When Rep. Mary Miller was growing up, she always yearned to put down roots somewhere. Her father’s job in corporate management in the Midwest took the family from city to city.
“I told my family I was going to marry a farmer,” recalls Miller. “They kind of laughed and said, ‘Well, where are you going to meet this farmer?’ I went to college and I met my husband the first week of school.”
Mary is married to fourth-generation farmer Chris Miller. The Millers have his and her political careers—Chris is serving his second term in the Illinois state House, while Mary in January joined the 117th Congress as part of a GOP freshman class that included an unprecedented number of Republican women. Mary, 61, is an attractive woman whose soft voice masks determination. The freshman legislator already has drafted a piece of legislation.
It is the Safety and Opportunity for Girls Act, introduced in March. The act would add to Title IX the definition of sex as biological sex rather than gender identity. Miller’s proposal runs counter to the Biden administration’s agenda.
In unveiling the bill, Miller acknowledged this: “Democrats continue to push radical gender ideology on our children, and we must draw the line to protect women and girls,” Miller said. “On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order to interpret Title IX as requiring schools to allow access to sex-segregated spaces and activities based on gender identity. But Title IX was created to enhance opportunities for women, not threaten their safety.
“This is why I’m sponsoring the Safety and Opportunity for Girls Act. I want to make it clear that the definition of sex in Title IX means biological sex, not gender identity. My goal is to protect spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams for women like my five daughters, and so many others across the country.”
The bill has been endorsed by Heritage Action for America and attracted 21 cosponsors; to nobody’s surprise, however, Speaker Pelosi has yet to schedule it for further action. When Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testified on Capitol Hill in July, the Secretary declined to answer the questions put to him by Miller, who was trying to drive home the perspective from which she authored the Safety and Opportunity for Girls Act.
“While I have nothing but sympathy for those who struggle with gender confusion,” she told the Secretary, “instead of offering kids help, your department is planning to punish schools that attempt to protect girls’ privacy and support female athletics. Our school administrators and teachers have better things to do than to enforce the Biden administration’s extreme gender ideology.
“I am disappointed,” Miller continued, “that you are advocating for a few students to feel safe but not advocating for a majority of girls who will not feel safe or comfortable under your rules and guidance. I have 5 daughters that would feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable either on the sports teams or in the locker rooms. I also want to remind you that a former member brought up that 74% of Americans agree that you are on the wrong side of this issue. Also, it is true that if men are allowed to compete in women’s sports, the sports will be dominated by men.”
While Miller may be best-known for her Safety and Opportunity Act, this former school teacher is also worried about what goes on in the classrooms. “The unions have had a stranglehold on education in our country,” Miller says. “And I don’t believe they reflect the values of everyday Americans who still hold to traditional American values and just want their kids to get the basics. They want their kids to be taught English—by which I mean grammar and writing, and literature—history, science, arithmetic or math, and then another hour for PE, art, and music. That’s your school day. We don’t have time for all these social issues. And I’m highly opposed to them. And I think that the teachers’ union does not represent the parents’ wishes anymore. And I have dear friends and family members who have been lifelong educators, and they don’t represent them either.”
Miller’s Safety and Opportunity for Girls Act would add to Title IX the definition of sex as biological sex rather than gender identity.
She continues, “I want public schools to be the best they can possibly be, to offer the best possible education for the kids. I think schools should be allowed to reflect the values of the community where they are. I oppose one-size-fits-all education, for both school districts and the children. I believe parents should have—must have—choice in education, especially in these districts where for decades they’ve been failing the kids. I think now is the time. Let them go try something else.”
Rep. Miller was one of the four children of Harvey Meyer, a graduate of St. John’s University, a Catholic college in Minnesota, and a management executive for 42 years, and Annette Jesh Meyer, his high school sweetheart. The Meyers eventually settled in Napierville, Ill., where Mary graduated from Napierville Central High School. She went on to Eastern Illinois University, where she ran track and earned a Bachelor of Science in business management. She returned to the university to complete graduate coursework in education. She and Chris Miller have been married for 40 years.
Chris Miller had originally planned to be a teacher, but after college he had what family legend terms “a life-changing talk with grandpa.” He opted instead to return to the family farm, where he raises Angus cattle and grain. The Millers raised their 7 kids on the Oakland, Illinois farm, and three generations of Millers now live on the land. Chris and Mary have 17 grandchildren. Mary partly homeschooled the kids, though she also taught in public schools. She still teaches Mary Sunday School and Vacation Bible school at the Oakland Christian Church.
“When the children were growing up, we turned the television off,” she recalled. “We would watch when there was something really special, and during the weekends, we’d have family movie night. I was just showing someone a picture of a grandchild, and she said, ‘Oh, what a cute hat.’ I said that my daughter had crocheted it, and that it is amazing what your kids can learn, and do, when they aren’t watching TV all the time. We raised our kids to be readers.”
The Millers practice sustainable, no-till farming, which doesn’t disturb the top soil and prevents erosion. “We’ve done it for decades,” Mary says. “It’s a great way to preserve our topsoil and keep it from running down the Mississippi to the Gulf. We do rotational grazing. We raise our cattle without using hormones and antibiotics, and they graze on beautiful pastures.” Their son, Max, who works on the farm, is especially keen on sustainable farming. “He follows a man named Gabe Brown,” Mary explains, “who’s bringing us back to wholesome agricultural practices. I think it’s great.”
Why the move into politics? Mary and Chris Miller were beginning to believe that the state of Illinois and the United States were heading in the wrong direction. “I’m from Illinois, and Illinois has so much potential,” Mary says, “but because of the corrupt leadership that we’ve had for decades, it’s going down the tubes. We’re number one in all the wrong categories. One day at Sunday dinner, some of our kids were telling us that they had realtors looking for housing for them in Texas and Florida. That shocked my husband and me into the reality of how bad Illinois was. Sometimes people think politics is too dirty for everyday people, but politics affects our everyday lives. So, we got off the sidelines and my husband ran for state rep. I was alongside him through the whole process.”
Chris Miller ran for the Illinois House in 2018 and was sworn in to represent the state’s 110th district in 2019. When longtime Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus announced that he would not run for re-election in 2020, Mary contemplated her own run for office. She was urged to run by, among others, the late Bill Montgomery, a co-founder of Turning Point USA. She recalls, “I said to him, ‘Bill, I’m not a politician and I’m not a lawyer.’ And he said, ‘Mary, we need you. You represent the family, and the family is the foundation of stability of our culture.’ And of course, I also represent agriculture and small business. And that’s the foundation of the well-being of our economy.”
The Millers practice sustainable, no-till farming, which doesn’t disturb the top soil and prevents erosion. “We’ve done it for decades,” Mary says.
When Miller raised $100,000 within hours of declaring her candidacy, a newspaper proclaimed her “a formidable candidate.” Miller staked out a conservative position. “I want to advocate for faith, family and freedom. I will do what is best to uphold the Constitution of the United States and fight against the far-left socialist agenda which is detrimental to the future of our country and is full of nothing but false promises,” Miller said in kicking off her race. Miller won her heavily Republican district with a plurality—an astonishing 73 percent to 27 percent. She was sworn in by the House Minority Leader, with Chris beaming as he watched.
Since being sworn in, Miller has demonstrated that she speaks softly but never minces words. When, for example, President Biden went to Chicago and met with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has been more interested in the skin tone of the local press than addressing Chicago’s crime wave, Miller said, “Under Democrat leadership, Chicago has become a war zone with no relief in sight. Instead of sending a clear message that he cares about the safety of the residents of Chicago, Biden, like Lightfoot and Pritzker, would rather blame law-abiding gun owners in Indiana and in downstate Illinois. Taking away guns from honest people is not going to stop criminals, but the aggressive prosecution of violent crimes and an increased police presence will.”
Mary Miller is already beginning to raise funds for her second run, and it seems that she would like to remain one of the most steadfastly conservative and outspoken Members on the Hill—without, of course, raising her voice.