CLINTON, MD – Today, Congressman Steny H. Hoyer hosted his annual Women’s Equality Luncheon to celebrate the achievements and progress of women in Maryland’s Fifth District and across the country. Women’s Equality Day falls on Friday, August 26th, and marks the anniversary of the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. This year, Prince George’s County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks served as the keynote speaker at the luncheon. Below are Congressman Hoyer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning, and thank you for being here for the annual Fifth District Women’s Equality Luncheon. Each year, we come together to celebrate the anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which recognized women’s equal right to vote.
“This year, as we mark the ninety-sixth anniversary, we do so on the cusp of making women’s history and American history once again. For the first time, a woman has been nominated for President of the United States by a major party. And I believe the next President of the United States will be addressed as ‘Madam President.’ Regardless of how one intends to vote, the extraordinary march of progress and the importance of this moment in our history cannot be denied.
“When I walk through the U.S. Capitol, I often pass the famous sculpture by Adelaide Johnson that sits in the Rotunda and depicts the three pioneers of the women’s rights movement in America. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott stare out into the crowd of visitors from a place of honor beneath the Capitol Dome, in a work that is purposefully rough-hewn and appears unfinished, even though it was indeed completed. That’s because Johnson knew – as you and I know – that the work of women’s equality and women’s rights remains unfinished as well.
“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. Today, women make up the primary breadwinners in 40% of American families. Equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue – it’s an American issue.
“And promising women’s access to the full range of health care was not enough. More than forty years after Roe v. Wade, we’re still fighting to defend a woman’s right to choose and her right to access affordable contraceptive care.
“And it’s not enough to have the most women in the House Democratic Caucus we’ve ever had. We need to ensure that both parties in Congress are fully committed to electing women and standing up for equality.
“So while we’ve made extraordinary progress as a nation since the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 and the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, we cannot look at women’s equality as something to be celebrated in our past but as something to build in our present and future. And I believe that 2016 will join those years as landmark moments in the timeline of making women’s history.
“Before I introduce our keynote speaker, I want to take a moment to remember a woman who served Maryland so ably throughout her career and who passed away earlier this month.
“Helen Delich Bentley was a tireless fighter for Baltimore, for Maryland, and for our country. Even though we served in different parties, we served Maryland together, and I had great respect for Helen and her indefatigable spirit – her determination to make sure that the voices of Maryland workers and families were heard in Washington.
“We also recently lost another great Maryland woman, and that was Annette Funn. Annette chaired the Calvert League of Women Voters and spent her career in public service, reaching the senior executive level at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Annette co-founded the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County and worked so hard to ensure that every voice in our communities are heard when decisions are made on the local, state, and federal levels.
“As we mourn the passing of Helen Delich Bentley, Annette Funn, and other Maryland women who made a difference, let us look to them for inspiration in tackling the challenges we face in the years ahead.
“We’re privileged to have with us today someone who has been making women’s history right here in Prince George’s County. Angela Alsobrooks currently serves as the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County. In 2010, running for the first time for elected office, Angela became the first woman and youngest person ever elected to this position.
“Under her leadership, her team of over 90 attorneys and 100 administrative staff has played a leading role in the reduction of crime in our County over the last five years. She has also played an important role in addressing domestic and family violence, and she has worked alongside Attorney General Brian Frosh in the fight to end human trafficking.
“I’m very pleased to welcome her today as our keynote speaker for our Fifth District Women’s Equality Luncheon.”
“Thank you, Angela. And thank you, Senator Cardin, Delegate Patterson, Delegate Valderrama, Katia, and everyone who participated today.
“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. Only by working together and pushing hard for change and progress can we continue achieving the victories that bring full equality closer.
“And I will keep fighting in Congress, alongside Senator Cardin and our Maryland delegation, to ensure that every woman in America has an equal opportunity to get ahead, have her voice heard loudly and clearly, and is treated equally under our laws.
“So thank you for being here today and for staying engaged in this important work. I look forward to continuing our work together, and I hope together we can make 2016 another banner year for women’s history and women’s equality in America.