Celebrating Our Female Heroes

The last six months have been dominated by news stories of women fighting back. That’s how long it’s been since The New York Times blockbuster story about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein ushered in the #MeToo movement.

But last week was different. Three women dominated headlines as heroes, not as casualties of men’s condemnable actions.

A matriarch, a lifesaver and a mom—Barbara Bush, Tammie Jo Shults, and Tammy Duckworth—captured America’s attention. Bush was a first lady married for 73 years to a president while raising both a president and governor. Known and celebrated for her wit, wisdom and white pearls, she served her country as vice president’s wife, then president’s wife, then president’s mom, all the while being a longtime booster of literacy and civil rights. Saturday, Barbara Bush was laid to rest in an invitation-only funeral.

As Bush’s life was ending, Tammie Jo Shults, the captain of Southwest Flight 1380, was saving lives. She saved an endangered flight en route from New York’s LaGuardia to Dallas. The veteran Navy pilot showcased her nerves steeled from flying supersonic FA-18 Hornets when the plane’s left engine exploded after the breakage of a fan belt. She rescued the plane and its passengers even though she trained in an era when women weren’t permitted to fly combat missions.

And then there was Tammy Duckworth, the retired US Army lieutenant, who was the first disabled woman elected to Congress after losing both her legs and damaging one arm from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.

Senator Duckworth was also the first senator to give birth while in office. On Thursday, she brought her newborn baby daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, onto the Senate floor after a rules change that allows children up to age 1 to accompany their parents to votes.

Beyond the partisanship and incivility dominating the majority of our headlines, here’s an acknowledgment of the character and grace of a first lady and first mother, a navy captain turned pilot, and a veteran turned senator. They all make our country better.