For more than a century, women in the United States organized, protested and downright fought to achieve the right to vote.
The legacy of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is firmly woven into the fabric of our country and the history of the Republican Party, yet their efforts too often are treated as mere footnotes in American history.
The vast majority of Americans are likely unaware that March is Women’s History Month. While that is troubling, it is even more troubling that many Americans don’t realize the role that Republican women have played in our nation’s history.
This is no surprise when most history books still focus on the stories of men, without giving enough time to the remarkable stories of American women. The impact of this is felt at the highest levels of business and politics, where women still struggle for true equality. Currently, women elected to Congress represent less than 20 percent of the governing body, even though women represent 52 percent of the American electorate.
In 1869, the Republican-controlled legislature in Wyoming Territory and its Republican Gov. John Allen Campbell made it the first jurisdiction to grant voting rights to women. It has been nearly 100 years since the first woman and a Republican, Jeannette Rankin, was elected to a full term in the U.S. Congress, not just to serve out a term vacated by her husband. This was in 1916, almost four years before the 19th Amendment would give women the right to vote.
When our nation heard the call to war in 1941, women helped hold our country together by working in factories, healing the nation’s wounded and even answering the call to military service themselves. More than 350,000 women served in the U.S. armed forces, both at home and abroad. Between 1940 and 1945, women in the workforce increased from 27 percent to 37 percent, and by 1945, nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home.
While World War II helped women become more prominent in the workforce and in national service, it would still take many more decades before women were stepping into leadership roles in our government. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, where she would be the deciding vote on many crucial cases. In that same year, Jeane Kirkpatrick was the first woman nominated to serve as ambassador to the United Nations.
In the past 20 years, we have had the first female speaker of the House, the first woman and first black female secretary of state, and the first female Republican vice presidential candidate, and a historic number of women have finally gained prominent leadership roles in Congress.
New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, was elected as the first Hispanic governor in the nation in 2010. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, an Indian-American. who was also elected in 2010, is the nation’s youngest governor.
But that is not enough. Susan B. Anthony said, “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” She couldn’t have been more right, but now we must do more.
Republican women have shaped the very fabric of this nation. They have been the mothers, the factory workers, the activists and political leaders. Nevertheless, there are many who would have you believe that Republicans have never fought for issues important to women, today or ever. Of course, the truth is quite the opposite.
The issues are different today, but the fight continues. Republicans are fighting for women to have control of their health care — not government bureaucrats.
It’s not fair that many women who liked their insurance plans lost them under Obamacare because the president and Democrats didn’t like those plans. Nor is it fair that women were promised they’d be able to keep their doctors under Obamacare, but so many of them are now losing their doctors under the health care law.
Likewise, it’s not fair that millions of women who want to work can’t because the economy isn’t creating jobs fast enough. The truth is, the policies of the president and his party are standing in the way of job creation — leaving many women, including those who have to be their families’ breadwinners, without work.
Now it is time for Republican women to keep fighting. It’s time not just to break barriers and glass ceilings, but also to burst them and define the country they have built and take hold of its future.