Hoyer celebrates Women’s Equality Day with annual luncheon
Celebrating the achievements and progress of women in Maryland’s 5th District and across the country, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) hosted his annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon Aug. 22 at the Colony South Hotel in Clinton.
More than 350 guests and elected officials attended the luncheon including Us. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md., 8th), Sen. Ben Cardin (D), Maryland State Sen. Joanne C. Benson (D-Prince George’s) and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), who served as the keynote speaker.
“We have this luncheon on a regular basis to not only reflect upon the progress that women have made since the adoption of the 19th Amendment, but also to encourage continuing focus on making more progress,” Hoyer said in an interview. “That’s what we do here — remember what was, remember what is and have a vision for what ought to be.”
Hoyer said this year, which marks the 96th anniversary of the amendment’s ratification giving women the right to vote, is that much more special in terms of women’s history and equality in America. For the first time, a woman has been nominated to serve as president of the United States by a major party, he said.
“Regardless of how one intends to vote, the extraordinary march of progress and the importance of this moment in our history cannot be denied,” Hoyer said as he gave his speech. “The right to vote was not enough. It was a means to securing greater recognition of the fundamental equal rights all women possess. Women’s liberation and opportunity to participate in the workforce was not enough either. Now we must fight to secure equal pay for equal work and paid family leave.”
For Hoyer, he said equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue — it’s an American issue.
Although the U.S. has made extraordinary progress as a nation since the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 and the 19th Amendment in 1920, Hoyer said the work of women’s equality and their rights remains unfinished.
“It really is time for us to step up to the plate and do what we need to do in the way of ensuring more women are elected to offices,” said Benson, the only female senator from Prince George’s County who has been in politics since 1965. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to come together, network, meet each other, give support to each other and give the kind of strength that’s necessary so those women aspiring to run for an elected office will feel inspired.”
Having served 20 years in the House of Delegates and almost seven years in the senate, Benson said she is humbled to be a source of strength that women need in today’s challenging society. It’s the shot in the arm she needs to keep going, she said.
“I understand how politics work and what it takes to be successful,” she said. “Being a part of this event makes me feel that I have value. It makes me feel very humbled that people care enough and recognize my experience and background as an educator and public servant to come to me.”
When it comes to public service, Hoyer said Alsobrooks — the first woman and youngest person ever elected to state’s attorney after running for office in 2010 — is someone who has been making women’s history in Prince George’s County.
Under Alsobrooks’s leadership, her team of more than 90 attorneys and 100 administrative staff has played a leading role in the reduction of crime in the county for the last five years. In addition, Alsobrooks played an important role in addressing domestic and family violence while working alongside Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in the fight to end human trafficking, according to a press release from Hoyer’s office.
“I think there’s a lot to celebrate in the progress that’s been made and to shine a light as well on some of the issues that continue to be something we must fight together as women,” Alsobrooks said. “Women have always been present but now we’re calling more and more women to continue. We’ve been here in both extraordinary ways and ordinary ways.”
Hoyer said he will keep fighting in Congress, alongside Cardin and the Maryland delegation, to ensure every woman in America has an equal opportunity to get ahead, have her voice heard loudly and clearly and is treated equally under the nation’s laws.
“As we leave here, I hope we will do so reinvigorated with the spirit of a proud history of striving for equality and the determination to continue doing so,” said Hoyer. “Only by working together and pushing hard for change and progress can we continue achieving the victories that bring full equality closer.”
“A way a nation treats its women is a reminder of how well a nation will be,” Cardin said. “We celebrate today but we know we still have work to get done.”