These Women Made History During the 2016 Election
No matter your political leanings or which leaders you support, Tuesday's presidential and congressional elections will go down in history. And although the nation's highest glass ceiling remains intact, the 2016 election still brought a new wave of female leaders to the government.
A diverse range of women earned spots in the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Senate (which will have 21 women in 2017 for the first time) as well as in governor's mansions around the country.
Among the newly elected and notable: Tammy Duckworth, Ilhan Omar, Kate Brown, Kamala Harris, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Pramila Jayapal. Here we have the first Indian-American as well as the first Somali-American representatives, the first openly LGBTQ woman to be elected as governor, and the first Latina as well as the first Thai-American to serve in the Senate.
VIDEO: Stars Who've Exercised Their Right to Vote in 2016
Scroll down below to take a closer look at these women, get inspired by their unique voices, and their takes on what it means to be an American today.
Pramila Jayapal, Washington State (D)
On Tuesday, Jayapal became the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress. Filling the seat of retiring U.S. Representative Jim McDermott, Jayapal is an immigrant-rights activist who was honored as a White House "Champion of Change" for her work in 2013. “Our country is strongest when our movement for justice is strongest," she wrote upon receiving the distinction. "I'll continue to dedicate my life to reaching for our nation’s beautiful founding ideals: that America is born of hope, possibility and justice, where each one of us has the choice, the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute our full selves to this beautiful place we call home."
Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada (D)
Cortez Masto of Nevada became the first Latina to be elected to the Senate on Tuesday and will replace retiring Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader. "It's about time our government mirrors the diversity of our nation," she tweeted on Wednesday. The granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, Masto focused her campaign on "immigration overhaul and future Supreme Court picks before the Senate," according to the New York Times.
Kate Brown, Oregon (D)
Brown won Oregon's gubernatorial election, which made her the first-ever openly LGBTQ person to be elected as governor in the United States. Although Brown was the incumbent in the race, this was her first time running in the election—she succeeded the role after former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned. She spoke to the Washington Blade a few months before her victory saying, "If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there's someone like them in the world, it's worth it."
Ilhan Omar, Minnesota (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
Omar took a seat in the House of Representatives on Tuesday—making her the first Somali-American Muslim woman to be elected to the U.S. legislature. After living in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years to escape the Somali civil war, she immigrated to the United States with her family as a preteen, according to the Star Tribune. "For me, this is my country, this is for my future, for my children's future and for my grandchildren's future to make our democracy more vibrant, more inclusive, more accessible and transparent which is going to be useful for all of us," she told the U.K.'s The Guardian earlier this year.
Tammy Duckworth, Illinois (D)
On Tuesday Duckworth was elected to become one of the two senators from Illinois, taking Republican Mark Kirk's spot. Duckworth—lost both of her legs in the Iraq War in 2004 after a rocket-propelled grenade shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting, according to The New York Times—will be the first Thai American in the Senate. "This nation didn't give up on me when I was at my most vulnerable, needing the most help," she said at her election party. "I believe in an America that doesn't give up on anyone who hasn't given up on themselves."
Kamala Harris, California (D)
Harris was elected to the Senate from California, where she has been the state’s attorney general since 2011. According to the L.A. Times, Harris will be "the second black woman ever elected to the Senate" as well as the first black senator from California. "I intend to fight for our ideals. I intend to fight for our civil rights. And I intend to fight to make our communities stronger," she tweeted on Wednesday.