In 1987, Congress passed legislation that designates March as Women’s History Month. This is a special time to reflect on the countless women who have shaped our nation and those who continue to devote their time and energy to the pursuit of equality here at home and abroad.
In 1932, Arkansas elected Hattie Caraway to the U.S. Senate, which made her the first woman ever elected as a U.S. Senator. She broke barriers, changed norms and helped lay the foundation for the new role women were beginning to be recognized as deserving to play in the Senate throughout her legislative career. During her 14 years as a legislator, she was the first woman to chair a Senate committee and became the first woman to preside officially over the Senate.
The path Hattie Caraway trail-blazed for more women to enter the ranks of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” has without a doubt made the Senate a better, stronger institution and has benefitted our nation immensely.
Today, more women are serving in Congress than ever before. We need look no further than Hattie Caraway to understand the magnitude of her decision to step forward and serve her state and country.
More women are also answering the call to serve our nation in uniform.
Women are the fastest growing demographic of veterans, but many Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities don’t have the ability to provide equitable care or services to women veterans. This Congress, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and I have reintroduced legislation to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face. Our bill is appropriately named the Deborah Sampson Act, which honors the service and sacrifice of the American Revolutionary hero who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army.
We can be proud of Deborah Sampson and the countless women patriots who have followed in her footsteps. We must update VA services to support the unique needs of our entire veteran population, including the growing number of women relying on the VA for care.
While opportunities remain to advance women’s equality, the United States recently took an important step to empower women worldwide.
Congress approved and President Donald Trump signed into law the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act. Senator Ben Cardin (D-ME) and I introduced this legislation to eliminate global gender-related barriers and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.
In some parts of the world, women are pushed so far to the sidelines that they are denied access to even the most basic of financial services. Cultural and historical barriers prevent women from launching a business, building savings and supporting economic growth in their communities. Leveling the playing field will help the world economy grow substantially.
Providing women access to tools for economic success supports global prosperity. Our country can lead by example and help deliver these tools and empower women. I look forward to seeing women succeed because of this legislative effort.
Empowering women strengthens families, communities and our nation. As we take time this month to reflect on the challenges women have overcome and still face, let us continue the momentum started generations ago by hardworking, courageous and determined women who envisioned a country full of opportunities for success for all.