Weekly Column

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I am a 4th generation Nebraskan. I love this state. I love its people, and I love that it is home to both vibrant urban areas and abundant, fertile farm and ranch land.

Growing up, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Nebraska. But when I moved to a ranch south of Valentine in Nebraska Sandhills in the 1970s with my husband, Bruce, our state taught me an important lesson. 

As most Nebraskans know, the Sandhills are a region of grass-covered sand dunes that just so happens to produce the world’s best cattle. Some see our rangeland as fragile – but in reality, it is robust, resilient, and powerful. It can withstand the Great Plains’ strong winds and droughts because of the diversity of cool and warm season grasses that grow there.

These grasses have extensive root systems, and each plays an important role in the larger ecosystem. Some grasses are hardy and long-lived; others are loved by cattle; still others are the “workhorse” grasses that grow despite harsh winters and hot summers.

My time as a rancher in rural Nebraska and in public service has shown me that just as each of the grasses in the Sandhills is indispensable to the environment around them, each woman involved in local community life is essential to building a stronger state. We are just like our broad array of Sandhills grasses.

We are all different, but we each contribute with our fortitude, daring, and tenacity. This diversity makes our entire country stronger – and our root system is all the women throughout our nation’s history whose firmness of mind and brilliance changed the world.

March is Women’s History Month. This month is a chance to look back on how far we’ve come in the 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, and also to give thanks for the brave women whose vision of a better future made lives like mine possible. 

The suffragists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries paved the way for future women’s involvement in politics, including my own. Because of the trail they blazed, I was fortunate to have female political role models in my life. Among them are Kay Orr, Nebraska’s first female governor and the first female Republican governor in the United States, and Virginia Smith, who served as my congressional representative and was the first woman from Nebraska to hold a seat in the House of Representatives. 

Women are able to see an opportunity in politics and community leadership because we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. Not so long ago, women couldn’t even dream of serving their communities.

Women know about hard work. We are builders. We build relationships, families, communities, careers, and businesses. In the century since the 19th amendment was ratified, we have been able to bring that strength of character to build stronger states and a more secure and prosperous country.

The story of women in American life is far from over. This month, let’s be grateful for all that we have accomplished. Our history, our diversity, and the mentors we look up to will continue to serve as encouragement and inspiration for the generations of women who will write the next chapter.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.