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The Groundbreaking Victory of Ilhan Omar

One of the most exciting things about the results of this year’s midterm elections is that more women than ever before have been elected to serve in the United States Congress. Over 100 women were elected on Tuesday, November 6, in both the House and the Senate, more than in any other year.

Among these women, there are plenty of history-makers. Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of New Mexico will be the first two Native American women congresswomen. Davids is also the first openly gay congresswoman from Kansas.

Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar will be the first Latina congresswomen in Texas. Ayanna Presley will be Massachusetts’s first black House member. Marsha Blackburn will be Tennessee’s first female senator. Angie Craig from here in Minnesota will be the first lesbian mom in Congress.

Along with Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was elected to the US House making the two women the first Muslim women in Congress. Ilhan Omar will also the first Somali-American in Congress.  

Ilhan Omar made history in 2016 when she was elected to the Minnesota State House as the first Somali-American legislator to be elected to any office anywhere in the United States. Now, her victory has reached a national level, and she shares that with over 100 other amazing victories by women on Tuesday night.

Omar said in her victory speech on Tuesday, “I stand here before you tonight as your congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name. The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab to represent Minnesota … The first refugee ever elected to Congress. And one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

Ilhan Omar and her family were forced to flee the Somali Civil War and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States. She learned how to speak English after she arrived, and worked as a community organizer before being elected to statewide office in 2016, and now federal office in 2018.

Ilhan Omar made history on election night, and if you live on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, you may have been a part of that history. Ilhan Omar will be our US Representative in Washington DC starting in January, and the importance of a Muslim American woman serving in our Congress can’t be understated.


Courtney Welu is a student at University of Minnesota - Twin Cities who studies English and theatre.
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