Whether elitist white dudes like it or not, Latinas have long been making an impact in the political sphere. Take Alicia Dickerson Montemayor. She was the first woman elected to a national office that wasn’t specifically designated for a woman. There were also the Mirabal sisters, who formed a political movement against a Dominican Republic dictator in the 1950s. And Dolores Huerta, a labor leader and political-rights activist, co-founded what would become the United Farm Workers union. The list goes on, and fortunately, the future looks hopeful. Today, let these women’s stories get you fired up to take on what you believe in.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 25.7 Percent
In March 2017, the Pew Research Center released a report outlining the number of women in political roles in the U.S. At that time, women accounted for 22.4 percent of state senate seats and 25.7 percent of state house or assembly seats. Vermont had the greatest number of female state legislators, at 40 percent, while Wyoming had the smallest share of women in its state legislature, with only 11.1 percent.
WOMEN TO WATCH: Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzmán, First Hispanic Women Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates
The percentage of political positions held by women can only increase when more women throw their hats into the political ring and more of us support them. Nov., Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala did just that, and made major history in the process, becoming the first Hispanic women to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, with each beating long-term incumbents—both white men—and flipping their districts from Republican to Democrat.
These two powerhouses are part of growing female representation in Virginia. Women hold a record number of 28 of 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, an increase of 17 from last year. Hala defeated her once unopposed rival by nearly 6 percentage points, and Elizabeth won by 9 points and increased voter turnout in her district by 72 percent!
Despite their sweeping wins, Elizabeth and Hala don’t come from a long legacy of politicians. Elizabeth relocated from Peru years ago as a single mother. She worked diligently in the fields of social work and public administration, with a focus on education. Her campaign platform included expanding family and health services, and making those services more accessible in local schools. Hala’s specialty is cybersecurity, but she’s also a devout feminist, having founded her local chapter of the National Organization for Women, and helping organize the historic 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Her political aspiration is to reach a point of equal pay for equal work and to provide accessible and affordable health care for everyone.
Many girls and women can relate to these devoted public servants. Hala says she didn’t have just “one set of dreams” for her life, and discovered her political passion while raising her son, getting elected as president of the local PTO and becoming an advocate for others, particularly women. And early in her career, Elizabeth juggled three jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment for herself and her daughter, later working hard to pay her way through college and graduate school. Her hard work paid off, with Elizabeth eventually becoming a key administrator at the Alexandria, Va., Center for Adult Services before taking on her new role as one of the people’s representatives in the House of Delegates.
We hope this is only the political beginning for Elizabeth and Hala, and we’re sure they have already become role models for more women and more minorities to enter politics. Bring on the White House!
QUITE THE QUOTE
Today’s quote comes from Senator Elizabeth Warren:
“What I’ve learned is that real change is very, very hard. But I’ve also learned that change is possible—if you fight for it.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.