In the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol, there is a full bronze statue of a woman amid the many tributes to the pioneers and legends of my state. That woman is Martha Hughes Cannon: She was the first female State Senator to be elected in the United States. Dr. Cannon defeated her own husband in that election in 1896. Her legacy was as a doctor, woman’s rights advocate and suffragist, who advocated for hearing impaired students, public health issues, and working conditions for women.
Martha Hughes Cannon is just one of a growing list of powerful women who have worked hard to make this country great. These are women who defy convention and take the difficult path, blasting through the ultimate glass ceiling to make their communities a better place.
Across party lines and ideologies, women are increasingly finding their political footing, and the reason is a tribute to so many powerful women, like Susan B. Anthony, who fought against the odds for women’s suffrage, to Rosa Parks who took a stand for civil rights. There have been notable First Ladies like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, and Nancy Reagan. Throughout history, and without fanfare, women have fought in our wars, teachers have inspired our youth, and generations of women have committed their lives to making this nation great.
I mention these women, because the 2016 theme of the National Women’s History Project is, “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”
Women have accomplished many things throughout history. Women have successfully fought for a stronger country, influencing public policy, building viable institutions, championing for human rights and equal opportunities for all. We celebrate these triumphs, in spite of women being frequently overlooked and undervalued. And the struggle for equality continues.
I am honored to be serving in the 114th Congress as the first female, black Republican member of the House of Representatives, and I hope I will not be the last. I honestly feel that, because of the hard work of those who came before me in history, I am truly evaluated by my accomplishments and what I bring to the table — not by my race or gender.