Every night before bed, my 7-year-old daughter and I read stories about strong women. Women of courage. Women of grace. Women who stood their ground and faced challenges. Women who failed and got back up and kept going. We read about Rosa Parks and Hillary Clinton. We read about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sally Ride. And we read about Amelia Earhart and Jane Goodall. And now, the next badass woman I am going to teach her about is a democratic senator from Illinois named Tammy Duckworth.
Already known for her honorable military service (during which time she became a double amputee) and for her outspoken voice in Congress, advocating for veteran’s rights and women’s rights, she’s now about to be known for something else: Duckworth is expecting her second child this year, and will be the first sitting senator to give birth while serving in office.
Shockingly, only nine other women in our nation’s history have had a child while serving in Congress, but Duckworth will be the very first senator. And it’s 2018, people! If there was ever a moment to be proud (but also baffled) at how far we still have to go, it’s this one.
But talk about a woman to pave the way. Along with serving in the Iraq war — during which the helicopter she was piloting went down, causing her to lose her legs — Duckworth has also made headlines recently for clapping back at a tweet sent by President Trump that blamed Democrats for “holding our military hostage.”
“I spent my entire adult life looking out for the well-being, the training, the equipping of the troops for whom I was responsible,” Duckworth responded in a speech on the Senate floor. “I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger.”
Duckworth is also an advocate for working families, knowing firsthand just how hard it is to do it all.
“As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be,” she has said, “I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and Abigail has only made me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”
And when her immigrant background was insulted by her opponent when she ran for office in 2013, Duckworth responded with dignity and grace. Taking a page of out of Michelle Obama’s playbook (another badass woman and personal favorite of mine), when Tammy Duckworth was hit low, she went high.
“My mom is an immigrant and my dad and his family have served this nation in uniform since the Revolution,” Duckworth later tweeted, along with a family photo.
Veteran, daughter of an immigrant, congresswoman, and a working mom who’s returned to serving as a civilian pilot and completing marathons. Wow — she’s probably my new favorite person on the planet.
So rather than be negative, and frankly baffled that it’s 18 years into the 21st century and we are just now seeing a mother serve as senator though her pregnancy, childbirth, and maternity leave, I’m going to slow clap for Tammy Duckworth. Because she more than deserves it.
Thank you, Senator. Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for showing immigrants, who came to this country just like your mother, that they deserve to be Americans and have value here. Thank you for showing veterans that they can overcome their pain and injuries and go on to lead fulfilling lives. Thank you for showing mothers that they can maintain their careers and not have to choose one or the other. Thank you for standing up to other voices in Washington, D.C. who challenge your beliefs. And thank you for being another woman of strength and honor that my daughter can look up to.
Congratulations to you and your family on your new addition. And I know that even though you’ll be a busy mom of two this spring, you’ll still keep cracking that ceiling and paving new roads for generations to come.