October: Crisp winds, crunching leaves, pumpkins, pumpkin lattes, Halloween, etc. It’s my favorite month, and it’s flying by, which means one thing: Election Day is almost upon us. I am secretly relieved to be in Massachusetts and not at home because if I was still at home right now I would be dealing with pre-election madness as a financial intern for my congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. I’ve been told that working for a political campaign in the weeks leading up to Election Day is thrilling, but it sounds stressful.
In support of all of those working for campaigns right now, singing out the desperate mantra “GOTV!” (Get Out To Vote) I’m going to tell you a little bit about the history of US Congresswomen.
From the years of 1789 to 1916, the House was chock-full of men. Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman to shake it up a little when she was elected to congress in 1917. She grew up on a farm, got a BS in Biology from Montana State University, and was then a schoolteacher, seamstress, and furniture designer until she went to the New York School of Philanthropy to study social work. Fortunately, she didn’t like social work, so she went back to school at the University of Washington in Seattle where she became involved in the woman suffrage movement. Then, to pacify her feminist and pacifist ambitions she ran for Congress, aided by her brother, and became famous for voting against US participation in World War I. Rankin was the only person to vote on US participation in World War I and World War II (she said “no” to both) and was allegedly a lesbian. How’s that for our first congresswoman?
Since then, Only 199 other women have had positions in Congress. Some of my favorite female members of the current (113th) US Congress are as follows:
Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (D) is the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and is determined to end partisan gridlock in the congress and opposes the US-Israel alliance.
California’s Nancy Pelosi (D) of course has to be mentioned. As the highest-ranking female politician, and the only woman to have served as House Speaker, her popularity is well-earned.
California is also home to Barbara Jean Lee (D), the first woman to represent California’s 9th congressional district, first woman to represent California’s 13th district, and vocal pacifist. To top it off, she first went to college (at Mills College–Historically Women’s Colleges represent!) as a single mother with two children. Talk about strong women power!
Judy Chu (D), Representative of California’s 27th congressional district, was the first Chinese American woman elected ton Congress. She fights for women’s reproductive rights and in 2012 passed a much-needed resolution to apologize for the Chinese Exclusion Act (one of only four apologies issued by Congress to a group of people).
I love Colorado’s Diana DeGette (D) because she is Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Co-chair of the Pro-Choice caucus (she gets an outstanding approval rating of 0% from the National Right to Life Committee). And in 2005, she cosponsored a bill to lift President Bush’s limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which passed, and which then President had to veto the next day (his first veto).
Since my list is not even close to being complete yet, I’ll continue this list later. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out your own local political scene so that on November 4th you can get out to vote!