There are some badass women with amazing histories in Washington, D.C. Whether we acknowledge it or not, women have added struggles rising to places of prominence in our male-dominated society. When they succeed, we should celebrate their victory.
Recently, on CNN, they began a series titled “Badass Women of Washington with Dana Bash.” Each installment begins with this editor’s note before it continues to highlight their selection for that segment:
“This series was born during a lunch in early 2017, when we wondered what Hillary Clinton’s loss meant for women.
Our answer: Women are already breaking barriers in a man’s town, muscling their way into power and staying there. Their stories show there are Badass Women all around Washington.”
— Dana Bash, Abigail Crutchfield & Rachel Smolkin
We would like to salute CNN for their brilliant depiction of these women, showcasing their accomplishments, and telling the world – women are here, right now, and they are not backing down!
1. Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pursued quite a different career than her 1950s Stanford classmates. Women just just didn’t go into politics back then. She endured questions about whether she had a bad marriage or other things that caused her to seek a career outside the home – because she wasn’t just a housewife.
Her political career began when she won a local election to become the President of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco. She ran for mayor, twice, but was unsuccessful — only to be elevated to the mayor’s office after the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay politician, who were shot by Dan White. She served as Mayor of San Francisco for the next ten years.
Feinstein has an astonishing list of firsts. Just to name a few:
“California’s first woman sent to the US Senate in 1992 racked up many other firsts as she became a DC powerhouse. She was the first woman to sit on the Judiciary committee, the first female chairwoman of the Rules Committee, first woman to co-chair the inaugural committee — and the first female chair of the Senate intelligence committee.”
She has continued on her path to success, becoming a powerhouse in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein publicly defied the leader of her party, President Barack Obama, and released a classified summary of a report she did on post 9/11 enhanced interrogation tactics. Feinstein argued that it was important for Americans to know the “ugly truth.” She said:
“It was six years of work, it was staff that worked, you know, night and day, weekends on this. The report itself is over 7,000 pages, over 32,000 footnotes. And we are trying to protect it now to keep it from being destroyed.”
Feinstein has gone on to become the longest serving senator in the Senate and shows no sign of slowing down.
2. Secretary Of Transportation Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao is a Taiwanese immigrant and was the first Asian-American woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet as Labor Secretary under George W. Bush. She holds distinction as the longest serving member of Bush’s cabinet.
She came here from Taiwan when she was 8-years-old. She said:
“I remember how tough it was to try to learn a new culture, a new language and just to adapt to, like, ordinary daily stuff like the food. Like, most Chinese don’t eat meat between bread.”
She attended Harvard Business School, interned under President Ronald Reagan, and has held a myriad of positions both in and out of government service. While leading the United Way she met and married Mitch McConnell, a senior senator from Kentucky who is currently the Senate Majority Leader.
Chao serves as Secretary of Transportation under President Donald Trump. She has struggled to make her own way in a political field against all odds and has succeeded.
3. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto
Catherine Cortez Masto earned a law degree in 1990 before serving as Nevada Governor Bob Miller’s chief of staff. From that beginning, she went on to work as a civil attorney, then as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.
Masto became the Nevada Attorney General in 2007, where she stayed until 2015. A victim of term limits, she set her sights on a seat in the U.S. Senate and against very high odds won.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) was the country’s first Latina Senator and the first female senator from Nevada. She advocated for women, children, and seniors as the Attorney General of Nevada. She did a lot to combat human trafficking. She also worked with law enforcement to found the Methamphetamine Working Group to combat the drug epidemic.
She continues forging ahead and accomplishing amazing things.
4. Army Surgeon General Nadja West
Lt. Gen. Nadja West was an orphan who rose up to be the Army Surgeon General. She is the highest-ranking woman to graduate from West Point Military Academy. She is also the highest-ranking African-American woman in Army history.
She began an uncertain life that found her in the ‘system’ at a young age. Miraculously, she was adopted by a family that had 11 other children. Rounding out an even dozen must have been the right recipe for West.
Her adoptive father and all but two of her siblings served in the military. Inspired by Star Trek as a child, she grew up seeing women on the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise and dreamed of joining them one day. It didn’t quite work out that way as we haven’t progressed to that level of space travel, but West has joined an elite team in the Army and proudly serves in combat boots with three stars on her uniform.
She was in the third class at West Point that allowed women. Against strong opposition and frequent hazings, she graduated. She continued to medical school – then back to the Army. A veteran of the first Gulf War (Desert Storm), she served under a commander that had no qualms about seeing a woman filling the role of Army doctor as long as she could “fix broke soldiers.”
West finishes the interview with some badass advice for others, male or female:
“That’s one of things that I tell people. Just believe that you can. And then, don’t take yourself out of the race before you even start running.”
Here is a short video with other badass female politicians talking about how they broke the glass ceiling:
Featured image via Twitter.