The 2018 midterm elections resulted in historic wins for women. For the first time in American history, women make up 23.7% of the United States House of Representatives and Senate. And the women elected are among the most diverse class of first-term elected officials ever. One of the many benefits of having more diverse representation in Congress is that several freshman congresswomen have used their platforms both to bring attention to underrepresented issues which affect women and to bring the unique perspectives of women to larger issues. Take a look at these five, fierce freshman congresswomen and the issues they are highlighting personally and/or politically.
- Iowa Representative Abby Finkenauer revealed her struggle with endometriosis, an often painful condition that affects up to 7 million women in the U.S. and one of the least funded conditions studied within the National Institute of Health (ranked 276 out of 288).
- California Representative Katie Porter is a domestic violence survivor. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than 25% of women and 11% of men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. Porter has introduced amendments requiring a report to Congress on the effect of firearm possession on victims of domestic violence and to increase funding for a program to promote intimate partner violence response at the state level.
- Illinois Representative and registered nurse Lauren Underwood (along with incumbent Alma Adams of North Carolina) introduced a “Momnibus” spending bill targeting Black maternal health funding. Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. The pair created the Black Maternal Health Caucus in the House, which now includes 75 total members. Underwood told Elle magazine that she became invested in solving this issue after a 36-year-old friend died three weeks after delivering a baby girl in 2018.
- In a powerful video, Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley revealed her recent diagnosis of Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune condition that causes hair loss and affects up to 6.8 million Americans. Pressley has responded to online bullying about her condition.
- Georgia Representative Lucy McBath is a survivor. The freshman congresswoman has survived breast cancer twice, and she lost her only son, Jordan Davis, 17, to gun violence in a 2012 Florida “Stand Your Ground” incident over loud music. McBath now advocates for universal background checks, red flag laws, and other gun safety measures that she believes could have saved her son. On her decision to run as a gun reformer in the district once represented by Newt Gingrich, McBath told The New Yorker that she did so “Because I am a mother, I’m still a mother. And, you know, this is one of the kinds of tragedies that no mother, no family ever wants to have to consider. And so there were a lot of mothers that were appealing to me because they know they don’t want to be in my club.”
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