The Pillar of the Valley Gala is the social event of the year in Utah Valley, I was informed while sitting stiffly and feeling very out of place. There were more sequins in that room than I’d ever seen and more bow ties than I could imagine. It was a beautiful evening, the kind that I’d only seen in movies. The purpose of the event is to recognize individuals “who have made extraordinary contributions to the business, civic, social, educational, and cultural climate of Utah Valley.” And last night, one of those recipients was the late Becky Lockhart, the first Female Speaker of the House in Utah.
They called her “Utah’s Iron Lady,” a conscious nod to Margaret Thatcher and her tenacious trailblazing in her tenure. She served for 16 years in the House of Representatives and was known for her ability to make those around her feel that she cared for them personally while motivating them to do their best work.
She was extremely motivated to empower women and felt a great importance in her work as a female legislator. “There’s something vital to the visual, the actually seeing a woman as the speaker,” she said. “There’s something powerful to that because other young women and girls can say, ‘I can do that because I’ve actually seen one.’”
Using your real voice might make you uncomfortable. It might make the people around you feel uncomfortable, but until we make it normal for women to be heard, until we are heard for our ideas and not viewed as tokens, that’s the price we’ll pay. I for one, have been willing to pay that price.
She passed away just weeks after she left office of a rare neurodegenerative disease, but her legacy will be a long and effective one. I’m so grateful to have been there to see such a groundbreaking and hardworking woman honored by her state.
By Sarah Martin
Photos: Scott Sommerdorf, Salt Lake Tribune