On Saturday, November 7, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. In a moving victory speech, she recognized the historic, glass-breaking moment and thanked the women who came before her – including her immigrant mother – who paved the path for her to serve in the White House alongside President-Elect Joe Biden.
“I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proved they are the backbone of our democracy,” said the Vice President Elect. “All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard. Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders.”
Such powerful words and a very powerful reminder that when we celebrate moments of great advancement like this one, or smaller victories along the way, we need to honor the women who came before us and worked to make their voices heard. As we prepare to watch the first woman in our country’s history be sworn in as Vice President of the United States, it is only fitting to look back on a few of the historical moments that helped make this possible. History shows that progress is not made by one person but the collective as we draw together and pool our strengths to lift each other up.
Here are a few milestones that paved the way for Senator Harris’ rise to Vice President:
1851 – Sojourner Truth delivers “I Ain’t a Woman” speech
1869 – Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association
1917 – Jeannette Rankin, suffrage activist, is first woman elected to Congress
1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment
1963 – Equal Pay Act signed into law
1965 – The Voting Rights Act – designed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote – is passed
1971 – Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan form the National Women’s Political Caucus
1972 – Title IX signed into law
1981 – Sandra Day O’Connor is first woman appointed to U.S. Supreme Court
1997 – Madeline Albright is sworn in as first female Secretary of State
2007 – Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi becomes first female Speaker of the House
History will be made again on January 20 when Senator Harris is sworn in. We will – at last – have a woman in the second highest office in the land who knows what it’s like to juggle the demands of a career with the needs of a family, a woman who knows that you deserve equal pay, who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections, and a woman who is empowered and who can help you make your voice heard. As she said on November 7, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”
Senator Harris’ election shows girls around the world that they CAN do whatever they set their minds to and proves that together we are stronger, and together we can change the world.