The past year has been rough, to say the least. Almost exactly one year ago, much of the world shut down following the coronavirus outbreak, which overwhelmed our medical resources and disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable among us. In a cruelly ironic twist, the economic shutdown — which began last March, in the middle of Women’s History month — adversely impacted women’s social and economic power. The epidemic of violence against Black and Brown bodies, often at the hands of police, led to a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests across the country, highlighting systemic racial oppression.
In short, the past year has asked us to face the racial and sexual inequities in our society which, despite all the progress that we’ve made, continue to linger. Perhaps this year more than ever it’s important to celebrate the moments that highlight the cracks in the system where progress has been, and can continue to be made.
Here are eight political moments to celebrate this Women’s History month, which show us that progress is real, and that women everywhere, of all races, sexual orientations and identities, continue the good fight to make our world better.
Kamala Harris Is Elected Vice President
No commemoration of women’s political achievements this year would be complete without mentioning Kamala Harris, the first woman elected to the office of Vice President in the country’s history. Harris, a former Senator from California (D), had previously been one of six women who’d sought the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 race, and while she might not have ascended to the highest office in the land, her achievement has widened the crack in the glass ceiling.
Biden’s Picks An All-Women Senior Communications Team
The President has an all-women senior communications’ team, including press secretary Jennifer Psaki, and two out women of color, Karine Jean-Pierre and Pili Tobar. Biden’s cabinet picks are equally historic: Janet Yellen is now the first woman to serve as Secretary of Treasury; Deb Haaland is the first Indigenous woman to serve as Secretary of the Interior; and Dr. Rachel Levine, Biden’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Health, would be the first openly transgender person to hold office that requires Senate confirmation.
25 Women Lead Around The World
As of 2021, 25 women serve as heads of state around the world, with five additional women who sit on collective heads of state (three on the Swiss Federation Council and two on Sudan’s Sovereignty Council). Eight have been elected or assumed office since last year, including Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece; Victoire Tomegah Dogbe, Prime Minister of Togo; and Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia. In New Zealand, Jacinda Arden was re-elected Prime Minister in a landslide election in November.
Women Serve In The House And Senate
More women serve in Congress than ever before, with 120 in the House and 24 in the Senate. In November, Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Rashida Tlaib (MI) — collectively known as “The Squad” — all won their bids for reelection, and Republican Cynthia Lummis (R) became the first female Senator elected to represent Wyoming. Earlier this year, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected to her fourth term as House speaker.
The “Rainbow Wave” Hits State Legislatures
Last year, more LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office, and won, than ever before. Kim Jackson became the first openly LGBTQ+ state senator in Georgia’s history, and is one of only three Black, openly LGBTQ+ women to serve in state senates nationwide. In Florida, Michele Raynor-Goolsby became the first Black, openly LGBTQ+ woman elected to the State House.
2020 also brought a record number of trans women to office. In November, Sarah McBride was elected state senator of Delaware’s 1st district, making her the first openly trans person to be elected state senator in the nation. She is also one of seven openly trans women serving in state houses around the country.
WNBA Supports Black Lives Matter
The women of the WNBA — no strangers to protest — used their platforms this year to support Black Lives Matter, and publicly call for social change. The league dedicated its season to Breonna Taylor — who was shot and killed in her home by police in 2020 — and to the Say Her Name campaign, which calls attention to police violence against Black women. In August, the players’ boycotted the games for two days following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Following news in September that the officers involved in the killing of Taylor would not be charged in her death, WNBA stars like Sue Bird and Layshia Clarendon took to Twitter to express their support for Taylor and her loved ones.
Stacy Abrams Turns Georgia Blue
Once Ruby Red, Georgia delivered two surprises this election season. First, the state went to Joe Biden in November’s presidential election. Then, in January’s run-off election, the state’s two incumbent Republican governors lost to Democrat challengers. Much of the credit for the flip goes to Stacy Abrams, who led the way with her voting rights organization Fair Fight, which helped mobilize and enfranchise Black, Brown, and other voters who are often the targets of attacks on voting rights.
Women Lead In The Military
This month, President Biden nominated General Jacqueline Van Ovost and Lt. General Laura Richardson to 4-star commands. Both candidates had been considered for promotion in 2020; however, according to reports by the New York Times, Pentagon officials withheld the recommendations for fear that the candidates would be rejected by then President Trump, whom they believed would nominate white male candidates in their place. Biden nominated both Van Ovost and Richardson on International Women’s Day, saying, “Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity, and duty to country. And at every step, they’ve also helped push open the doors of opportunity to women in our military, blazing the trail a little wider, a little brighter, for all proud women following their path and looking to their example.”
Happy Women’s History Month!