Kathleen Williams

KATHLEEN WILLIAMS

I know a teenager named Claire in Bozeman. She gives me hope for Montana's future. A few years ago, she had the brilliant idea of installing solar panels on Sacajawea Middle.

Of course, Claire was told her dream was too ambitious. But with grit and determination, Claire changed a lot of minds and was able to get solar panels installed to make her school — and four additional elementary schools — energy efficient.

As we celebrated the one year anniversary of the Women's March, I thought about Claire’s example. In 2017, thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans made their voices heard and said with one voice that those in charge of our government don't represent us. They changed a lot of minds. They made their communities a better place. Saturday, they did it yet again.

Those who march follow in Montana's long legacy of strong and motivated women. From the first female homesteaders, to farm and ranch wives stepping up during wartime, to the daring female smokejumpers in Missoula, Montana women have left their mark on our state. I'm inspired by these women, and by women like Jeannette Rankin, Elouise Cobell and Dorothy Eck.

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, stood by her convictions and voted her conscience even if it meant losing her seat.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, took on the federal government for mismanaging tribal lands and won, ensuring that billions of dollars owed to tribal nations would be repaid.

Dorothy Eck, a longtime member of the Montana Legislature, helped write our state constitution. She ensured Montanans had privacy protections and a right to the clean and healthful environment that makes our state the Last Best Place.

As I marched Saturday, I took a moment to step back from our fraught political climate and honor their perseverance, grit, and commitment. Today, I look toward a new generation of female trailblazers.

If we're going to continue to make gains on the hard work of these incredible women and inspire more young women — and young men — to make Montana a better place, we have to follow their example and keep fighting.

I’m running to be Montana’s next congresswoman to ensure that these young people have that opportunity. And I’m running to ensure we hold onto those wins and foster the efforts of the new generation of female trailblazers in Montana.

We need to protect access to health care, close Montana’s pay gap (one of the worst in the nation), and increase women’s representation in business and political leadership.

As women across the state continue to make our voices heard, I want to say thank you to all Montana women and men who paved the way for us, and to all those, like Claire, who continue to inspire me by never giving up in the fight for justice, equality and solutions.

Kathleen Williams, of Bozeman, is a former state legislator. She is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House seat now held by Republican Greg Gianforte.

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