Fab, Fearless Females: A Plucky Woman in Politics

By: Susan Berman Hammer

Note to Readers: Today, we launch a new series in this Tuesday Fearless Females column. We'll profile some plucky women over 50 who found their calling in politics. These women, representing both sides of the aisle, are running for election to some of our nation's highest offices. Or, they have become key influencers in the campaigns of other top candidates.

While Honey Good doesn't endorse candidates, we do believe it's important to help voters get beyond the sound bites and get to know some of these fearless female candidates and learn more about what makes them tick. Whatever your political beliefs may be, we're sure you'll agree that informed voters are critical to our democratic way of life.

We encourage you to suggest other fearless female candidates over 50 and we'll consider featuring them in this column. Leave your suggested name(s) in the comments section below or share your idea with us at Honey Good on Facebook or @_HoneyGood on Twitter.

So...let's get started with our profile of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a truly fearless, 66-year-old female who in her own words “fights to level the playing field for hard-working, middle class families.” Some of the issues she speaks about most adamantly include:

  • Refinancing student loan debt
  • Women's access to healthcare
  • Protecting seniors, Social Security and Medicare benefits
  • Banking reform
  • Equal rights and
  • Raising the minimum wage.

She’s taken on big banks and financial institutions to win historic new financial protections for middle-class families. The National Law Journal named her one of the "Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade," and she has been honored by the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, according to Wikipedia.

Sen. Warren has become an influential progressive voice in the Democratic party in just a few short years and is in the thick of the 2016 Democratic Presidential race even though she herself has ruled out running for President. On November 6, 2012, Warren defeated incumbent Scott Brown with a total of 53.7% of the votes. She assumed office on January 3, 2013 as the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. Upon John Kerry's resignation from the Senate to become U.S. Secretary of State, Warren became the state's senior senator after having served for less than a month, making her “the most junior senior senator in the 113th Congress,” according to Wikipedia.

Even before Warren was elected Senator in 2012, she received a primetime speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, immediately before Bill Clinton. And in the 20 short months since she was elected Senator, she has become a major force wielding significant clout in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Her private meetings with Vice President Joe Biden  and Secretary Hillary Clinton further demonstrate just how much clout the Senior Senator from Massachusetts really has. 

TIME magazine has included her three times on its list of 100 Most Influential People in the World and The National Law Journal repeatedly has named Sen. Warren as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women Attorneys in America, and as one of the 40 Most Influential Attorneys of the Decade."We have seen a race to the top on Elizabeth Warren's ideas, including debt-free college, expanding Social Security and holding Wall Street banks accountable,” a Progressive Party official recently said on CNN.

Last week when Sen. Warren appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Colbert said: “You're one of the only household names in American politics that isn't running for President.” Watch the interview here…. 

Curiously, Warren voted as a Republican for many years. "I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets," she said. In 1995, she began to vote Democratic because she no longer believed that the GOP best supported markets. But, she added, she has voted for both parties because she believed that neither party should dominate.

Sen. Warren was born in Oklahoma City, OK on June 22, 1949, has three older brothers, all of whom served in the military, and was raised in a struggling middle-class family. After Warren's father suffered a heart attack when she was 12, she learned first-hand about the economic pressures facing middle-class families. Her father's employer changed his job and cut his pay, the medical bills piled up, the family lost their car, her mom went to work answering phones at Sears to pay the mortgage and Elizabeth started work at age 9—first as a babysitter and later as a waitress. 

She was "Oklahoma's top high-school debater" and won a debate scholarship to George Washington University (GWU) at the age of 16. Two years later, she left GWU to marry her high-school boyfriend, Jim Warren, a NASA Engineer, moved to Houston and graduated from the University of Houston in 1970 (B.S.-Speech Pathology and Audiology). After she earned her degree, she taught grade school, then moved to New Jersey with her husband who was transferred and soon gave birth to their first child. When her daughter turned two, Sen. Warren started law school at Rutgers University, Newark.. Shortly after she graduated (J.D.), her son was born and she began practicing law from her living room. 

Two years after her 10-year marriage to Warren ended in 1978, she married her current husband Bruce Mann, a Harvard Law professor. She and Mann, a Boston native, live in Cambridge. Warren has two children - Amelia Warren Tyagi and Alexander Warren - and three grandchildren.

During the late 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s, Warren taught law at several universities while researching issues related to bankruptcy and middle-class personal finance. She became involved with public work in bankruptcy regulation and consumer protection in the mid-1990s. 

Immediately prior to her political career, Sen. Warren was a Harvard Law School professor for nearly 20 years and has written nine books, including two national best-sellers and more than 100 articles. She and her daughter wrote The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. A book review in The New York Times said: “More clearly than anyone else, Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi have shown how little attention the nation and our government have paid to the way Americans really live.” They point out that a fully employed worker today earns less inflation-adjusted income than a fully employed worker did 30 years ago. The reason: families spend less today on consumption and discretionary items, but the costs of such core expenses as mortgages, health care, transportation, and child care have increased dramatically. Thus, two-income families are no longer able to save and continue to incur greater debt. 

Sen. Warren is also widely credited for the thinking, political courage and persistence that led to the creation and establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Bureau was set up to hold accountable even trillion-dollar financial institutions and to protect consumers from financial traps often hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. In just four years, it has returned more than $10 billion to families that were victimized by unscrupulous financial institutions.

Watch a speech Sen. Warren delivered on racial equality just two days ago at the Edward M.Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate and read a CNN story about her political star power.

How do you feel about Sen. Warren and her fearless approach to politics? Let us know in the comments section below or chime in @_HoneyGood on Twitter or Honey Good on Facebook.

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Susan Berman Hammer brings more than 35 years of professional communications, management and parenting experience as well as journalism training to The Honey Good team of writers. Susan is also PR counsel and a business strategist to HoneyGood.com. Susan previously served as the Senior VP-Account Supervisor of a Chicago PR agency and later headed her own agency. She earned graduate and undergraduate degrees from Northwestern University. Follow Susan on Twitter: @SueBermanHammer