AMERICAN HEROES: WOMEN MAKING HISTORY NOW

Women's History Month 2021 - Deb_Haaland_and_Stacey_Abrams_in_2019

              Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Not everyone’s ambitions will be world domination or Carnegie Hall, but we should be driven beyond what we know and feel safe doing. ~ Stacey Abrams

I spent my 20s earning minimum wage decorating cakes for a living. But one day, I looked in the mirror and realized I wanted more, for me and my people. I saw too many Native Americans struggling, and I realized we should have a voice in who our elected officials are. ~ Deb Haaland

As the sun sets on Women’s History Month, I wish to pay homage to some women who are making history right now. And, as the Women’s History Month theme for 2021 is: “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced,” Stacy Abrams must be at the top of my list of heroic American women I wish to honor.

And that said, I cannot help but wonder what our Founders would think or say if they could see what is happening a few centuries after they established our nation! I’m guessing most if not all — as well as other early Americans — would be astonished that representatives of two groups of people, the members of one that they purchased and enslaved and members of the other that they massacred and finally isolated on reservations, are ascending government leaders. And not only that, those representatives and leaders are women! 

Abigail Adams would be applauding through her tears!

So, in their honor, I dedicate this post to recognizing the recent accomplishments of these heroic — or she-roic as the case may be – women, as they blaze trails for more women to follow in our never-ending quest to form a more perfect union.

Stacy Abrams

Stacey Abrams, an African American woman, continues to make history as a force for good on the political landscape,  The country — indeed, the world — watched this past autumn as her genius and hard work helped to flip her state of Georgia from Republican to Democratic as it voted for the Democratic candidates for President and the Senate. But in reading her biography, we learn that Stacy is not new to trailblazing.

Stacy was the first African American valedictorian from Avondale High School in DeKalb County, Georgia. Still a teenager, she joined a Congressional campaign as a speechwriter, and while in college she was the only student on the staff of the first African-American Atlanta mayor’s Office of Youth Services. After graduating magna cum laude from Spelman College, Stacy went on to earn a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas and a J.D. from Yale Law School. After becoming a tax attorney, and before she was 30-years-old, Stacy was appointed as Atlanta’s Deputy City Attorney. 

When Stacy was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, it was not long before she became the House Minority Leader, the first woman to lead any party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American to lead the House of Representatives. While Stacy was Georgia’s top Democrat, she served on many committees and traveled to meet with leaders in numerous countries in Europe, Asia, the South Pacific and Middle East.   

Armed with that stunning resume, Stacy launched her campaign for Georgia governor in 2018. She again blazed a trail by becoming the first African-American woman in the U.S. to become the gubernatorial nominee of a major political party. Losing narrowly to her Republican opponent amid charges of voter suppression, but not conceding, Stacy filed a federal lawsuit that challenged the manner in which Georgia conducts its elections. She also founded Fair Fight to combat voter suppression, and the rest is now American history. For the first time in 28 years, Georgia voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate; and for the first time in 20 years sent not one, but two, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates to Washington, D.C. — more firsts for the State of Georgia, in that the winning candidates were African-American and Jewish. The leadership in the White House and Congress had been dramatically changed, thanks in no small part to Stacy Abrams.       

Deb Haaland

The Native American woman from Pueblo of Laguna tribe in New Mexico was elected to Congress in 2018, becoming one of the first two Native women in history to become national legislators; the other was Sharice Davids of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Kansas.

This year, Representative Deb Haaland continued her political groundbreaking achievements by becoming the first Native American Cabinet Secretary, and she now heads the Department of the Interior. That is poetic justice in a way, because the DOI is responsible for federal government’s “trust responsibility” to Native American tribes. Yet, while the suffering of other groups of people is well known, the suffering and pressing issues of Native people are often invisible. Secretary Haaland is poised to change that — likely not overnight, but her stewardship will light a path for others to follow into the future.

More Amazing She-roes

Jennifer Doudna became a Nobel laureate, along with research partner Emmanuelle Charpentier, for her work in developing “a method for genome editing.” She is also the subject of the bestselling book, “The Code Breaker,” which I have heard some describe as a “thriller.” I cannot wait to read this book. But what I find thrilling, besides the scientific breakthrough itself, is that Ms. Doudna may well become a role model and inspiration to young girls and women to pursue careers in the STEM fields. 

In 2017, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person to be seated in Virginia’s state legislature and the first openly transgender state legislator to be seated in U.S. history. By running on issues that Virginians cared about, the 33-year-old Ms. Roem defeated the incumbent — a man 40 years her senior who had served 13 terms and who just had sponsored a bill that would have restricted her use of public bathrooms! Talk about poetic justice.

Coming up fast behind Ms. Roem, Sarah McBride this past January was sworn in as a member of the Delaware Senate, making her the first transgender state senator in the country and at the moment the highest-ranking transgender official in United States history. And she is a published author! Like Danica Roem, Sarah McBride is a thirty-something powerhouse, slashing away at any obstacles in her path.

Finally, there are Billie Jean King and Serena Williams, both of whom are considered to be among the top athletes in history. It was Ms. King who is largely responsible for women achieving parity back in the 1970s in tennis championship prize money. She founded the Women’s Tennis Association, among many other initiatives and accomplishments, and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her advocacy on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community. It was BJK’s trailblazing that paved the way for many women tennis champions, including the great Serena Williams. Ms. Williams, of course, has made her own history, shattering records that include winning the most Grand Slam singles in the “Open Era” (1968-present).  Both women, at the peaks of their respective careers decades apart, have revolutionized the sport of Tennis. 

More Work To Be Done

Women in politics, science and sports would not be this far along without these talented, determined, courageous, heroic and– yes! — competitive supershe-roes. But there is more work to be done because more women deserve opportunities to reach such heights. Obviously, it is possible. Among the current 167 million female U.S. population (not to mention the world female population) there are many more potential super-achievers that can change the world for the better. They must be encouraged, nurtured and supported.

Meanwhile, all my best wishes to all women and men as we come down the home stretch of defeating COVID-19. Let’s not stumble at this point in the race! Yes: masks, social distancing, hand-washing. No: crowds (masked or unmasked) or unnecessary air and other travel on public transportation. Be well, be safe and be.  

Until next time,

Jeanne

 

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