We Heart: Mazie Hirono, Tulsi Gabbard and Grace Meng for Diversifying Congress









Tuesday’s election has given many reasons for women to celebrate. What with the record-breaking 20 women senators, Tammy Baldwin being the first openly gay senator-elect or the most congresswomen in the House of Representatives, 2012 could be the new Year of the Woman.

Added to the list of “firsts,” Mazie Hirono became the first ever Asian American woman elected to the Senate, Tulsi Gabbard the first Hindu in the House of Representatives and Grace Meng the first Asian American to represent New York in Congress.

Not too shabby, huh?

Here’s a closer look at this trio of women who have made history:

Mazie Hirono

From one Asian American sister to another, Mazie Hirono is living proof that the American dream comes true. Born in Fukushima, Japan, Hirono fled with her mother and brother when she was only eight years old to Hawaii in search of a better life. Living in a working class family, she put herself through college and law school until she eventually ran for a seat in state legislature in 1980. By 1994 she was elected as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor. She made her mark in that office for eight years through her concentrated efforts in job creation, education, transportation and renewable energy.

Hirono (D) defeated her opponent, Gov. Linda Lingle (R), by a 16.9 percent gap. I don’t know what it is that makes me love Hirono more: that she is the first immigrant of Asian-ancestry to be senator, is a practicing Buddhist or the first Hawaiian woman senator. Regardless, I’m sure that we can all agree that she is pretty badass.

Tulsi Gabbard

Also representing the Hawaiian Islands, Tulsi Gabbard (D) will be the first Hindu in Congress after her win over Kawika Crowley. Gabbard was born in American Samoa and raised by a Catholic father and Hindu mother. She joined the state legislature at the age of 21 and the National Guard the year after, sacrificing her seat in the legislature to serve two tours of duty in the Middle East. Now 31, Gabbard replaced Hirono’s position in Hawaii’s 2nd District.

The congresswoman chose to follow her mother’s faith as a teen and will be taking her oath of office in January over a Bhagavad Gita, her main source of scripture. Her name “Tulsi” (or Indian basil), also happens to be a symbol that is sacred to the Hindus.

Prior to the election, Gabbard said in an interview with Religion News Service about her faith:

Hopefully the presence in Congress of an American who happens to be Hindu will increase America’s understanding of India as well as India’s understanding of America.

Grace Meng

Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D) also broke barriers on Tuesday when she defeated Councilman Dan Halloran (R) for the newly drawn 6th Congressional seat, making her the first Asian American to represent New York in Congress. Succeeding Halloran by a 36-point margin, this Queens-born state legislator is known for fighting against human trafficking, protecting senior citizens and providing incentives for property owners to provide affordable housing.

In her bio, she states:

As a woman, I am running to improve the woefully inadequate statistic of women comprising only 17 percent of Congress, yet over half America’s population.

Boom. Not only does this election prove that politicians can’t say anything they want and get away with it (cough, cough, GOP members), but that women really do rule.

Graphic designed by Lisa Huynh. Photo of Mazie Hirono (LEFT) via Wikimedia Commons, Grace Meng (MIDDLE) via Wikimedia Commons, and Tulsi Gabbard (RIGHT) via Wikimedia Commons.