By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Women’s History month has been filled with iconic firsts and seismic losses, this year. It has also been a reminder of why HERstory is such an important and necessary component of the American story. Take, for example, the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nation’s highest court. With chilling deftness, we witnessed President
Joe Biden’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court answer questions, that at times, felt like the Salem Witch Trials.
While Jackson was not peppered with questions about spells and odd behaviors, the first Black woman nominated to the high court, was pelted with questions about a perceived softness toward those convicted of child pornography cases. She was described as having odd sentencing behaviors and suspiciously lenient to this specific crime demographic.
Lost in the sauce, were Jackson’s qualifications. Her exemplary resume and previous posts were but a footnote in the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, while partisan jockeying took center stage. As her judicial judgement was flogged and belittled, Jackson stood both poised and steely. Well actually, she was seated, but you get the point.
Around the time Jackson was fighting for the right to start a new chapter in her professional life, another powerful woman was writing the final pages in her personal story.
Madeleine Albright, the nation’s first female Secretary of State, lived a life that read like a bestselling novel. Filled with war, foreign policy and the United Nations, Albright was a refugee, who arrived in America escaping the Nazis. Going on to become the highest-ranking woman in U.S. government, she had a great deal in common with Jackson.
Both women, highly qualified in their own right, used the breadth and diversity of their life experiences to fuel their careers. Whether a legal scholar or a political diplomat, both women possessed the ability to take complex issues and make them accessible to people’s everyday lives. Yet, questions of sexism, racism or “affirmative action hires” could have easily derailed the careers of these women. Many women would agree that it wouldn’t be the first time.
In Jackson’s comments throughout the nomination process, she has frequently referenced the name of Constance Baker Motley. Some 49 years Jackson’s senior, Motley was the first Black woman, in the U.S., to serve as a federal judge and argue a case before the Supreme Court. However, her rise to that position was initially stalled by a similar effort to smear, discriminate and diminish Motley’s abilities and commitment to the law.
Motley persevered. Albright persevered. Jackson has persevered. Despite hurdles, whether steeped in gender, politics or race, women have no choice but to persevere. Our daughters are watching.