WASHINGTON – For the first time in history, two women sat behind a president during remarks at a joint session of Congress.
The historic picture during Joe Biden’s speech on Wednesday is 245 years since the founding of the country.
“Madam President, Madam Vice President,” said Biden, stepping onto the podium. “No president has ever said these words from this podium and it is about time.”
For the first time, these two positions are now held by women: Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
U.S. Presidents are accompanied by the Speaker of the House and the Deputy Speaker during such high-profile speeches, each seated behind and on either side of the Commander-in-Chief during the prime-time speech.
Harris and Pelosi nudged each other ahead of Biden’s arrival in the House chamber, a gesture the two politicians also shared earlier this year when Biden’s election college victory was certified.
We asked Democratic and Republican women in Congress what this milestone means to them.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen was the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire and the first woman elected to the New Hampshire Senate.
“Representation matters and it is high time we saw two women on the platform representing the highest civilian roles in the US government. When women of all ages tune into Wednesday night, they’ll see each other in “Pelosi and Harris,” she said.
“We know the best way to increase female representation in Congress and at all levels of government is to encourage more women to run. We’ve seen these numbers increase over the years, and I hope Wednesday night’s visual reaffirms to the women and girls watching that no work is off-limits, ”she concluded.
Senator Mazie Hirono
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, Hawaii’s first female senator, told the United States TODAY “It is yet another message to our country that this is a diverse country, and women leaders are welcome.” .
Beyond being elected, women “become speakers” and occupy positions of power, she said.
The image is important “for young girls in particular,” Hirono said. “I mean this is for everyone that should give us all hope that these are the types of changes that will bring positive progress” and further progress.
Representative Carolyn Maloney
Representative Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., told USA TODAY that having two women seated behind the President “will definitely be a sight to see.”
“We have made tremendous strides for women’s equality in my lifetime and this is the type of representation that can inspire so many young minds. If you see it, you can be, ”she continued.
“This idea drove my fight for a women’s museum on the National Mall,” said Maloney.
Maloney has championed the Smithsonian Women’s History Act for adding such a museum to Washington for years. Congress recently included funding for the museum in its year-end spending bill.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, the first woman to represent Nevada in the Senate, said diversity and representation are important.
“There had never been a Latina in the US Senate until I was elected, and I know how powerful it is to see someone who looks, sounds or thinks like us in leadership positions.” said Cortez Masto in the US TODAY. alongside then-Senator Kamala Harris during last year’s State of the Union, and it will mean a lot to women and girls around the world to have him in the House as as first female vice-president.
Representative Val Demings
Representative Val Demings, D-Fla., Is a longtime public servant with training in law enforcement. She became Orlando, Florida’s first female police chief in 2007.
“It should be a nation where everyone should be able to live their American dream. I am extremely happy that all American girls – and our sons – can see two strong and powerful women, including a black woman, on the platform with the President of the United States. When a child sees something for the first time, it becomes achievable in their mind. We must not overlook the power of this moment, ”she said in a statement.
Senator Cynthia Lummis
“Wyoming has, by far, the richest history of women first – from the first voter to the first female governor – a point of great pride and inspiration in our state,” she told USA TODAY in a press release. “It is essential that girls Across the country, women are present at the highest levels of government and know that they can also be Vice-President and Speaker of the House. However, to hold these positions, women must win elections, and to win an election, women must RUN in elections! If women don’t run, women can’t win – so I encourage all women to run! ”
Representative Brenda Lawrence
Democratic Representative Brenda Lawrence is the first woman and the first African American to become mayor of Southfield, Michigan. Currently, she is the only black lawmaker in the Michigan congressional delegation.
“Being able to see the first female Speaker of the House and the first female, the first Black American and the first South Asian American vice president seated behind the president is nothing less than HERstoric,” Lawrence told USA TODAY in a press release.
“As a young black girl who grew up in east Detroit and now roams slave-built halls of Congress, this story has not been lost on me,” she said. “Women, especially black women, have made revolutionary strides in the past two years. The soul and moral compass of our nation rest on the shoulders of women. As we work together to build back better, we need to make sure we build back better with women front and center.
Senator Dianne Feinstein
California Senator Dianne Feinstein is the first woman to become a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman to chair the Senate Special Committee and the first woman to chair the Congressional Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
“It will mean a lot to me to see Vice President Harris and President Pelosi sitting behind President Biden on Wednesday,” Feinstein told USA TODAY. “We’ve come a long way in a short period of time, but it will mean even more when we finally have a female president addressing Congress.
Rep. Katherine clark
Representative Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Elected Assistant Speaker in 2020, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Women’s Caucus and is a lawyer for questions concerning women and families.
“The image of two women standing behind the president during Wednesday’s joint speech is powerful and groundbreaking, but it is more than just representation,” Clark told USA TODAY. “Vice President Harris and President Pelosi bring their life experiences to every policy decision they make and the conversation they lead – this is how we make sure the needs of women and families, Equal pay, child care and paid time off are at the heart of our economic recovery and our long-term success as a nation.
Representative Beth Van Duyne
Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, who was the first female mayor of Irving, Texas, praised the GOP women in Congress.
“On Wednesday, I’m going to sit down with members of the largest Republican female class of first-year Congressional women in history, which I’m proud to be a part of. But what I appreciate more about my elected leaders than the genre is hard work and getting results, ”she said in a statement.
Van Duyne also criticized the vice-president for what she called a “humanitarian crisis” on the southern border and Pelosi for trying to “scramble a partisan agenda”.
“Valuing women in politics means not assuming that we can all agree and that we all support the same issues and agendas,” she said. “I am proud to be a woman representing my district, but I am even more proud to have the honor of representing all of the residents of the 24th district.”