stage sends a strong message about the need for gender equality and the great benefits of including women in positions of leadership.
Ettore Nicolosi – Center for American Studies
Evan Wisner – Center for American Studies