Hundreds gathered Wednesday to celebrate the accomplishments of women in politics at the annual EMILY’s List Conference and Gala at the Washington Hilton.
A star-studded lineup of prominent women political leaders spoke at the event hosted by EMILY’s List, a political organization that seeks to elect Democratic pro-choice women to political office.
This year’s gala honored Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym with the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award. The award is meant to highlight the achievements of women leaders who reflect the ideals and dedication of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt at a 2011 constituent event.
Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’S List said she wanted this year’s event to inspire women to run run for public offices nationwide. Since Nov. 9, the day after last year’s election, more than 12,000 women have contacted the organization about potentially running for office, she said.
“So many women have said that their voice needs to be heard, so they need to take some responsibility and do something that they have never done before,” she said. “Women started coming to EMILY’s list the day after the election because they want to run. That’s the power of this movement.”
Schriock reflected on former Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton’s election loss to President Donald Trump and what it means for women who want to run for office going forward.
“Losing sucks, every single time. But this one’s different,” she said. “This one hurt more than most and it still does,but we can’t let that heartache crowd out the pride we should all feel that the fact the first woman to receive a major party nomination for President of the United States won the popular vote by three million votes.”
The event featured a panel of Rising Star Award nominees, six up-and-coming women politicians who told stories about the struggles they face being a woman running for office.
“I was told by my predecessor that I did not know my place,” Coral Evans, the mayor of Flagstaff, Ariz., said during the event. “What I have done since then is make sure that every black girl, every brown girl knows exactly where their place is, and I think that’s in the mayor’s office.”
Speakers at the conference also discussed the impact of fake news on the American electorate and how to empower women in state and local races.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser delivered opening remarks at the evening’s gala, speaking about the important role that women play in social activism around the country.
“On every major issue that we are fighting for today, women are leading the way,” she said. “Tonight all of you are joining a very special family of women activists who come to Washington to ensure their voices are heard.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House of Representatives, spoke at the gala and called on supporters of January’s Women’s March to run for public office.
“To every woman who has marched, I say – you have marched. Now you must run and you must run every day from the grassroots to the Capital. The women of the resistance are giving fresh truth to our proud rallying call: when women succeed, America succeeds,” she said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., delivered the keynote address, recalling when she was a young mother and initially donated to EMILY’s List when the organization first launched. She said Schriock stood by her as she considered running for the Senate in 2012.
“Many people whispered to me over and over, ‘Don’t run. A woman can’t win here, not yet.’ Stephanie said something very different. She said, ‘If we don’t run, if we don`t try, we can’t win. And we can’t blaze the trail for the next woman who comes on after us,’” Warren said. “Stephanie was right. We won that seat and just look at the political leadership in Massachusetts today.”
Warren spoke of the political challenges facing women in 2017 and said opportunities that she once received are now disappearing because of the policies of the Republican controlled government.
“We need to elect women because women know what it’s like to be paid less for doing the same job as a man. They know what it’s like to struggle with the skyrocketing costs of childcare. And know what it’s like to go to college, where sexual assault is all too common. And know what it’s like to have a sexist boss – and yes Bill O’Reilly, we are looking at you,” she said.