Women Senators Reflect on the 100th Anniversary of Suffrage

Twenty-four lawmakers shared testimonials with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

GIF of 19th Amendment text scrolling behind Capitol
Read excerpts from women senators' testimonials below. Illustration by Meilan Solly / Photos via public domain and National Archives

When suffragist Jeannette Rankin was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1916, she made a prescient prediction: “I may be the first woman member of Congress. But I won’t be the last.”

One hundred and four years later, a record-breaking number of women sit in both congressional chambers, with 26 serving in the Senate and 105 in the House. Now, on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extended the franchise to (mostly white) women on a federal level, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has partnered with Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to present a collection of women senators’ reflections on suffrage.

The testimonials—available via the online version of the museum’s “Creating Icons: How We Remember Woman Suffrage” exhibition—run the gamut from personal anecdotes to visions of the future and celebrations of trailblazing women activists, including Anne Henrietta Martin, Marilla Ricker, Sojourner Truth and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Several recurring themes persist: namely, the experience of being “the first” woman to hold a certain position and the importance of encouraging future generations to continue upending politics’ male-dominated status quo.

As Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who became Mississippi’s first woman congressional representative in 2018, reflects, “Society should encourage young women to pursue elected office. In fact, society needs them. I feel a level of gratification when younger women and girls look at me and see that they can also do these things.”

Senator Kamala Harris, who served as California’s first woman attorney general and is now the first woman of color nominated for national office by a major political party, says she draws inspiration from her predecessors, crediting women like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells and her own mother with guiding her career in public service.

Adds Harris, “My mother used to say, ‘Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something.’”

Echoing her colleagues’ sentiments, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan emphasizes the power of representation, explaining, “If there is only one, that’s a token. If we have many women’s voices, we have a democracy.”

Women Senators Reflect on the 100th Anniversary of Suffrage
This gold pen was used to sign the congressional joint amendment that enacted the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919. Courtesy of the National Museum of American History

In addition to spotlighting senators’ stories, “Creating Icons” explores the aftermath of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, from suffrage leaders’ deliberate omission of certain narratives—particularly those of women of color—to the movement’s modern successors, including the 1977 National Women’s Conference and the 2017 Women’s March.

“The 19th Amendment gave women the ability to vote for themselves. Because of the 19th Amendment, the women of Congress have the ability to vote on behalf of all of us. They can create new amendments,” says the show’s curator, Lisa Kathleen Graddy. “It wasn’t without setbacks and it wasn’t without struggle. A 100th anniversary, especially in an election year, is the perfect time for them to reflect on how the 19th Amendment and the opportunities and challenges it created inspired them to public service and to share their advice for the next generation of women who will serve and lead.”

Read excerpts from 24 senators’ statements below, and click the link at the bottom of each profile to navigate to the full testimonial. Entries are organized alphabetically by state and last name.

Lisa Murkowski | Alaska

(Office of Lisa Murkowski)

Year Alaska Women Gained Suffrage: 1913 (Territory of Alaska)

First Female Alaska Senator Elected: 2002 (Murkowski)

First Woman in Congress Representing Alaska: 2002 (Murkowski)

As I think back on it, the gender stereotyping that existed during my younger years didn’t stand out to me because at that time, many women didn’t know differently. When I look at the STEM opportunities available to girls today, it makes me proud that we are knocking down the expectation that boys should go down one career path and girls down another.We know the inequities that women continue to face and see a growing pressure as a nation to change them.

As I write this we are at an all-time high in the U.S. Senate with 26 female Senators. This all-time high is still far too low. We must have more women serving as our lawmakers and our policy makers.

For women entering political office, there can be considerable self-doubt. We are convinced we don’t have the experience; we are too young; it is too hard to balance work and a family. And the truth is, there is never a convenient time to serve in public office. But that makes it even more important to make sure that, as women, we are supporting and empowering other women.

Read the full statement here.

Kyrsten Sinema | Arizona

(Office of Kyrsten Sinema)

Year Arizona Women Gained Suffrage: 1912

First Female Arizona Senator Elected: 2019 (Sinema)

First Woman in Congress Representing Arizona: 1934 (Isabella Selmes Greenway)

In Arizona, we’re no strangers to accomplished women who’ve defied the odds and made their marks on our country. Shortly after the 1912 vote, Francis Mund continued her political work and became the first Senator elected to the state legislature. Around that time, another trailblazing Arizonan—Sarah Herring Sorin—became the first woman to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court without a male partner. By the way, she won.

One of my personal heroes is Sandra Day O’Connor—the original cowgirl from the Arizona desert. Of course, Sandra was our nation’s first female Supreme Court Justice, which is impressive enough. She also served in the Arizona Senate, where she was both feisty, and talented at working across the aisle and bringing people together. She was one of the first women to graduate from her law school, and she lived during a time when it was difficult for women to find their own footing in the workplace. Sandra Day O’Connor paved the way for women like me to pursue a career in law and public service.

Read the full statement here.

Dianne Feinstein | California

(Office of Dianne Feinstein)

Year California Women Gained Suffrage: 1911

First Female California Senator Elected: 1992 (Feinstein)

First Woman in Congress Representing California: 1923 (Ella Mae Nolan)

I remember meeting with the officers of a very large bank when I was mayor [of San Francisco]. I looked around the table and there wasn’t a single woman at the table besides myself. When I pointed that out, the person who invited me said he didn’t even realize that was the case. He invited me back six months later and there were other women at the table. Today, you’ll find women in all types of leadership positions.

When I was first elected to the Senate in 1992, there were only two women serving in the Senate. That election was dubbed the “Year of the Woman” because four women senators were elected. Today that number stands at 26, and I hope it’s not too long before we see 50 or more.

Our work is not done. As women senators we must honor the accomplishments of the trailblazers who came before us and continue pushing for equal rights for future generations. Change will come if we continue to keep pushing.

Read the full statement here.

Kamala Harris | California

(Office of Kamala Harris)

Year California Women Gained Suffrage: 1911

First Female California Senator Elected: 1992 (Dianne Feinstein)

First Woman in Congress Representing California: 1923 (Ella Mae Nolan)

I am inspired every day by the many women throughout our history who had the courage and vision to create progress—women like Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Church Terrell.

It is this inspiration that has helped guide me throughout my career in public service. In fact, my mother used to say, “don’t sit around and complain about things, do something.” When I decided to run for District Attorney of San Francisco over fifteen years ago, it was because I saw problems that could be fixed and I believed I could make the system better for all. No one like me had served in the role before. Not only did I win, becoming the first woman to hold that position, but I went on to become the first woman Attorney General of California and only the second Black woman in history to serve as a U.S. Senator.

I am proud to join the women of the Senate in recognizing this milestone with the knowledge that our work is not done. Recently, I traveled to Selma, Alabama, to recognize the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when Americans shed blood and died as they marched for equal voting rights. In recent years, we have seen multiple attacks on the right to vote, including rollbacks on early voting and strict voter ID laws that make it harder for people to vote, particularly women, people of color, and low-income individuals. That is why—despite the progress made since the ratification of the 19th Amendment—our fight to ensure equal access is not over.

Read the full statement here.

Kelly Loeffler | Georgia

(Office of Kelly Loeffler)

Year Georgia Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female Georgia Senator Elected: 1922 (Rebecca L. Felton)

First Woman in Congress Representing Georgia: 1922 (Rebecca L. Felton)

A century ago, Felton and the suffragists were fighting for women’s right to vote. Since then, women have gone into space, won Pulitzer Prizes, built companies and served on the Supreme Court. Today there are 26 women serving in the United States Senate. We are businesswomen, teachers, ranchers, social workers and veterans.

Five months ago, I took the Oath of Office in the Senate Chamber with Vice President Pence. I was surrounded by my husband and family. There was a moment during that ceremony when I thought back to that young girl growing up on her family’s farm. Could that very shy, hardworking girl have envisioned this?

I hope young women across the country know that with hard work, you can accomplish even more than you dreamed, that the American Dream is within reach. Thanks to the freedoms our country offers women, I have run a business, stood at the podium of the New York Stock Exchange, owned a sports team, and now, able to serve our country in the United States Senate. As a Senator, I am fighting each day to ensure all Americans the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

Read the full statement here.

Mazie K. Hirono | Hawaii

(Office of Mazie K. Hirono)

Year Hawaii Women Gained Suffrage: 1920 (Territory of Hawaii) 

First Female Hawaii Senator Elected: 2013 (Hirono)

First Woman in Congress Representing Hawaii: 1954 (Mary Elizabeth Pruett Farrington) 

Women are problem-solvers. We work by collaborating and engaging with our colleagues and communities to drive change. We deliver for the people we represent. We provide a different leadership model—one that does not rely on the same-old macho, chest-thumping, testosterone-driven behavior. Instead, we have created space for diverse voices to be heard by standing up for ourselves and other marginalized communities.

Women have demanded better workplaces and communities, and the #MeToo movement has challenged longstanding sexism and sexual harassment. We’ve fought to end systemic racism and discrimination as Black Lives Matter protests swelled across the nation. And we’ve worked to end gun violence by advocating for stronger background checks and closing loopholes. I doubt much of this would be achieved if women—and the women of color whose own struggle to vote took much longer to win—didn’t have the right to vote.

Read the full statement here.

Tammy Duckworth | Illinois

(Office of Tammy Duckworth)

Year Illinois Women Gained Suffrage: 1913

First Female Illinois Senator Elected: 1993 (Carol Moseley Braun) 

First Woman in Congress Representing Illinois: 1922 (Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck)

A little over one hundred years ago, our sisters raised their voices and their picket signs, fighting together for their right to vote—and although they may not be represented on Mount Rushmore, these women and their foremothers in the suffrage movement helped transform America into the nation it is today.

Because our democracy wasn’t just built by George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. It wasn’t finalized in the 18th century when the ink dried on the four original pages of the Constitution. It was shaped by women like Abigail Adams, who I named my first daughter after. It was strengthened by suffragists like Sojourner Truth, who worked to better the country that had kept her in chains, using her emancipation to call for freedom and a voice for all. It was formed by Illinoisans like Ida B. Wells, who demanded that women of color have a place at the forefront of the suffrage movement. It was forged by women like Mary Livermore, who channeled her frustration over women’s inequality into action, spearheading Chicago’s first-ever suffrage convention more than 150 years ago, thus marking Illinois as a leader in the fight for women’s rights.

Read the full statement here.

Joni Ernst | Iowa

(Office of Joni Ernst)

Year Iowa Women Gained Suffrage: 1919

First Female Iowa Senator Elected: 2015 (Ernst)

First Woman in Congress Representing Iowa: 2015 (Ernst)

When I joined the service after college, there were no opportunities for women in combat. By 2003, I was a company commander leading supply convoys in combat zones in Iraq. There were hundreds of women like me serving the cause of freedom, some even paid the ultimate price for our nation. Yet women could not formally serve in combat fields until 2013.

Now I look at my daughter Libby, who is a cadet at West Point. She has so many opportunities ahead of her. And she has them because of the many sacrifices of the strong women that came before her.

Once, women were told they had no place in government; but now there are 127 women serving in Congress, which is more than ever before in U.S. history. It is truly an honor to work alongside so many remarkable women who come from different fields andbackgrounds. My colleagues and I may disagree on certain issues, but we can all get behind the idea of more women serving in elected office, as CEOs, as soldiers, as engineers and manufacturers, and in any other profession in our society.

Read the full statement here.

Susan M. Collins | Maine

(Office of Susan M. Collins)

Year Maine Women Gained Suffrage: 1919

First Female Maine Senator Elected: 1949 (Margaret Chase Smith)

First Woman in Congress Representing Maine: 1940 (Margaret Chase Smith)

In 1776, as the Second Continental Congress was forging a new nation conceived in liberty, Abigail Adams admonished her husband, John, to “remember the ladies.”

Despite that advice, it took nearly a century and a half for women to achieve their rightful place as full U.S. citizens. On August 18, 1920, the courage and determination exhibited by generations of women and men were rewarded with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to our Constitution.

It has often been said, as Emerson put it, that “there is properly no history; only biography.” The story of women’s suffrage is an anthology of remarkable biographies. We truly walk in the footsteps of giants.

Read the full statement here.

Elizabeth Warren | Massachusetts

(Office of Elizabeth Warren)

Year Massachusetts Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female Massachusetts Senator Elected: 2012 (Warren)

First Woman in Congress Representing Massachusetts: 1925 (Edith Nourse Rogers)

On November 6, 2012, over 90 years after Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts elected its first woman to the United States Senate: me. Until then, no woman had ever been elected senator of Massachusetts. In fact, plenty of people thought Massachusetts wasn’t ready to elect a female Senator. So I decided to challenge the status-quo one pinky promise at a time. Whenever I met a little girl on the campaign trail, I would bend down, take her hand, and say, “My name is Elizabeth and I’m running for Senate, because that’s what girls do.” And then we’d pinky promise to always remember that. Those pinky promises were declarations of hope. I wanted little girls all over Massachusetts to remember that we were in this fight together, and that they too could do anything they put their minds to. I made thousands more pinky promises when I ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

The truth is, we need more little girls, and little boys, to grow up engaged in our democracy. We need them to demand voting rights for all and help us finally pass a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. We need them to run our federal, state, and local governments, our businesses, our schools, and our hospitals. We need more women, especially women of color, to run for office and more people everywhere to join the fight to elect diverse female leaders.

Read the full statement here.

Debbie Stabenow | Michigan

(Office of Debbie Stabenow)

Year Michigan Women Gained Suffrage: 1918

First Female Michigan Senator Elected: 2001 (Stabenow)

First Woman in Congress Representing Michigan: 1951 (Ruth Thompson)

Every one of my women colleagues has had the same opportunities to be “the first.” And we all know that is not enough. If there is only one, that’s a token. If we have many women’s voices, we have a democracy.

When I first was elected to the Senate, I became one of 13 women Senators. It was the first time in our history that there were enough women to have one woman on every committee. Now there are 26, and we have women chairing committees. I’m pretty sure my grandmothers and my mom would agree that 50 women in the Senate is a good goal for now.

At every step, I have seen the importance of women’s voices being in “the room where it happens.” But there is one room to go ... the Oval Office.

I’m hoping that for my own granddaughters and their granddaughters, a woman president will be no big deal—just as women county commissioners, state lawmakers, and members of Congress seem pretty normal to us now.

Read the full statement here.

Amy Klobuchar | Minnesota

(Office of Amy Klobuchar)

Year Minnesota Women Gained Suffrage: 1919

First Female Minnesota Senator Elected: 1978 (Muriel B. Humphrey)

First Woman in Congress Representing Minnesota: 1955 (Coya Gjesdal Knutson)

We can never forget that women were not given the right to vote—women across our country fought for and won the right to vote. In my state of Minnesota, which was the 15th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, it was women like Dr. Mary Jackman Colburn, Sarah Burger Stearns, Clara Ueland, and Sarah Tarleton Colvin who worked tirelessly to make it happen. When President Wilson refused at first to support a constitutional amendment to grant women equal voting rights, suffragists like Sarah Tarleton Colvin chained themselves to the fence of the White House. After weeks of similar protests and other advocacy for equal rights, President Wilson announced he had changed his mind.

The women’s suffrage movement encountered strong opposition every step ofthe way. The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage even published a piece of propaganda warning that if women were granted the right to vote, some states would be under “petticoat rule.” The pamphlet also provided a list of household cleaning tips for women, noting that there weren’t any cleaning solutions for a mud-stained reputation after bitter political campaigns. Posters were scattered across cities that depicted men at home taking care of babies and cooking and cleaning because they had been abandoned by their voting wives.

One hundred years later, I think we can safely say that America did not perish under “petticoat rule.” What did happen instead is that in 1920—in the first federal election in which women could vote—the total popular vote increased dramatically from 18.5 million to 26.8 million.

Read the full statement here.

Cindy Hyde-Smith | Mississippi

(Office of Cindy Hyde-Smith)

Year Mississippi Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female Mississippi Senator Elected: 2018 (Hyde-Smith)

First Woman in Congress Representing Mississippi: 2018 (Hyde-Smith)

As I proudly cast my first votes in 1980, little did I know that decades later I’d follow those suffragists’ tenacity, will, and fight to jump into the political realm—becoming the first woman to serve from my state senate district, the first woman to chair an agriculture committee, and the first woman to be elected the Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. Today, I have the privilege to represent my home state as the first woman elected from Mississippi to the serve in the United States Congress.

It is also important for us to reflect on what we can do to further equality and representation for women. We must continue to ensure women are represented in the highest levels of government. Society should encourage young women to pursue elected office.  In fact, society needs them.

Read the full statement here.

Deb Fischer | Nebraska

(Office of Deb Fischer)

Year Nebraska Women Gained Suffrage: 1917

First Female Nebraska Senator Elected: 1954 (Eva K. Bowring)

First Woman in Congress Representing Nebraska: 1975 (Virginia Dodd Smith)

When I was first elected to the Nebraska Unicameral in 2004, a woman reporter asked me if I planned to focus on women’s issues. I asked her, “How do you define women’s issues?” She told me that women’s issues are “education and child care.” I replied, “Every issue is a women’s issue,” and I proceeded to list property tax relief, economic development, education, infrastructure, and many more.

I smile now as I think of that exchange (I didn’t smile then), but what I said to her remains true today–every issue is a women’s issue, and our different views on all topics provide for healthy debate.

In the Nebraska Legislature, I focused on roads, water, technology, agriculture, and education finance. In the U.S. Senate, I’ve added national defense to the list while maintaining my focus on those other issues. These are all women’s issues, not just the short list some think of as pertaining to women.

Read the full statement here.

Jacky Rosen | Nevada

(Office of Jacky Rosen)

Year Nevada Women Gained Suffrage: 1914

First Female Nevada Senator Elected: 2017 (Catherine Cortez Masto)

First Woman in Congress Representing Nevada: 1983 (Barbara Farrell Vucanovich)

Anne Martin was a Nevada native who committed her life to advancing the fight for women's rights. ... Women, she argued, provide differing views and experiences than men, views which could lead to new and unique solutions to society’s problems. Anne Martin called for women to be political actors. Her unrelenting conviction enabled her to become the first woman to run for United States Senate in 1918, two years before women secured the right to vote nationally, and exactly one hundred years before my own election to the Senate.

In her campaign, Ms. Martin drew attention to gender inequalities in politics, in education, and in the workforce. She demanded that women must have the opportunity to be active participants in these fields—an ideal that even today women strive to see fulfilled.

I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I spent most of my career before Congress as a computer programmer. I chose to build a profession in a field that was at the time—and continues to be—largely male-dominated. Anne and women like her helped inspire countless women, including me, to follow their passions, regardless of the industry or field.

Read the full statement here.

Catherine Cortez Masto | Nevada

(Office of Catherine Cortez Masto)

Year Nevada Women Gained Suffrage: 1914

First Female Nevada Senator Elected: 2017 (Cortez Masto)

First Woman in Congress Representing Nevada: 1983 (Barbara Farrell Vucanovich)

My own career has taught me that every first—every Anne Martin—helps pave the way for others. Like women all over the country, I have benefitted from those who worked so determinedly to expand the possibilities for women in politics. And as the first Latina in the U.S. Senate, I feel a responsibility to open the door wider for those who follow.

All over Nevada, women are opening doors and breaking glass ceilings. We have the first majority-women legislature in the nation. And those women reflect the beautiful diversity of my state: they are African American, Latina, Asian American, and Native American, and they sit along every point in the political spectrum.

Read the full statement here.

Jeanne Shaheen | New Hampshire

(Office of Jeanne Shaheen)

Year New Hampshire Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female New Hampshire Senator Elected: 2009 (Shaheen)

First Woman in Congress Representing New Hampshire: 2007 (Carol Shea-Porter)

In my first inaugural address [as governor of New Hampshire], I briefly told the story of Marilla Ricker, who tried to vote in her hometown of Dover, New Hampshire, in 1870 and filed her candidacy for governor ... in 1910. Marilla Ricker didn’t ask for permission and she didn’t ask for forgiveness. She fought for women’s right to vote until her last breath, dying only months after the 19th Amendment was ratified, but not before she cast her first and only vote. Her story is a reminder that we can’t wait for our society to be “ready” and that change doesn’t come by waiting, it comes from acting.

Another great American who abided by a similar school of thought was Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to Congress, and she smashed through barriers when she ran for President in 1972. A fierce proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), she delivered a memorable speech on the House floor in ardent support of the ERA, declaring, “Legal discrimination between the sexes is, in almost every instance, founded on outmoded views of society and the pre-scientific beliefs about psychology and physiology. It is time to sweep away these relics of the past and set future generations free of them.”

Read the full statement here.

Margaret Wood Hassan | New Hampshire

(Office of Margaret Wood Hassan)

Year New Hampshire Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female New Hampshire Senator Elected: 2009 (Shaheen)

First Woman in Congress Representing New Hampshire: 2007 (Carol Shea-Porter)

Despite having miles to go, we are seeing in real-time the value and power of women’s suffrage and gains as this 21st century pandemic unfolds. Women leaders in the area of public health sounded some of the first alarms about how devastating COVID-19 would be, expertly exercising the power that comes with public positions, and as a result, having far greater reach and arguably saving many more lives than they could have in 1918. Women in positions of responsibility and authority have been able to direct government’s response, bringing their professional and personal experience and talent to bear, just as men do.

While the scope of women’s leadership has greatly expanded since the Spanish Flu of 1918, our current pandemic has also highlighted the fragility of women’s overall place in our society and economy. And that uncertainty makes it more important than ever that more women step up to run for, and serve in, office.

Read the full statement here.

Kirsten E. Gillibrand | New York

(Office of Kirsten E. Gillibrand)

Year New York Women Gained Suffrage: 1917

First Female New York Senator Elected: 2001 (Hillary R. Clinton)

First Woman in Congress Representing New York: 1929 (Ruth Sears Baker Pratt)

It was Sojourner Truth ... who gave perhaps the most famous speech of the suffrage movement. Born into slavery as Isabella Bomefree in Ulster Country, New York, she changed her name to reflect her mission—to travel the country speaking the truth. She once said, “I will shake every place I go to.” She did exactly that in 1851 onstage at the Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio fighting for the equal rights of women and African Americans. She said, “I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. ... As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart—why can’t she have her little pint full. ... I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again.”

Suffragists like Truth later inspired Brooklyn native Inez Milholland to insist African American women like Ida B. Wells be included in 1913’s Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. Milholland was a graduate of New York University School of Law, a labor activist, and a criminal attorney who once handcuffed herself to an inmate to understand the experience of her clients. Milholland’s passion led Alice Paul to make her the face of the movement during its final push for passage of the 19th Amendment. She led the 1913 parade in a white cape atop a white horse, creating one of the movement’s most iconic images. Milholland traveled the world fighting for suffrage and ultimately gave it her last breath. Her last public words were “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” She was buried near Mount Discovery, which the town unofficially renamed Mount Inez shortly after her death. I was proud to work with other women’s rights champions to make that name official last year.

Read the full statement here.

Marsha Blackburn | Tennessee

(Office of Marsha Blackburn)

Year Tennessee Women Gained Suffrage: 1919

First Female Tennessee Senator Elected: 2019 (Blackburn)

First Woman in Congress Representing Tennessee: 1932 (Willa McCord Blake Eslick)

[T]he skepticism that the suffragists encountered never completely receded, even as more women demanded a voice in American politics. While men defend platforms, most women still have to fight for a seat at the table.

As we contemplate the significance of this year’s centennial, I encourage America’s fathers, brothers, and husbands to remember that [Carrie Chapman] Catt and her fellow activists won the fight for the Nineteenth Amendment not because they were women, but because they were wickedly smart, and fierce advocates. They were worthy adversaries—but even worthier allies.

And to the women—your community, your state, and your nation need you. We serve in smaller numbers; but the ratios improve with every election, because women are fighting tooth and nail to win their races.

Read the full statement here.

Maria Cantwell | Washington

(Office of Maria Cantwell)

Year Washington Women Gained Suffrage: 1883 (Territory of Washington)

First Female Washington Senator Elected: 1993 (Patty Murray)

First Woman in Congress Representing Washington: 1959 (Catherine Dean May)

We know that our country is stronger, more successful, more representative when we include women at every table, and at every board room, and at every ballot box, and in every discussion in our families and in our communities. That’s why it’s so important to honor all the women who struggled hard and long to make sure that our democracy included our voices. Those women who saw the promise of the United States and fought for their place in it. Those women helped craft a more perfect union. For nearly a century, these women fought to be heard. And their efforts fundamentally transformed our democracy and our country.

The suffragists paved the way for so many other women, and I’m very proud to represent a state with a long tradition of women activists and leaders—leaders like Emma Smith DeVoe and May Hutton—and to carry that tradition forward. I think it says a lot about Washington state that our state is showing what women in government is all about. And we’re proud that women’s suffrage was enshrined in Washington’s state constitution in 1910, a full ten years ahead of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Read the full statement here.

Patty Murray | Washington

(Office of Patty Murray)

Year Washington Women Gained Suffrage: 1883 (Territory of Washington)

First Female Washington Senator Elected: 1993 (Patty Murray)

First Woman in Congress Representing Washington: 1959 (Catherine Dean May)

When I first arrived in the United States Senate, I was one of only six women senators. That number was record-breaking, worthy of headlines exclaiming 1992 was “The Year of the Woman.” Women had barely begun to be able to wear pants on the Senate floor at that time, and until we pushed for change, the majority of the negotiating took place in the men’s locker room at the Senate gym.

Two decades later, after years of women candidates making up their minds to run, organizing campaigns, taking risks and fighting for room at the table—there are 26 women serving as United States senators. We have a new record that once again makes history, and once again, shows us much more work is needed.

In marking this hundred-year anniversary, it is similarly important to recognize the progress generations of women fought painstakingly to secure—and remind ourselves that our work was then, and is still, far from over. Millions of women, in particular Black and Native American women, remained disenfranchised after ratification of the 19th Amendment. Today, barriers continue to block far too many of our citizens, especially those from communities of color, from exercising this fundamental American right.

Read the full statement here.

Shelley Moore Capito | West Virginia

(Office of Shelley Moore Capito)

Year West Virginia Women Gained Suffrage: 1920

First Female West Virginia Senator Elected: 2015 (Moore Capito)

First Woman in Congress Representing West Virginia: 1951 (Elizabeth Kee)

We all know the history and we’ve heard the names in documentaries or read about them in the history books.

Suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and so many others. Their deeds were certainly great, and the outcome, monumental.

I’m constantly inspired by these women’s words and the images of their fight for equality in our democratic process.

These suffragists and leaders paved the way for women to exercise the right to vote. This changed history and the fabric of our nation in the process.

This was no small or easy effort. In fact, it was a pretty tough fight, and it wasn’t won overnight.

After years and years of fighting, our country finally acknowledged that women had a voice, and that their voice needed to be part of our democracy.

Don’t get me wrong, women weren’t instantly made the political equals of men overnight—at least not in practice. Even today, despite making up more than half of the population, women do not make up half of Congress. This is something we’re working on.

Over the years, thanks to the pioneering efforts of the suffragists and others who came before them, we’ve made progress, and we’ve celebrated many victories, from the very small to the very significant.

Read the full statement here.

Tammy Baldwin | Wisconsin

(Office of Tammy Baldwin)

Year Wisconsin Women Gained Suffrage: 1919

First Female Wisconsin Senator Elected: 2013 (Baldwin)

First Woman in Congress Representing Wisconsin: 1999 (Baldwin)

Women bring their life experience to the job. It helps inform our debates, our votes, and the policies that we deliver.

My experience with the women of the U.S. Senate, past and present, is that they ran for office and came to Washington to solve problems. I feel like we are guided by the idea that our job is to work together and get things done. That’s what we do, both Democrats and Republicans, we work together to solve problems.

I have worked with women on both sides of the aisle to deliver solutions to the challenges that are facing the American people, and as we see more women in public office—we will see more of these bipartisan solutions.

Women get stuff done.

Today, I’m grateful to the brave women who came before us and fought for the right of all American women to have a say in their own government.

We have more work to do, but in 2018, more women ran for office and won than ever before in our nation’s history, and as a result we have a Congress that is starting to look just a little bit more like the people it aims to represent.

Read the full statement here.