When I look at my young daughters, Grace and Brynn, I think of the limitless potential they will have as they grow into young women.
As they do, I hope my girls remember the strength, determination and struggles of the women who came before them and paved the way.
And 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.
As a young woman, I was fortunate to have the leadership of Jeannette Hayner, the courage of Jennifer Dunn, the faith of Elisabeth Elliot and the indomitable spirit of Margaret Thatcher to guide and motivate me.
This March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we have an opportunity to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of women throughout our history and to recognize those who gave voice to a voiceless gender and inspired generations of stronger, more-empowered women.
But the more lasting tribute for this month is our effort to make history for the next generation of women.
Republican women are committed to a culture of yes. A culture that tells young women that they can — and should — pursue their version of the American Dream.
If you had told me when I was a young girl picking fruit at my family’s orchard in Kettle Falls, Washington, that I would grow up to be the first person in my family to graduate from college, the 200th woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman to give birth three times while in office and become a member of House leadership, I simply wouldn’t have believed you.
Nancy Reagan once famously said, “Feminism is the ability to choose what you want to do.”
Mrs. Reagan’s words remind me just how much young girls need role models. They need 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 100 years 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, but it’s not always about the numbers. It’s about the values and dynamism that come with those numbers. It’s about what the representation of the women behind those numbers means for the next generation.
As the second Chairwoman in the history of the House Republican Conference, I celebrate the diversity — of ethnicity, age, background, profession and experience — that our Republican women bring to representative government and the shared ideas and values that unite us.
For many of us, Congress is our second act.
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. 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 from Missouri elected to Congress.
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 from Alabama elected to Congress 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 from American Samoa elected to serve in Congress.
Each story is unique and incredible. All of these great women are Republicans, and all of them are trailblazers.
We have farmers, lawyers, mothers and everything in between. And their presence in Congress is a reminder that all issues are women’s issues.
Our Republican conference is reflective of the nation as a whole. What women care about is putting food on the table, making sure we can pay our bills and ensuring that our children are getting the best possible education.
We worry about the rising costs of gas and groceries. We are concerned with the safety and security of our nation. We make the majority of our families’ financial and health care decisions. Women start 2 out of every 3 new businesses. Women comprise the majority of health care providers.
For women in every corner of this country, we care about achieving a better life for ourselves and for our children, and that’s why we’re tackling five big priorities this year: national security, jobs, health care, upward mobility and balance of power.
What I believe as a lawmaker is what I believe as a mother of two young girls — we should not be defined by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become.
I am inspired by the work of Republican women across this country as activists, state legislators and governors.
Women like Melanie Stambaugh, a 24-year-old entrepreneur who now is the youngest member of the Washington State House of Representatives.
And like Avery Bourne, a 22-year-old law student who now represents the 95th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.
And like Saira Blair, who, as an 18-year-old college freshman, went on to become the youngest state lawmaker in the nation after campaigning largely from her dorm room at West Virginia University.
This month is a tremendous opportunity to focus on the priorities women care about — and put together an agenda that trusts us — the moms and daughters, the community leaders and positive disruptors.
This Women’s History Month, let’s focus on a bright future where every American, especially women, live courageously, follow our hearts, see potential, believe in ourselves and persevere as someone who makes a difference in the world and leaves a mark.
It’s all part of a Republican agenda to restore a confident America, where every American feels secure in their life and future, and where women keep making history for years to come.
This agenda begins with dialogue — my colleagues and I want to hear from you.
On Wednesday, March 2, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. EST, Congresswomen Kristi Noem (R-SD), Mimi Walters (R-CA) and I will be collaborating with SheKnows Media on a virtual town hall in honor of Women’s History Month. I encourage you to join the conversation by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
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