2019 signaled new beginnings for Congress.
Several new women were sworn-in as legislators, including the first two Native American women elected to serve, ever: Democrat Deb Haaland, a Pueblo of Laguna woman from New Mexico, and Democrat Sharice Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation who grew up in Kansas.
Representative Deb Haaland chose to wear traditional Pueblo regalia for her swearing-in, including a traditional dress, turquoise jewelry and moccasins.
Haaland wrote of her experiences shortly after her election:
"Growing up in my mother's Pueblo household, I never imagined a world in which I would be represented by someone who looked like me. That might be because just over 50 years ago, Native Americans in New Mexico couldn't vote."
On the day of her swearing in to the House of Representatives, Haaland shared an image on Facebook with the caption:
"As a kid, I never could have imagined today. I will leave the ladder down behind me so girls of color know they can be anything they want to be."
Women also shared photos of themselves in traditional Palestinian thobe to celebrate Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's swearing-in, for which she also wore the traditional hand embroidered dress.
Tlaib spoke with Elle about her decision to wear the thobe, saying:
"Throughout my career in public service, the residents I have had the privilege of fighting for have embraced who I am, especially my Palestinian roots. This is what I want to bring to the United States Congress, an unapologetic display of the fabric of the people in this country. This is why I decided to wear a thobe when I am sworn into the 116th Congress."
Her decision was also a way to honor her mother.
"As a young girl, I watched my mother hand stitch thobes while sitting on the floor with a lamp at her side. She would make the small designs of flowers and different shapes. Just thinking about it brings up so many memories of my mother and how proud she was of being Palestinian."
"My mom is a woman who grew up in a small farming village in the West Bank called Beit Ur El Foka. She only went up to 8th grade and then dropped out to go work in a tailor shop that made dresses and different embroidered designs to make money for her family. My mother knows struggle and has taught me how to lead with compassion, the compassion that should be required for every representative on every level of government."
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar has taken some flak for the beautiful orange headscarf—which bears religious significance and is not an item of clothing one just chooses not to wear if it is inconvenient—that she wore for her swearing-in.
She has handled this criticism beautifully, however.
When elected, a conservative pastor stated the "floor of Congress is going to look like an Islamic republic," to which Omar replied:
"Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America... And you're gonna have to just deal 😂"
California's 13th congressional district Representative, Democrat Barbara Lee wore a stole of beautiful Ghanaian style kente cloth, traditionally made by Asante and Ewe weavers.
Congress really is staring to look like the country and people it represents, and that is a wonderful thing!