Elise Stefanik recently became the youngest woman--at 29 years old-- to be elected to Congress. Elizabeth Holtzman, formerly held that title when she was sworn in at 31 years old in 1973. In a show of support, (and an excellent example of women mentoring other women), Holtzman recently wrote an article that describes how Congress has changed since her time, and her advice to Stefanik for her making a difference in her newly elected office.
While Holtzman undoubtedly experienced more sex segregation (and thereby oppression) within internal Congressional structures, both women have had to address criticisms over their abilities and shock over their age. In a display of helping the next generation of women elected to Congress, Holtzman and others formed 'a caucus consisting of all female members of the House', which remains a powerful entity today that prioritizes the rights of women on a 'bipartisan basis.' I am excited to see Stefanik's contributions and more initiatives to support future generations of women.
The importance of women role models cannot be understated. Women currently only make up 19 percent of the House and Senate, (an improvement from the 2.8 percent in Holtzman's time). This percentage is sure to increase as Stefanik's victory has enabled current young women and girls to visualize the possibility of entering Congress themselves.
When I was asked to take the speaker’s gavel and briefly preside over the House, one representative addressed me as “Mr. Speaker.” I had to correct him—and in the process set a precedent that a woman occupying the speaker’s chair should be addressed as Madam Speaker. And, once, during a House-Senate conference on a bill, another gray-haired senator asked me to bring him a cup of tea... There was no caucus of congresswomen, nor was there any group focused on women’s issues. But that gave me an opportunity: Working with Republican Rep. Margaret Heckler from Massachusetts, we created a caucus consisting of all the female members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans. It is still in existence, under a new name, but remains an important force for improving the status of women that functions on a bipartisan basis.