Kamala Harris makes history as first woman of color elected as Vice President
Experts, Madison’s women leaders reflect on the significance of Harris' election.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Saturday night, Kamala Harris addressed the nation as the new vice president-elect, after the announcement Saturday morning that Joe Biden was projected to win the presidential election.
“You chose hope and unity, decency, science and yes, truth,” Harris said in her speech.
Harris will be the first woman and the woman of color to hold the office of vice president.
“What we can say now is a woman’s place is in the House, in the Senate, in the White House...This is a crack in the glass ceiling of American politics,” said Linda Greene, UW-Madison Evjue-Bascom Professor of Law.
NBC15 spoke with a panel of experts in gender in politics, including Greene and Allison Prasch. Both women teach at UW-Madison.
“Especially for Black women and saying, ‘Look, she looks like us,’ and how remarkable that is,” said Prasch, UW-Madison professor of rhetoric, politics and culture.
Prasch and Greene said Harris' election reflects a rising trend of women getting more involved and more visible in politics.
“You see a lot of women candidates really mobilize after 2016,” Prasch explained.
Greene added that in 2018, a record number of women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Women leading Madison’s city government reflected on the struggles they faced as they entered politics and trying to be part of the conversation.
“I remember when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for vice president and how incredibly disappointed and frustrated I was as a young woman when she lost,” mayor of Madison Satya Rhodes-Conway remembered.
Common Council member and former council president Shiva Bidar said she ran for local office because she did not see herself represented in city government.
“It was really difficult, because you didn’t have really these other role models and people to rely on, to get advice from,” she explained.
Bidar and Rhodes-Conway also shared their first reactions to the historic news Saturday morning.
“Chills and crying, I couldn’t stop crying,” Bidar said.
Rhodes-Conway added, “It’s really emotional, it’s really exciting, I’m excited about what it means for our country.”
For both women, more representation is a welcome change.
“Our perspective as women and women of color is now being heard at a whole different level,” Bidar said.
In Harris' speech Saturday, she acknowledged the historic nature of her election.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said.
Experts and Madison’s leaders all said having someone like Harris in the White House could inspire a generation of future leaders.
“When the teacher says, what do you want to be when you grow up, little girls, black girls are going to say, well I want to be president of the United States,” Greene said.
This is not the first time Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris has made history. In 2010, she became the first black woman to serve as California’s attorney general. In 2016, she became the first South Asian to serve as a U.S. senator in history.
Harris and President-Elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office on January 20.
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