Maxine Waters (1938-Today)
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is known as one of the most powerful women in American politics, especially for her advocacy for women, children, people of color, and the poor. Waters was born in St. Louis in 1938, the fifth of 13 children born to a single mother. She worked from her young teenage years in factories and segregated restaurants. After graduating from St. Louis’s Vashon High School, Waters moved to Los Angeles in 1961. There, she attended California State University at Los Angeles and earned a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology. After this, she started her career in public service as a teacher and volunteer coordinator at Head Start, an education organization.
Waters started her political career in the California government, where she was known for some of the boldest legislative passing in the state. She spearheaded the largest divestment of state pension funds from South Africa, created landmark affirmative action policy, started the first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program, prohibited police strip services for nonviolent misdemeanors, and introduced the country’s first plant closure law. In 2018, Waters was elected to her 15th term in the US House of Representatives. She is currently the most senior of the twelve Black women currently serving in Congress. While serving as a US Representative, Waters has made history in several ways. She is the first woman and first African American Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. She also leads Congress through membership of the Steering & Policy Committee and her role as Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. Waters is a member of both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, as is especially known for combining her strong political action with her ability to advocate for grassroots organizations and social justice. Waters expands her action into the non-political fields as well. She is the co-founder of the Black Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization of African American women in the LA area, and founded Project Build in the 1980s, which works with LA youth in housing developments on job training and placement. She also spearheaded development of the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998 to address the disproportionate rates of HIV and AIDS among African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups. Waters was included in Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2018, and continues to inspire the US for her landmark political action.