During a speech on the U.S. Senate floor, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to the importance of International Women’s Day, highlighting the accomplishments of women who have made an impact on Alaska and our nation’s history and also to acknowledge unfinished work needed to advance equality and justice for all women.
Click HERE for a video of Senator Murkowski’s floor speech.
I want to take just a moment and acknowledge that today, March 8, marks International Women’s Day. This is a day for us to recognize the achievements and the contributions that women are making in communities across the globe. And as an Alaskan, I’m going to start local first because I’ve got so many phenomenal women in my state who are doing incredible things, and I’m exceptionally proud of them.
I was home over the weekend, where we were celebrating the start of the 50th running of the Iditarod race. This is an extraordinary feat of just strength and grit and determination and resilience. There were 49 mushers that left Willow on Sunday, 17 of those mushers who will make the trek to Nome are women—17 women, so we’ve got a very, very strong field. Running a race like this, where it is the musher and your team of dogs going through the wilderness of Alaska—we’ve got deep snow throughout. The moose are not in a very cooperative mood right now. There are dangers along the trail. And who knows what the conditions are going to be like a week from now. And so, it takes an extraordinary individual, and to know the strength of women as they have taken on the Iditarod.
When award-winning or world- renowned winner Susan Butcher won that race, she won the race four times, but when she ran it about three decades ago, there was a popular bumper sticker that was going around the state at the time. It was “Alaska: where men are men and women win the Iditarod.” We were pretty proud of Susan Butcher. We’re hoping our women do well and all of our mushers do well.
Like these female mushers who are racing, women leaders are virtually in every field, from health care to resource development, to fishing, to our universities, everything in between. Many of us are very proud to know that they have become somewhat household names, some of them. This year we were able to celebrate Emma Broyles, a young woman from Anchorage, who is 20 years old. She became the first Alaskan and the first Korean American to ever be crowned Miss America in the 100-year history of that event. We’re very proud of her, and I was able to celebrate with her this weekend at the Iditarod.
Another young woman that we have celebrated this past year is Lydia Jacoby, from Seward, Alaska. At 17, she competed in her first Olympics. She brought home the gold medal for this country, winning the 100-meter breaststroke race. We were all eyes on Lydia, and so proud of her.
And there’s so many who deserve our thanks and our gratitude. I always like to give a shoutout to an exceptional leader in our state who has provided critical leadership and guidance throughout the pandemic, Dr. Anne Zink. It is so important to know that it’s not necessarily finishing at the end of a race or a crown or a medal. It is just the endurance that goes with the day-to-day completion of your work.
I was on the floor just last month to recognize the work of native civil rights advocate Elizabeth Peratrovich, who pushed our legislature at the time to pass the first antidiscrimination act in the nation. We did this in 1945. We’re so proud of how she as a Native woman leader made our state and our nation a more inclusive, and more representative democracy.
Today, on International Women’s Day, it gives us an opportunity to recognize the impressive feats that women have taken on and have accomplished. It’s a day to thank women for their daily contributions. Again, both big where they win the awards and they make the headlines, but also for those day-to-day contributions that they make, raising healthy, strong children—to being the fabric in the family, or that contributor in the workplace.
But this isn’t a day that we just look back and recognize those who have made great accomplishments. It’s also a day that we look ahead at the work that we have to do to continue to advance equality and justice for all women. Just down the hallway from here in the rotunda is the portrait monument, and we all see it. We walk by it. Maybe we just don’t notice it anymore. But take a look at it next time. Know the pioneering women who are represented on it. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. But, we need to look at it more carefully. There’s a fourth bust that Adelaide Johnson did not sculpt. The base of the monument is also unfinished, and it’s a reflection of the unfinished struggle for women’s rights and equality. So, for all the progress that we’ve made and we know it has been considerable, Madam President, as you’re sitting in that chair, and this woman from Alaska is addressing you, we’ve made great progress, but the struggle is unfinished.
The data documents the gaps in gender equality in our country, and too many women feel it firsthand in their daily lives. On International Women’s Day, I want to remind the Senate of a couple of important ways we can help further women’s rights. And I’m pleased that my colleague, Senator Cardin, is on the floor at this moment, because we’ve been working together to try to finish off, to do this unfinished business when it comes to ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, to ensure women’s equality is expressly recognized in our constitution. Three-quarters of the states have now ratified that amendment. Alaska did it back in 1972. Virginia most recently in 2020. I’m hopeful that its time has come. And to help facilitate that, Senator Cardin and I have introduced a resolution to remove the arbitrary ratification deadline from the E.R.A. so it can finally take effect. I think the Senate needs to take this resolution up and pass it like the House of Representatives did last year.
Another critical step that we must take now is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to help ensure there is a path to justice for survivors of interpersonal violence. I was very proud to introduce the bill with Senator Durbin, Senator Ernst and Senator Feinstein last month. I’m so pleased that we have 22 total cosponsors, 11 from each party.
Our bipartisan bill modernizes the nearly three decades old Violence Against Women Act. And it reauthorizes important programs that provide services to survivors. It directs resources to prevent further violence and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. And it takes needed and important steps to address domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. I mentioned dating violence. We have a provision that I had included that we have named after an Alaskan victim of dating violence—and that is Brianna Moore. We focused on improving access to medical forensics for victims of violence, including free training for medical professionals that will help them provide evidence-based and trauma informed care. We have a strong Tribal Title in this bill. It builds by closing the gaps in the law to protect native people. The Tribal Title also includes an Alaskan pilot program which provides a targeted solution to help empower tribes in a way that recognizes the unique and complex jurisdictional landscape that we have in my state. It’s a recognition that tribes are valuable partners, they’re critical partners that can play a larger role in providing public safety while reducing the burden in my state.
As I have said many times before, there should be nothing partisan about keeping people safe from violence. And our reauthorization is the result of many years of hard work and negotiation by advocates and stakeholders alike. I hope that we can consider this and pass this very soon. I recognize the great work of Senator Ernst on our side and Senator Durbin and Senator Feinstein on the other side of the aisle. It has been an effort that is timely, is needed, and is necessary.
So, Madam President, I’m happy to be able to recognize for just a few moments on this International Women’s Day as we celebrate the many incredible women in our lives and in our countries. We also recognize that our work for true equality remains unfinished, but we’ve got some good paths forward if we can just try.