In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, a national movement regarding racial injustice and the upcoming presidential election, the American political landscape feels messier and more chaotic than ever before. Despite the uncertainty of the season we find ourselves in, there’s at least one bright spot that stands out amidst all of this—the number of women in politics is growing.
In the House of Representatives alone, more women are running for seats this year than ever before. Women are making waves all across the nation at every level of government and in political organizations seeking to build lasting change.
Here are seven women in politics you should know.
1. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York)
Also known by her initials as AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to the House of Representatives at just 29-years-old. She is the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress. Before taking office in 2018, she worked part-time as a waitress and bartender. Her defeat of a prominent Democrat incumbent was one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 midterm primaries. AOC’s fierce advocacy for social, racial and environmental justice makes her an influential figure in Congress and across the nation.
2. Representative Elise Stefanik (New York)
In the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP saw one female Republican freshman elected to the House, while the Democratic party welcomed more than 30 women. Recognizing the underrepresentation of GOP women, Rep. Elise Stefanik jumped in and quickly became the face of a movement.
In 2019, she launched Elevate PAC, which aims to advance more women’s voices by recruiting, developing and endorsing female Republican candidates for office. A recent article in The Hill credits her as one factor behind the largest surge of Republican women running for House seats since the 2010 election.
3. Mayor Ella Jones (Ferguson, MO)
In June, Ella Jones became the first woman and first Black elected as mayor of Ferguson, Missouri. Her election was notable given that Ferguson gained national attention in 2014 when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old young man named Michael Brown.
In an interview with NPR, Jones states, “Even though we are striving to do better, Ferguson is considered as ground zero, and anything that happens in the United States, they’re gonna always come back to Ferguson.”
Mayor Jones’ goals are to encourage more people to run for office and expand access to policy making.
4. Senator Kamala Harris ( California)
Kamala Harris is hard to miss right now. On August 11, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Senator Harris as his running mate for the 2020 presidential election. Harris is the first African American woman and first American Indian woman to be selected as a vice presidential nominee. Not only that, she is only the third woman in history to be chosen as a VP on a major party ticket.
Harris currently serves as a United States Senator for California, a position she has held since 2017. Previously, she was the Attorney General for California. Harris accepted her spot on the presidential ticket after an impressive candidacy for president herself earlier this year.
5. Mayor London Breed (San Francisco, CA)
Becoming the first Black female mayor of your city is an amazing feat in itself, but London Breed’s rise to the position is just as inspiring. In an op-ed she penned for The San Francisco Examiner, Breed writes that she grew up living in public housing, surviving off just $900 a month along with her family of five. Several years ago, she lost a sister to drug abuse, and she also has a brother who is currently serving time in prison.
Despite these hardships, Breed has built an impressive career with her visionary leadership and her plans for the city of San Francisco. Two of her initiatives as mayor are expanding affordable housing and offering more assistance for those suffering from substance abuse disorder.
6. Senator Martha McSally (Arizona)
Before her tenure in the House of Representatives and current incumbency in the Senate, Martha McSally climbed her way up the ranks in the United States Air Force. Senator McSally was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat as well as the first woman to command a fighter squadron.
In 2010, she retired from the Air Force after 26 years of service while boasting the full rank of Colonel. Four years later, she was elected to the House of Representatives, where she served for two terms. In 2019, she was appointed to Senate.
7. Nikki Haley, Former Governor of South Carolina and Former Ambassador to United Nations
In 2010, Nikki Haley became the first female and the first Indian-American elected as governor of South Carolina. Later in 2017, the Senate confirmed Haley to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, where she fervently spoke out against the use and the enabling of chemical warfare in Syria.
Haley stands her ground with her graceful retorts. After a White House official suggested that Haley may have been confused about recent sanctions imposed on Russia, Haley returned in a later statement, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”