Influential Women of 2021

These are opinion pieces authored by Women in Politics Club officers. They do not represent the views of the club nor Churchill as a whole. We hope you bring our new perspectives!

Author: Caroline Chou | Editor: Mia Alexander

2021 marks one hundred and one years since the passage of the 19th Amendment and fifty six years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that helped secure suffrage for racial minorities. This past year, a record number of 27% of the seats in Congress, 144 out of 539 total seats, were held by women. Although there is still more progress to be made, women are getting their voices heard more and more often in American politics. While there are, of course, many more influential female politicians across the nation, here are four who have made great strides this past year and who are sure to inspire future generations.

Kamala Harris (D)

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president on the steps of the Capitol. Harris is the first Black American, South Asian American, and woman to hold this position. Born in Oakland, California, Harris began her career as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County before becoming a managing attorney in San Francisco at the head of the Career Criminal Division. In 2003, she became the first Black woman to hold the position of San Francisco district attorney, where she established a program that gave first-time drug offenders a chance to get a high school diploma and a job. As California Attorney General in 2010, Harris fought for working families and won a $20 billion settlement against unfair foreclosure of homes. She also fought for the Affordable Care Act, climate justice , and marriage equality. Harris became a Senator in 2017, serving on the Committees of Intelligence and Judiciary and Homeland Security. During her three and a half years in Congress, she focused primarily on issues relating to due process and justice. As the current Vice President, she works to be inclusive in policymaking and give a voice to the unheard. In combating the coronavirus pandemic, she aims to get Black communities the vaccines and resources that they need, as they have been hit especially hard in terms of case numbers and economic hardships.

Lisa Murkowski (R)

After graduating from Georgetown University with a BA in economics, Lisa Murkowski began as an attorney at the Anchorage District Court clerk’s office. In 1998, Murkowski became part of the Alaska House of Representatives, representing District 18. She ran for Senator in 2004, narrowly defeating former governor Tony Knowles. The 2010 US Senate election would end up more difficult, however, with Murkowski eventually conceding in the primary election. Later that year, she launched a massive write-in campaign. Despite not having her name on the ballot, voters could physically write her name on a ballot to cast their vote in favor of her. She ended up winning the election, making her the second candidate for the Senate to win a write-in campaign. Murkowski was re-elected in 2016, and as her current term has come to a close, she has filed for re-election in 2022. She is considered a more moderate Republican — she was one of seven Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump during his second trial. She was also in the minority group of Republicans who voted in favor of a temporary spending bill and the breaking of a filibuster in September and October of 2021. Murkowski advocates for the protection of the environment, particularly of the Arctic and rural Alaska, supports the Equal Rights Act, and has worked to secure more funding for military affairs and clean energy development in Alaska.

Nancy Pelosi (D)

In 2007, Nancy Pelosi made history as the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House, acting as the leader and mediator of discussions in the House of Representatives. She was just re-elected this year, marking the start of her fourth term in this position. Pelosi’s father was a Maryland Congressman, which fostered in her an interest in politics from an early age. After graduating college, she moved to San Francisco and was elected a member of the Democratic National Committee, moving up the ranks until she became the head of the California Democratic Party in 1981. In 1983, Pelosi won a special election to become a member of the House of Representatives for the 98th US Congress, representing the 12th Congressional District of California for 33 years. During her time in Congress, Pelosi was part of the Appropriations and Intelligence Committees, while also advocating for increased funding for healthcare research, environmental protection, and human rights. In 2001, Pelosi became the first woman to serve as House Minority Whip, maintaining communications between party members and its leaders and convincing Members of the House to vote for a party’s position. Pelosi became the first woman to serve as the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives the next year. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi has supported the Affordable Care Act and fought for better access to higher-level education, as well as new policies to combat climate change. Pelosi was instrumental in the House’s passage of the Build Back Better Act in November of 2021, which will work to protect the environment and further invest in social security, specifically on health and child care. 

Yvette Herrell (R)

Yvette Herrell started her political career by representing District 51 in the New Mexico House of Representatives for four terms, from 2011 to 2019. In January 2021, she was elected to the US House of Representatives for New Mexico’s 2nd District, the largest congressional district in the state. Her election has made her the first Republican Native American woman in Congress and the first from the Cherokee Nation. She has focused on advocating for securing the southern border between Mexico and New Mexico and seeks to protect New Mexican jobs in the fossil fuel industry as new energy policies on combating the climate crisis are implemented. She is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the pro-life movement.

Sources

https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/vice-president-harris/

https://www.biography.com/political-figure/nancy-pelosi

https://pelosi.house.gov/biography-0

https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/about-lisa

https://herrell.house.gov/about

https://www.yvetteherrell.com/meet-yvette

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